E – Ecstasy without Entheogens

As the horse and I reached the top of the hill I could feel the power of his galloping  hoof beats hitting the earth at every stride, I knew he and I were breathing hard after our run up the steep slope  but I couldn’t hear either of us nor his footfalls due to the high wind that drowned out all sound other than its own wild song. The trees were stark of leaves as winter slowly gives way to Spring, and the wind whipped unchecked through the branches, making them dance and sway, before it swept down over the fields to soar away across the valley and on to the next ridge. The horse gave a buck out of sheer joy of life, ears pricked and head up – I shared his joy and laughing I brought him back to a trot and then a walk, finally stopping to look over the view and rejoice in our being.

It had been like flying. With no sound other than the rushing wind in my ears, oblivious to all but its power and strength buffeting horse and rider as we galloped madly in a race with the gale, I felt free! I felt alive!

 We stood, high above the surrounding countryside and held together in a bubble of deafening sound that kept us spellbound in the moment. My heart was racing and I felt that I only had to ask him to jump the hedge and we’d be away into the air soaring over the landscape below and travelling with the gale to distant unseen places, carried by the wind and our own joy. I shouted to the elements a wild shriek which matched the wildness of the wind, the horse is used to the lunatic that rides him and merely stood and stared at the horizon with ears pricked,  alert and unperturbed, The wind whipped my voice away so I couldn’t even hear that.  It dawned on me that what I was feeling was ecstasy, the ecstasy and energy of the wind, the land and the sheer joy that comes from sharing a ride with a beautiful horse who will lend me the speed to run with the wind.  I felt that I could do anything –  face and conquer any challenge – indeed even fly!

That feeling, that empowerment of thought and energy and pure emotion is the very essence of what we tap into when we work with ecstasy. Here I’ve tried to recreate through my words the feelings and the sheer emotion of the moment. There have been a number of blog entries about the use of drugs to reach this ecstatic state, and I thought – since I was in need of a subject – that I might put down my thoughts about how to achieve this without using substances. There are a multitude of reasons that people may not want to go down the route of drug use, but that doesn’t mean the whole experience of Ecstatic working is closed to you – on the contrary. Within the tradition I work in drugs would be the last resort to this work when all other techniques have failed.

We can use ecstasy within our rituals and rites to achieve an altered state of consciousness – a state of transcendence.  It’s a way of going above and beyond the limits of the material world, the limits of our fears and everyday worries, the ‘daily grind’. To experience ecstasy is to experience freedom and empowerment, joy and a heightened sense of awareness. We are empowered by the emotion of the moment, freed from the constraints of the ‘everyday humdrum’ which – especially now with the financial difficulties – can grind us down and cut us off from our spiritual side.. We are transcended to a place of joy and love and intense powerful energy, we can connect with Deity, gain knowledge and receive enlightenment.

Ecstasy has been used for millennia in religious rites, most obviously in modern times its use calls to mind the whirling dervishes of the Sufi tradition, the wild dancers who spin and spin in honour of their Gods.

Perhaps you think you could never reach this without outside help? Are you sure? Think of your favourite rock song – played good and loud, drowning out all but your focus on *that* particular soaring vocal, or *that* moment when the drums return after a pause, how do you feel in that nanosecond when your soul leaps as you hear the familiar vocal or the drums return in a crash that makes your heart leap and brings a smile to your face? That’s ecstasy – possibly only for a second but if you hold that moment and that feeling think what you could do with it!

Drumming is indeed a good way of achieving this state, not for nothing did the Scots use drums in wartime – the beat of a drum can tap directly into our soul and speak directly to our inner selves, it can conjure with our emotions and make us feel anything the drummer wishes us to – but when you are aiming for ecstasy  it won’t happen instantly – in my experience the moment of ecstasy is something that you first need to identify within yourself (such as the above riding analogy) and then aiming to achieve through other means – for drummers out there try a fast beat that will make your heart race due to the effort as well as your mind and soul as you are drawn by the beat – if you can’t drum try using a cd of shamanic drumming – that has a ‘call back’ a break in the beat designed to bring back journeyers from wherever they have gone, but if you can use a real drum then go for it!

