“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 emi­gre 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 comments to “The Science of Santeria: Do a Little Happy Trance”

  • Darci

    Did you notice the relat­ed link to Relat­er­al­iz­ing hyp­no­sis: or, have we been bark­ing up the wrong hemi­sphere? (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9077052)?
    Inter­est­ing.  I wish I could read more than just the abstract.

    • HypnoMedia

      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.