Like drumming and chanting, dancing is an ancient technique for entering
ecstatic trance. When you move to the repetitive rhythms of a drum or
to the melody of a powerful chant, your scattered thoughts and feelings
begin to coalesce, and you enter a state where body and mind attune to
spirit. While dancing, you become one with the essence of the music, a
state of mind that can ultimately open and expand so that you merge with
Many traditions around the world have known and used dances powerful
qualities. Native American rituals, like the well-known Sun Dance of the
Plains Indians, come immediately to mind. African ceremonies that include
dance cover a wide range of purposes, whether its a Zulu coming
of age ritual, a Yoruba invocation of the serpent deity Da, or the Ewe
dance of life from Ghana. The aboriginal corroboree in Australia
involves ritual music and dance as well. Tibetan monks perform Cham,
the sacred dance of the vajrayana Buddhist tradition, while whirling
dervishes and other Sufi orders dance to enter ecstatic trance. Certain
Hasidic Jewish sects dance to niggun, wordless songs meant to connect
the singer or dancer with the divine. Even early Christian churches participated
in liturgical dances, while temple dancers in India still perform Bharata
Natyam and other classical dance forms, and Hawaiians incorporate
hula into many rituals.
Jalaja Bonheim, who studied Indian temple dance for many years, suggests
that any ecstatic practice needs to alternate movement and quiet, sound
and silence, extroversion and introversion.
Dancing can awaken you to ecstasy, but for spiritual purposes, you need
to turn the ecstacy inward in order to connect with your inner wisdom.
Containing the energy raised allowing it to sink into the
silence of your spiritual core keeps you from dissipating
it into the outer world, whether as extraneous gestures or unnecessary
sound. This in turn allows the energy to be used for divination.
To facilitate your oracle, begin by aligning yourself with the energies
of earth and sky. If you forget, however, dancing will usually help you
ground and center. When youre finished, thank the universal energies
as well as the music that transported you to your new awareness.
Dance to the Music
Before you begin your oracle, make sure that youre wearing comfortable
that doesnt constrict you in any way. To perform this divination:
- Decide on an oracular question.
- Ground and center.
- Dance for 15-20 minutes, allowing your
body to move in any way it desires. You can either:
When you finish dancing, absorb the
energy you’ve raised.
Then focus that energy on your question.
Take note of your divinatory outcome.
Interpret your oracle, possibly using
- Play a CD and dance, OR
- Find someone to drum while you dance.
- If you can, remember your query while
you dance; this may further your divination. If this proves difficult
for you, especially once you've reached ecstatic consciousness, simply
remind yourself of your question once youve finished dancing.
- Dance until you feel vibrant and alive.
Dance sensuously. Dance as if you were making love with life. After
about 15-20 minutes, maybe even less, you will begin to feel that
you have entered a new awareness, an expanded sense of self. Your
divination depends on reaching at least the threshold of this enraptured
state. You will achieve this consciousness most easily if you use
music that uplifts you. It also helps if the music plays continuously
for the entire fifteen or twenty minutes, so that you can dance with
- In most cases, the alternate state
you attain by dancing will allow you to acquire guidance that usually
remains inaccessible in daily life. This inner wisdom may come as
a sound or a voice if your major divinatory channel is auditory, as
an image if you're visual, or as a feeling or movement if you're kinesthetic.
Your oracle may arrive while you dance or in the moments or minutes
of silence and warm anticipation that follow your ecstatic dancing.
- Sometimes your first experience of
ecstasy may disorient you. If this is the case, try again another
day. I think you will find it worthwhile, for as Jalaja Bonheim notes,
In every moment, the real and the possible dance together within
the ground of our being, and out of this dance the future is born.
Dances of Universal Peace
This variation of Dance to the Music involves dancing as well as singing
one of the Dances of Universal Peace. Sufi Murshid Samuel L. Lewis founded
the Dances of Universal Peace as an American movement in the late 1960s.
These dances, set to sacred phrases from the worlds religions, allow
participants to attune themselves to a variety of mystical states. Using
simple, rhythmic movements based on folk dancing together with meaningful
lyrics, the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) combine the capacity of dance
to produce an ecstatic state with the meditative properties of Chanting.
To begin one of these body prayers as a form of divination:
- Shape an oracular question.
- Choose a Dance of Universal Peace for
- Ground and center.
- Dance and chant the Dance of Universal
Peace continuously for 10-20 minutes. You can either:
When you finish dancing, absorb the
emotional qualities evoked by the dance, focusing them inward on your
Listen in the silence for an answer
to your question.
Interpret your divination, with or
without the help of free
- Dance and sing with a recording OR
- Dance and chant unaccompanied OR
- Dance and sing with a friend drumming
or playing guitar for you.
- Murshid Samuel Lewis and other DUP
leaders originally created the Dances of Universal Peace as circle
dances for group participation. However, I have found that I can also
perform these body prayers alone as a divinatory request for guidance.