Physical exercise is another way, a wild dance (possibly to the drumming) will get your heart racing and your mind focused, don’t be afraid to ‘let go’ leap and howl, scream to the elements (might be an idea to do this outside away from prying neighbours or those of a nervous disposition – and the dog who would like to join in thank you…says the voice of experience) Don’t worry about the movements, the direction, go with the flow and see where it leads you.

Chanting and singing are more gentle ways, a chant is repetitive and if continued for long enough will settle into a rhythm that allows you to forget the effort of the words and lets your brain ‘drift’ into the altered state. This is especially helpful in a group but solitary will work as well with a little more effort.

Or you could use a combination of the above, the trick is to find what works for you specifically. What works for me won’t necessarily have the same effect on you since you are an individual. Experiment, explore what makes you tick!

Before you do all this though a word about preparation, I personally have found that as with most inner work such as ritual, preparation pays off. A time of quiet solitude to prepare for what you are going to do will be beneficial, relaxing and focusing my mind before hand ensures that unwanted thoughts and stray musings of the mind don’t get in the way. For me this includes a cleansing bath, and fasting – so long as it’s done safely and that will include checking with a doctor if  you’re on any kind of medication or have a health condition –  is extremely beneficial for all energy and ritual work (it’s something that in our group we are required to do before every Ritual)  I’ve also found that a short meditation or just a period of calm before you begin helps – all things proven to prepare the mind for this kind of work. Make sure you have enough time set aside for both preparation, duration and the time spent ‘coming down’ afterwards.

Once you’re ready choose your preferred method and then go for it – and don’t stop – the idea is that you continue it as it is through effort that you will get to where you want to be, it takes time for the brain waves to change to the state you wish to achieve (same with meditation – that’s why they can go on for a while – the brain operating under normal conditions when we are awake and aware is different to the brain operating during ecstatic times, and during meditative states) and it isn’t going to happen in the first few minutes unless you’re practiced at this! So keep going – push yourself (once again so long as it is safe for you to do so health wise) think of it as an athlete who must push their body to achive their aim – you have to push your body until you reach the right state. Once you get there then that’s up to you, my advice would be to do whatever you intuitively want to do – within group work we call this ‘going off on a tangent’ and anything can happen. Rest assured your brain will still be in control  you are just opening yourself up to another level of being, you won’t go out and run naked round the neighbourhood – well you could if you wanted to – but your own sense of ‘shouldn’t do that – I’ll scare Mr Smith at number ten and then the police will arrive ‘ will still kick in before the whole door opening and running around with no clothes on kicks in!  We do not lose our sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ during this experience, we only lose the inhibitions that hold us back.

 Remember in my opening description I felt ‘high’ that I could conquer anything – or fly? That’s what you’re aiming for, when you feel so joyful, and so alive that you could do Anything if you put your mind to it! Now harness that energy, channel it to your will –  perhaps connect with your preferred Dieties, speak what is in your heart – connect with the Source, the Creator or whatever preferred belief system you follow. Do what you are intuitively inspired to do. This may include a dance where the steps come instinctively, or writing a piece of inspirational work dedicated to something precious to you, you may choose some form of creative art and be inspired to paint something  –   Or if you’ve prepared better than I did the first time actually perform the ritual You Wrote First! Lol

One last thing though, make sure you ‘come down’ safely, take your time to work through what you have experienced – it may well be profound and you will need time to assimilate it, write it down if you are working solitary, or in group talk to each other (then write it down when you get home!) it may take a few days to properly understand what you have learned – but in the meantime eat something, drink something – tidy up your working space and make your offerings to any Spirits or deities you work with, ground yourself and make sure you are fully ‘back’ before returning to the mundane world.

Blessed Be



About okarnill

Just another british Witch who follows the path of the wise. Like millions of others I live my life the best I can within my Wiccan beliefs. I am also a horse rider, a dog trainer and an artist. My home is a sleepy village in the UK where I share my life with my partner and all manner of creatures, cats, dogs, horses, hens, rabbits, and much treasured wildlife.
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9 Responses to E – Ecstasy without Entheogens

  1. Your opening paragraphs make me want to go straight to the corral and take my horse, Bubba, for a run through the desert… It won’t happen today.. I have a sick child at home, but I think Bubba and I are due a day in the desert…

  2. okarnill says:

    I’d love to ride out there – sounds wonderful. So glad I could inspire you for a day in nature. Is Bubba the horse in your fb avatar? He looks lovely.

