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(219) Śyāmaḥ

An extract from The Golden Bough: “In this respect there was a striking resemblance between the rude oracles of the Polynesians, and those of the celebrated nations of ancient Greece. As soon as the god was supposed to have entered the priest, the latter became violently agitated, and worked himself up to the highest pitch of apparent frenzy, the muscles of the limbs seemed convulsed, the body swelled, the countenance became terrific, the features distorted, and the eyes wild and strained. In this state he often rolled on the earth, foaming at the mouth, as if labouring under the influence of the divinity by whom he was possessed, and, in shrill cries, and violent and often indistinct sounds, revealed the will of the god. The priests, who were attending, and versed in the mysteries, received, and reported to the people, the declarations which had been thus received. When the priest had uttered the response of the oracle, the violent paroxysm gradually subsided, and comparative composure ensued.”

Over the last two years I’ve experienced quasi-epileptic states and, at certain times, have had my entire body go floppy, my speech slur, and my eyes become “weird”—zoned out. These events have increased since my adventures and Hartsfell and the Rollright Stones. I have no history of epilepsy, although it is true that as a child I would clasp my hands together very hard, close my eyes, and then rest them against my chin (eventually a hard patch formed on my skin there because I did it so much)—and so my mother dissuaded me from it.

It was almost like prayer in a way, though I attached no religious significance to it—though it was the thing I most enjoyed to do, just close my eyes and concentrate very hard and “imagine things”. I’ve seen true epilepsy and I don’t have that, but I do think I’ve triggered something in myself similar to the oracular behaviour seen in ancient Greece and, indeed, around the world.


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