- A wide variety of Dances of Universal
Peace exist. Some create moods of peace and serenity, others aid the
dancer in reaching ecstatic states, while still others uplift the
singer/dancer to feelings of greater possibility or deeper love and
devotion. My favorites include:
- Kwan Zeon Bosai, a peaceful
chant to the Korean form of Kuan Yin, bodhisattva or goddess of
- Om Nama Shivaya, an exuberant
dance to Shiva, Hindu god of change and destruction
- The Heart Sutra, a Buddhist
chant extolling the dancer to go Beyond, beyond the beyond,
blessed be the goer
- Abwoon DBashmaya,
the first line of the Aramaic Lords Prayer, a chant which
opens the dancer to become a vessel for divine light
- Beauty Way Dance, a chant
based on the Navajo Beauty Way Ceremony that affirms that we are
full of hozho, a word that can be translated as beauty, peace
- Ama Usum Gal Ana, a dance
representing the serpent goddess Inanna shedding her skin
- To order instruction booklets or recordings
of Dances of Universal Peace, write: PeaceWorks, P.O. Box 1401, Blythe,
CA 92226-1401, (760) 922-2551 or look them up on the web at http://www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org/pubs/PW_Pubs_Catalogue.pdf.
Spiral dances usually involve groups of people, either as a part of traditional
folk dancing or as an element of ritual. Used in a ceremonial setting,
they can raise powerful vortices of energy for healing or other specific
purposes as well as for divination. Dancing an individual spiral can also
awaken an oracular mindset. To begin:
- Devise a divinatory query.
- Decide whether or not you want to dance
silently or while chanting. If you choose to chant, select an appropriate
song to sing.
- Ground and center.
- Begin by dancing in a large circle
in a counter-clockwise direction.
- After a few minutes begin to spiral
slowly into the center of the circle.
- When you arrive at the center, change
direction and spiral out of the center in a clockwise direction.
- When you arrive at the circumference
of your circle, spiral back into the center again, continuing in a
- When you reach the center this time,
stop and tune into your inner wisdom.
- Interpret your oracle, possibly with
World is Your Oracle
by Nancy Vedder-Shults
Nancy's forthcoming book, The
World is Your Oracle, compiles hundreds of divination methods,
from ancient oracles to modern-day techniques. The excerpts published
here will describe a few of the ways to access the deeper layers
of our minds and broaden our sense of perception.
A good oracle puts us in touch with
ourselves. It lets us discover our motivations, feelings and thoughts
about the question we're exploring. And it connects us with the
atmosphere or environment surrounding that question
making us aware of the water we swim in, but usually don't notice.
To receive inner guidance, all we need is to open ourselves to what
our body/mind tells us, what our emotions display, and what our
unconscious knows. In this way, we can begin to hear with our inner
ears and see with our inner eyes. Using these mystical senses
what we might call the sense organs of the unconscious
we perceive holistically, noticing relationships and patterns rather
than isolating, classifying and judging what we observe. Once we
have gathered this wisdom, we can then use the rational mind to
interpret what we have learned.
We live in an interconnected world, a web of life. Each segment
of that web reflects the whole just like fractal designs or holography.
That's why the patterns we discover through divination give us information.
They mimic the relationships of the whole at a particular moment
- You probably want to dance at least
ten minutes. You can vary the pattern of the dance in a number of
ways: by beginning and ending in a clockwise motion, by spiraling
into the center more than twice, and by changing the size of your
circle. I describe the essential parts of the dance in the preceding
- My favorite chant for this kind of
divination is Spiraling Into the Center by Lorna Kohler.
You can find it in Circle of Songs
edited by Kate Marks and in Songs for Earthlings
edited by Julie Middleton. You might also consider other chants contained
in these songbooks. Both of them include three songs that I have enjoyed
while dancing the spiral: Round and Round (author unknown),
Now I Walk in Beauty (author unknown) and We are
the Flow by Shekhinah Mountainwater. Depending on your question,
I Found God in Myself by Ntozake Shange and Earth
Spins Around by Madge Strong (both contained in Songs for
Earthlings) might also prove appropriate. Of course, you can always
combine a spiral dance with an oracular request to a spiritual guide
(God, goddess, angel, saint, ascended master, etc.) and sing your
appeal for help as you perform a spiral dance.
- Jalaja Bonheim, The Hunger for Ecstasy:
Fulfilling the Soul's Need for Passion and Intimacy (Rodale Books,
2001), p. 216
- Ibid., p. 44
- Circle of Songs: Songs, Chants and
Dance For Ritual and Celebration, compiled by Kate Marks (Lenox,
Ma: Full Circle Press, 1993)
- Songs for Earthlings: A Green Spirituality
Songbook, compiled and edited by Julie Forest Middleton (Philadelphia,
PA: Emerald Earth Publishing, 1998)
- sunset dance, courtesy of Eric
- dancer, courtesy of Malinda Welte
- dancers, courtesy of Dawn M Turner