    Hope the sick little one gets better soon 🙂

  3. Kaie says:

    While I do like this essay and agree with a lot of what you say, to me this sounds more like internal meditation than journey work. Am I right or do u think I’m jumping to conclusions? Anyway, you should look up the 9fold path to altered consciousness. Your essay seems to follow that quite well. 🙂 I think I might be tired cause this sounds snarky to me but I don’t mean it that way. I do like this essay!!

    • okarnill says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – I didn’t take it as snarky just questioning which is a good thing. I think for clarification I would need to know what your definition of journey work is?

      For me Journey work is internalisation of a deep medititive state which may or may not be guided by someone else, most obviously a guided meditation or a guided journey using the drum, or a shamanic style journey where the drum is also used very fast, the difference for me is that using this method alone I would begin the journeying immediately after centreing and grounding and entering the state of relaxation and meditation. What I am aiming for with the ecstatic state using say the drum I would spend some considerable time drumming to get to that ecstatic state before I began the journey work, tiring myself out and allowing my brain to enter other states of conciousness through my effort and before I began the journey. Only when I’d drummed to an ecstatic state first would I then begin that journey, with the ability to go much deeper than I would from just the relaxation and meditation. Does that make sense? (never been good at explanations)

      I have heard of the eight ways, 1 mental discipline (meditation and concentration). 2 Trance (projection on the astral) 3 Rites/chants/runes (as in the chanting not the stones lol) 4 Incense/drugs/wine etc, 5 Dance 6 Blood Control with use of cords. 7 Purification (flagellation) 8 Great Rite – what are the nine that you know? Thanks again for commenting 🙂

      I have heard of the eight ways not nine,

  4. lcward says:

    I posted on entheogens this week, let me link for u. http://deathcalls.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/pagan-blog-project-the-faces-of-the-gods-entheogens-in-pagan-practice/

    The ones I learned are: rhythm, sex, purification, ordeal, breath, horsing, ritual and plants. Oh I guess thats 8. Lol. Thats what I get for posting at night.

    To me, the difference between meditation and journey work are whether or not your soul leaves your body. Meditation is your internal landscape. Shamanic journey work is going to visit Otherworlds. The reason I asked was your use of the word ecstatic differs for me. To me, ecstatic trance work is what allows us to leave our bodies. I guess its got similar overtones to yours but yours seems to be more connected to the emotional state and what I aim for is kind the delta waves of the brain type of thing.

    • okarnill says:

      We had a discussion in our group about the nature of journey work, not sure if I can recreate it here, but think about the Underworld for instance, Where is it? is it something separate from us or part of us?, is it part of our own psyche that holds our own personal fears and demons?

      This came out of a journeying we did as a group- out of a eight people we all saw different things in that journey and yet we were travelling as a group and by rights if it was separate we should have seen the same thing (some things were the same but on the whole it was personal) or is it something that is universal, that we ‘tap into’? we say we ‘journey’ but in reality we do not leave our bodies, even during astral travel, if someone was to disturb us physically (and after we’d fallen over and gone ‘gnhh! wha?,,where…?’ lol ) we’d be ‘back’ immediately, albeit somewhat confused for a moment until we were grounded again – a part of our conciousness and focus is still within us even while we are sending a part of our focus and conciousness off into the astral – and – we’re back to ‘where is the underworld?’ (a part of our psyche or a separate place) is it ‘underground’ (in which case where?) or is it on the astral, if it’s on the astral (which we concluded) and so are the other worlds that we visit was it then a product of our own psyche (so are we then travelling within or without?) since our destination during journey work is decided by our own decisions. Such is the nature of some of our discussions lol – however I hope you see what I’m ‘getting at’?

      • lcward says:

        I do see and I have to slightly disagree. 1) It depends on your beliefs and cosmology, what Underworld you are visiting. The Norse is different from the Celtic is different from the Kemetic is different from the Grecco-Roman. And all of this is assuming you are using a specific cosmology and not just following Harner’s core shamanism. 2) If you cross-reference UPG of shamans from the same faith, you find they see the same things over and over, even without having talked to each other. Its really quite fascinating. 3) I really did have a three but I forgot it.

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