Full title: Trance Dancing with the Jinn: The Ancient Art of Contacting Spirits Through Ecstatic Dance
I read The Golem and the Jinni a few months ago and realized that I knew next to nothing about the mythology of the Jinn. Not that I’m an expert on golems either, but I had at least been exposed to the idea. Trance Dancing with the Jinn is a book about kinetic meditation (trance dancing) but it also documents the history of the Jinn as written in the Quran and other sources as well as the biological and historical reasons that humans go into trance. In addition to the mythology and biology, I learned about how trance dancing at meetings called “zars” is an outlet for women who have very little control over any other aspect their lives in Northern Africa. The author is clearly a believer in the existence of “the Invisibles” but, if you don’t share the same beliefs, this book still has plenty of fascinating information for those interested in cultural, religious, or feminist studies and ritual dance.
The author asks the reader to have an open mind: “Do you believe in Invisibles or do you consider them an outdated tradition from an ignorant past? What if you had a safe, drug-free way to see for yourself? Would you be curious enough to try it- even though the method takes practice and you probably won’t succeed on your first attempt?” loc 200. Yeah, I’m down for that.
I don’t think it is that difficult to entertain the idea that there may be intelligences that exist that can’t be perceived in normal states of consciousness. As Henkesh reminds us: “According to NASA’s website, “Everything on Earth, everything ever observed by all our instruments, all normal matter- adds up to less than 5% of the Universe… The rest is a complete mystery, but an important one. Roughly 68% of the Universe is dark energy, while dark matter makes up about 27%.” This energy and matter are called “dark” because they do not reflect light… or interact with electromagnetic forces. We only know they are there by their effects on gravity…” loc 233, ebook. Only 5% has been observed- that leaves a whole lot that we haven’t even looked at yet.
Western researchers are still discovering how and why trance works, but they at least acknowledge that it exists: “Neurologist Oliver Sacks once wrote, “Normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the flimsiest of screens, live entirely different potential forms of consciousness.” loc 267.
The most fascinating part of this book was the emotional outlet that trance dancing has allowed women for hundreds of years: “… thousands of women in Egypt still turn to the zar when modern medicine fails them. If doctors cannot find the cause of their physical or mental ailments, they assume supernatural forces are involved. … Diagnostic zars can last anywhere from a day in Egypt to a week in Sudan and Ethiopia.” loc 2530-2548 I had never heard of this and looked up some examples of zar/trance dancing on YouTube. Go ahead, take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMW73…
I can see how such flowing, uninhibited movements would feel therapeutic now, so I can’t imagine the relief I’d feel if I was not allowed to have a job or leave the house without a male by my side. I’d probably be trance dancing non-stop.
Some further reading/listening for those interested in trance: Ecstatic Body Postures: An Alternate Reality Workbook, Seeking Heaven, or Brainwave Journey.
Thank you to NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications for a free digital copy of this book! And, thank you for reading.