female trance state

July 25, 2017

Medieval folklore throughout Europe recognized a specifically female trance state closely analogous to divine possession. In popular culture, too, we find groups of laywomen entering into immobile and insensible trance states, during which they reportedly visited the realms of the dead and consorted with supernatural figures. Efforts to rouse such women when in this state proved fruitless: the trance was like a temporary death in which the spirit was wholly absent. These women often were credited with healing powers and oracular abilities, and sometimes they attained positions of local prestige – or marginalization – as a result to their activities. Known variously as the “good things,” the “good ladies,” or the “night-times ladies,” these women believed themselves to be destined, by an accident of birth, occasionally to leave their bodies in order to follow, in spirit, in the train of a mysterious female supernatural being.

Nancy Caciola
Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages

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