Levels of Deity Assumption

excerpt from Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism

Some time ago, a list started circulating around the Neo-Pagan community, attributed to Willow Polson, with regard to levels of deity presence. While we found it to be useful, we also expanded it a bit to include levels-between-levels that only people who've had a lot of experience horsing deities could know. Therefore, we present the expanded list, with apologies to Ms. Polson.

1. Enhancement

This is speaking about a deity; for example, giving an invocation in the third person, or telling a story. Doing this enhances people’s understanding of that deity, their immediate connection with them, and the feeling of their presence at the event. Enhancement requires only knowing about the deity, rather than having an intimate connection with them.

2. Inspiration

This is similar to enhancement, in the sense that you are giving an invocation or telling a story, but the difference is that with inspiration you speak from the perceived viewpoint of the deity. In this case, you speak for rather than speak about them. Instead of “Aphrodite did this,”, it’s “Aphrodite wants this.” Inspiration is done by connecting on some level with the deity, picking up messages about what they want, and then relaying those messages.

3. Shadowing

This is where the deity "rides along in your head", as many folks have put it. There's a feeling of them being just behind your shoulder, and able to speak clearly to you (and some may keep up a running commentary during a shadowing experience), but they are not using your body, and you are in full control of your reactions. You may "take dictation" and relay their words, or rephrase them, or keep silent as the situation requires.

4. Integration

Integration goes one step further; here you speak as the deity in the first person. This is generally done only as the highlight of a ritual; one example of this is the classic Wiccan “drawing down the Moon”, in which the high priestess steps forth and speaks as if she were the Goddess herself. “I am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mystery of the waters....” Integration is done by connecting with the deity and relaying their words immediately, in the first person, as if one was an interpreter. It requires a more intimate and clear connection if it is to be done properly, rather than merely narrating the words of the Athena puppet in the priestess’s head, for example.

5. Aspecting

The line between Integration and Aspecting is subtle, but basically here one is a full channel for the energy of the deity, and often their words, but the deity has not fully taken over the flesh body in order to walk around in it and treat it as their own. Some refer to this as "co-consciousness", meaning that the deity's mind and energy and their own are equally present and share command of what will be said. Aspecting is often mistaken for fully being ridden by people who have never dealt with full-on possession. Classic New Age "channeling" is one form of Aspecting, usually with dead souls or minor spirits. Many people can aspect a deity that they cannot necessarily fully horse, and Aspecting is less exhausting and much easier on the body and the soul. Galina Krasskova comments about it: "Often at this stage, I find that I am sometimes able to (or allowed to) explain sensations, thoughts, or emotions that I pick up from the Deity to whomever the Deity is speaking to for greater clarification. There are those possessions where I am sure it’s co-consciousness and later find out that while I may have thought so, large portions of time are simply blanked from my mind so that what I think is a full memory of the experience is in reality piecemeal."

6. Possession

In this situation, the strongest connection of all, the deity comes into the person’s body, displacing their own personality/soul for a time, and speaks directly to the audience or client. Depending on the god and the situation, the deity may commandeer the body for other things as well. Generally the horse's consciousness at this point is either extremely distanced (horses have reported seeing and hearing things as if underwater or from a long way away, in a very dissociative manner, or the sound might be turned off entirely) or they are completely unconscious and have no memory of the experience. My Pagan group, with its wry sense of humor, often refers to the former as being "in the back seat behind the safety glass" (while the deity is "driving"), and the latter as "locked in the trunk".

Whether the horse is relegated to the back seat or the trunk will vary widely. Some deities prefer to have the body to themselves; some are fine with the horse being somewhat conscious so long as they don't interfere; some will even talk to the horse in the back seat while "driving" their body, although this is more rare. Some horses prefer to be unconscious and ask the deity to make them so, while others prefer to be at least partly present at all times, usually for reasons of assuaging personal feelings of control. We've noticed that it's common for a deity to block out the hearing of a horse while the god in question is speaking one-on-one to someone else, because it is private and not for the horse's ears. Certainly for weddings of deities with their mortal spouses, the horse is as a matter of course stuck into the trunk.