The Science of Santeria: Do a Little Happy Trance”

Tis the season of the dead: from Halloween to All Saint’s Day, when traditionally Christian societies venerate those who have passed on. But for practitioners of the Afro-Cuban philosophy of Santería, the line between the dead and living knows no season; it’s almost always a shadowy one.

Afro-Cuban émigré Philbert Armenteros, founder of the Miami band Los Herederos (The Inheritors), says his music can channel important messages from the gods of his African ancestors.

It puts (listeners) in a different dimension, one that allows them to experience cleansing, purity and inner peace,” Armenteros told Discovery News.

Armenteros literally means a different dimension. When he drums and chants in a certain sequence, some of his listeners are lulled into a trance.

The article (here) starts with the expected capsule history of the religion of Santeria then diverges into a scientific investigation on trance and its connection with various religions around the world.

Social scientists say that trances, a behavior common to all kinds of world religions, is biological, but also caused by learned behavior.

According to Dr. Peter Naish, a senior lecturer in cognitive psychology at the Open University in the U.K., asymmetrical brains — those whose two hemispheres process information at disproportionate speeds — are more capable of playing the hallucinatory tricks indicative of hypnosis and trance.

The abstract itself describes how the experiments were carried out:

Abstract: Participants of low and high hypnotic susceptibility were tested on a temporal order judgement task, both with and without hypnosis. Judgements were made of the order of presentation of light flashes appearing in first one hemi-field then the other. There were differences in the inter-stimulus intervals required accurately to report the order, depending upon which hemi-field led. This asymmetry was most marked in hypnotically susceptible participants and reversed when they were hypnotized. This implies not only that brain activity changes in hypnosis, but also that there is a difference in brain function between people of low and high hypnotic susceptibility. The latter exhibited a faster-acting left hemisphere in the waking state, but faster right when hypnotized.

I should point out that this is yet another experiment demonstrating the existence of trance and hypnosis by showing the physical difference between the waking and trance states. One interesting item from the article is that while people highly susceptible to trance states have a prominent role in these ceremonies, people with low susceptibility to trance also have a role as guides and translators.

Thanks to Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt blog for pointing this out.

2 Responses to “The Science of Santeria: Do a Little Happy Trance””

  • Darci says:

    Did you notice the related link to Relateralizing hypnosis: or, have we been barking up the wrong hemisphere? (
    Interesting.  I wish I could read more than just the abstract.

    • HypnoMedia says:

      I ordered a copy of the article through the local library: they have an online form that I filled out and have obtained copies of journal articles in the past. We’ll see if it works here.

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