by Joseph Bearwalker Wilson
(author's note: I wrote the following article in 1985 or 6 in response to the popularity of "aspecting" among some of the circles I was aware of. I first read it at a council meeting of the group known as "Seekers Circle", then published it in The Waxing Moon. It was not met with favorably by the other leaders of the community. Regardless I stand by it and think it's as true today as it was the day I wrote it.)
Within many circles of the Pagan-Wiccan-Occult community is a practice in which a person opens psychically and allows a discarnate entity to take possession of their body and to speak through that vehicle. This technique is generally called "channeling." When it is applied to an aspect of the Goddess or the God it may be called "aspecting."
This technique is not new. Forms of it have been practiced by everyone from Christian Saints, to Spiritualist Mediums, to those who practice the African Diasporic forms of religion.
The technique is valid and can produce some extremely valuable results. However, by its very nature it is subject to misunderstanding and abuse. This is particularly the case when the vehicle is supposed to be expressing an aspect of the Goddess or God.
Every display of this phenomenon should be viewed with healthy skepticism. There are too many variables to consider to accept each channeled manifestation as being what it purports to be.
The first thing to consider is the possibility of fraud. Fraud may be motivated by any number of things, and many be consciously or unconsciously perpetuated. When you witness one of these displays, ask yourself what the person doing the channeling has to gain from the experience. Primarily one who is channeling may be gaining honor and attention from the witnesses. In moderation this is a normal human need, however, it can become unhealthy. This is particularly so when along with this honor and attention comes a subtle or not so subtle power and control over those who are present.
I am particularly suspicious of anyone who conveniently slips in and out of an "aspect" of the Goddess or the God at just the right time to direct people to do or not do something in that Divinity's name. I have seen so-called Priests and Priestesses who habitually do this when they observe something they personally disagree with. Suddenly they become the Goddess or God in question and speak with "divine authority" to support their personal prejudices. If you observe this happening, avoid that person. Their interest in you has nothing to do with concern for your spiritual well-being. It does have to do with a consolidation of their power over you.
Although fraud is prevalent in these experiences, there are legitimate channelings of aspects of the Lord and the Lady. These should also be viewed with a healthy skepticism, but for different reasons.
The Goddess and the God are extremely vast. That which we comprehend of Them is merely an infinitesimal part of the whole. Even when we conceive of the Goddess as being Nymph, Mother, and Hag, our understanding of each of these is still as nothing compared with the reality.
When a person is channeling one of these aspects the force is defined to a degree. However, the possession, no matter how powerful, is not complete. If the vehicle were to be entirely taken over by one of these, death would result. The experience would simply be too powerful for our frail material bodies. Instead, what is received is a very small part of Divinity; that which the vehicle is capable of channeling without harm.
The vehicle then is a tool quite similar in some ways to a computer which has a lifetime of programming in it. The Divinity uses the program to express or communicate something. Whatever can be manipulated to provide that communication is used. However, we are each individuals with similar but different experiences. Each of our personal "programs" is just a little bit different from another person's. Also, each of our personal "programs" has within it certain quirks which we might relate to a "bug" in the program -- something which makes it work not quite the way we might want it to work. The Divinity uses our vehicle's program complete with the "bugs."
Therefore, that which is expressed is colored by the personality and past experiences of the individual who is the vehicle. If the trance and possession is incomplete, the coloration will be great. The more complete the possession is, the less will be the coloration of that which is being expressed. But you must remember that even in the most complete experiences the vehicle's past conditioning and personality will still influence that which you see and hear. That's the way the tool is built, and the Gods use the tool without modifying it. (Although they are likely to choose the tool most suitable for whatever purpose is at hand, just as I would choose a hammer instead of a drill to drive a nail.)
Another major problem with attempting to channel an aspect of the Goddess or the God is the possibility that the vehicle is being used by something other than the aspect of the Goddess or the God that is intended. There are spirits of various kinds that find these vehicles useful for one reason or another. Some are not nice at all and will represent themselves to be other than that which they are. They feed upon the energy received in this manner. Usually they can be identified by their tendency to make demands upon those who are present, though this is not 100% accurate.
To complicate the problem even more, we must realize that the Goddess and the God are not bound by human laws and ethics. That which They manifest is likely to be something other than the behavior expected in polite society! They are not limited by our conceptions of them or by any human laws designed to make living in society a little easier or a little safer. We can only get a little bit of an idea (of them) through all of our experience.
They manifest themselves in Nature, and Nature is horrible as well as beautiful. Every manifestation of the feminine that you can observe or imagine shows you an aspect of the Goddess. And every manifestation of the masculine that you can observe or imagine shows you an aspect of the God. To deny this is to deny reality. The Goddess is there in the lioness as she tortures and kills her prey, just as she is in the purring kitten in your lap. And She is there in the street whore just as She is in the cloistered virgin. I could give thousands of examples, each of which would be an aspect of the Goddess, and each of which would seem to be contradictory.
The greatest danger in the practice of channeling aspects is that of interpreting that which we see and hear the way we would like the experience to be interpreted. When we do this we mold the gift the Gods have given us into something other than that which was intended. We all have a tendency to see what we want to see and not see what we don't want to see. We should keep this tendency in check.
But how can we be sure that what we are experiencing or observing is really a "pure" form of the Lord or Lady? Very simply put: in the short run we can't be sure! In the long run we have a better chance. My immediate advice is: Don't be credulous. Be an observer over a long period of time and gather that which is similar but which has been obtained from different sources or different circles. Realize that whatever comes through is valid for the person who is experiencing the aspect, since it is probably giving them what they need. But it is not necessarily valid for anyone else. This is true whether the experience is a channeling, or whether it is a visionary experience like those found in drumming journey circles. And it's true whether the vision is yours, mine, or someone else's.
The followers of the modern Craft have not been practicing channeling aspects long enough to have definite proofs appear. Eventually these proofs will evolve, and when they do they will be unquestionable.
An example of such a proof can be found in some of the African Diasporic traditions. In their pantheon there is a particular loa or orisha who is very powerful and very lusty. When a man is the channel for Him that man always gets an erection. Through him the loa will demand sex with women who are participating in the circle. His power is such, and the emotion of the circle is such, that the women are quite anxious to please him, though it's not an accepted practice for them to do so.
Now it's pretty obvious that a situation of this nature is ripe for abuse and fraud, but that doesn't happen. You see this entity has a taste for a particular drink that is so hot and strong no human can drink it and maintain any composure. (Although it has regional variations the basic recipe is: 1 cup 151-proof rum, 2 tablespoons red capsicum peppers, 1 teaspoon Chinese Szechwan peppers, and 1 teaspoon ground black peppers. Mix thoroughly and let set in a sealed container for at least one week.) The person who is manifesting that aspect is offered a large glass of that liquid. If the manifestation is real the loa will quickly drink it with great enjoyment, demand more, and show no signs of discomfort or intoxication. If it is false the impostor will not be able to drink it (and as a result will probably be taken away by the other participants and whipped with wide leather belts).
There is also a female loa/orisha who has erotic inclinations similar to that. However She doesn't have a taste for that strong drink. Instead, She has a taste for eating live cockroaches. When She rides a participant She will immediately devour any of them She can find. This seems to be enough to prevent fakery by those women who would channel Her aspect.
When proofs evolve in our society they will probably be something more
in keeping with our culture. Never-the-less, they will be proofs that we
will not question. Until then I advise everyone to exercise intelligent
skepticism when they encounter all channeled or aspected phenomena.