Shamanic ASC

Ecstasy, trance, or ASC are central to selection, training, and practice, and induced through many procedures that have physiological effects (Winkelman, 1986b, 1992, 2000; cf. below). Shamanic ASC occur in a dramatic ritual encounter within the spirit world. After extensive singing, chanting, drumming, and dancing, shamans collapse into apparent unconsciousness, but have an intact memory of the ensuing visionary experience upon returning to ordinary reality. Shamans experience flying to other worlds with spirit allies, or encountering spiritual or supernatural entities. Sometimes shamans' ASC involve an internal focus of attention without extensive induction procedures. The typical procedures used by shamans to induce an ASC involve extreme activation of the sympathetic nervous system through drumming and dancing until exhaustion of the sympathetic system from extreme exertion leads to collapse into a parasympathetic dominant state characterized by intense visual activity. Shamans also induce ASC through fasting, other forms of auditory stimulation (e.g., clapping, singing, and chanting), prolonged periods of sleeplessness, temperature extremes, and painful austerities. Hallucinogens are used in some traditions (see Furst, 1976; Harner, 1973; Winkelman, 1996). Deliberate periods of sleep and dream incubation may also be used for inducing ASC.

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