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Trance States in Shamanic Cultures: The Hypnotic Power of Chanting, Drumming, and Dance

Using ancient methods to access deep altered states of perception..

Shamanic and tribal cultures have long recognized the power of altered states of consciousness as a means to access deeper levels of the mind, communicate with the spirit world, and facilitate healing. Much like modern hypnosis, these ancient practices relied on various techniques to induce trance states, including chanting, drumming, and dance. In this article, we will explore the parallels between shamanic rituals and hypnosis, examining how these ancient techniques tap into the same neurological mechanisms that underpin hypnotic trance states.

Shamanic Rituals: Chanting, Drumming, and Dance


Chanting has been a central part of shamanic rituals across diverse cultures. Repetitive vocalizations or mantras create rhythmic patterns that can induce a trance state in both the shaman and participants. This is similar to the use of verbal suggestions and repetitive phrases in hypnosis, which help to focus the individual's attention and facilitate the induction of a hypnotic trance. For example, in the Siberian Tuvan tradition, throat singing is used by shamans to alter their consciousness and connect with the spirit world.


Drumming is another powerful tool employed in shamanic practices to induce trance states. The rhythmic beats of the drum can entrain the brain's neural oscillations, leading to a shift in brainwave patterns. This process, known as auditory driving, is similar to the use of binaural beats in modern hypnosis, which can also induce altered states of consciousness by synchronizing brainwaves with external auditory stimuli. The Sami people of northern Scandinavia, for instance, utilize drumming in their shamanic rituals, with the steady rhythm helping the shaman enter a trance state to communicate with spirits and perform healing rituals.


Dance is another integral part of many shamanic traditions, serving as a means to alter consciousness and induce trance states. The repetitive and rhythmic movements of dance can lead to a state of sensory overload or dissociation, allowing the individual to access deeper levels of the mind. This is similar to certain hypnotic techniques that involve focusing on physical sensations or body movements to facilitate trance induction. In the San Bushman culture of Southern Africa, the ritualistic dance known as the "Trance Dance" is performed to enter altered states of consciousness, enabling the shaman to communicate with the spirit world and channel healing energies for the community.

The Hypnotic Power of Shamanic Rituals

Shamanic rituals and hypnosis share many similarities in their ability to induce altered states of consciousness. Both practices rely on techniques that engage the mind and body, creating an immersive experience that allows individuals to access deeper levels of awareness. In addition, these trance-inducing methods tap into the same neurological mechanisms that underpin the hypnotic state, such as the entrainment of neural oscillations and the modulation of brain networks involved in attention and self-awareness.

Medicines and Magik

Modern cultures have discovered that ancient medicines such as peyote, ayahuasca and mushrooms are gateways to altered states that can induce hypnosis or trance-like states. Shamanic healers and spiritual guides often rely on these medicines to facilitate healing, spiritual exploration, and personal transformation. Modern research is looking into the use of psychotropic medicines, investigating the way these substances operate on the neuroplasticity of the brain, allowing us to reach deeper states of relaxation or trance and possibly unlock hidden potentials changing behaviors as well as accessing memories and repressed trauma. In some cultures, this shamanic healing is still a powerful tool for personal transformation and self-exploration.

The power of hypnosis is also employed in some shamanic cultures through the use of magik spells, incantations, and other forms of “psychic energy” manipulation. These techniques are said to help unlock a person’s subconscious mind and facilitate access to powerful archetypal energies within the collective unconscious.

An example of what some cultures regard as magik is the nocebo effect, a powerful phenomenon in which a person’s belief or expectation can trigger physical pain and psychological distress. The nocebo is the opposite of the placebo effect where positive expectations or beliefs can lead to healing and improved well-being.

Carlos Castenada’s famous books, “The Teachings of Don Juan” and “Journey to Ixtlan”, have popularized the notion that shamanic healing practices are closely intertwined with hypnosis.

In this way, shamans can help people reach deeper levels of self-awareness or gain access to ancient memories stored in the collective unconscious. Shamanic rituals such as soul retrieval ceremonies or spirit animal guides can also be deeply tied to hypnotic trance work.

Ancient medicine and magick like hypnosis can often lead to transcendental awakenings and moments of enlightenment, which can lead to personal growth and a greater understanding of the self and one's place in the world. Moreover, these practices can be used to promote spiritual healing and transformation, allowing us to access some of life’s mysterious secrets.

The parallels between shamanic rituals and hypnosis highlight the universal power of trance states in facilitating healing and personal transformation. By examining these ancient practices, we can gain valuable insights into the hypnotic process and deepen our understanding of the human potential. As we continue to explore the connections between shamanic rituals and modern hypnosis, we may uncover new techniques and approaches that can further enhance the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in promoting wellbeing and personal growth.

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