Posts Tagged ‘Hyperarousal Trance’

The Desert Zar, a short story

July 23, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by, 2010

I need a break. It’s summer and my garden looks horrid, the grass uncut, the brown spots courtesy of the three dogs need tending, the chicken coop cleaned out and the chicken manure used to best advantage. I’m posting this short story here, in part because I am trying to get back into the mindset of finishing “Tin Hinan” and I did lose (or forgot to save) the last long chapter. So….I am looking forward to going back into that ‘space’ of Hyperarousal Trance where all things slightly spooky gives some inspiration.

I’ve written before about the Zar ritual, still an important ritual in many North African and Middle East countries and what the demon Zar represents.

I just got in the mail (bless you, a new Berber group, Tianiwen, and their music I already know will throw me into that place where things connect and efforts are effortless.

See you on the other side.

Lady Nyo


The dust settled from the desert. All day it howled and swirled around the souk, a locust plague of stinging matter, a towering and maddened djinn. Now the sky over the sands was fading pink, as daylight filtered through the violent storm resolved into a dark blue night.

The roiling sea of sand, shifting like high waves of water, was now placid. Off to the east, bells of a caravan mixed with the groans and protestations of camels, floated over heavy air. Jasmine and bougainvillea scented the night along with dung fires from Bedouin camps.

Dusk was settling in, this narrow ribbon between light and dark, bridged by a few soft breezes. The djinn of night inhaled deeply, holding the memories of the day close, then blew to the desert, to repeat at each dusk into eternity.

This was Tunis, a hundred years ago, before the awnings of the souk now woven reed mats, were replaced with sheet tin, and the trampled dirt paved beyond cobble.

Somewhere a drum begin a steady beat, sounding like a heart beat, drawn from the village core. Then the soft piping of the ney flute floated out over the souk, it’s sweetness rising like a descant over the measured beat of more drums.

Black clad shadows moved down the length of adobe walls to the center well. Bundles of jasmine, tuberose, bougainvillea, red poppies and lavender were placed on the steps of the well, seeming to scent the still water.

An old Negress, her back twisted by life, took a few coins from women as they passed. Her hair twinkled like dull stars from the pierced coins strung from her dull dreadlocks.

This was the price of the Zar. Each woman would exorcise her demon, her hysteria or her bad luck. And with hope, perhaps a mean husband.

As more and more women came around the well, it seemed the drums became louder and the ney flute shriller. The bleating of a goat near by could be heard.

Still, black figures moved in the settling darkness down the cobbles to the well and placed their few coins in the Negress’ hand.

Around the corner and halfway down the street was a doorway. A curtain was drawn over the opening but the incense within puffed out with each opening. It scented the nighttime air, dueling with jasmine growing up walls. The shrillness of the ney increased and the drums picked up rhythm.

Go through the curtain and you enter a room heavy with smells. The incense–powerful, but there were undercurrents of tobacco from a hookah being smoked in the darkened room. There was something acrid, like the smell of fear or sweat. The raw smells of a crowded humanity perfumed the room.

Wooden benches placed far back upon the walls were already filled. Men and women, but mostly women, were sitting in the smoky fog. Most were still clad in the black chadors, but here and there were sparkles of an elaborately beaded head scarf. One women sat like a princess with a camel’s saddle beneath her feet. She was dressed in embroidered robes with silver jewelry over her forehead. She was the youngest wife of the local warlord and woe be to anyone who accosted her. Black eyes, two ebony moons dulled by the poppy, looked out from a face veil. The heavy sandalwood perfume coming from her robes scented the air, mingling with other scents.

In the middle of the floor a high wooden stool was placed where a large tray of sweets and fruits were offered to the spirits of the night. No mortal hand or mouth would partake of such offerings.

The drums beat varying rhythms, and all combined into a gigantic heartbeat, or perhaps many heartbeats reflecting those within the room.

Suddenly a woman appeared and walked around the altar, muttering something in a sing-song voice. Her hair unbound and tossed with the rotations of her head, she nodded back and forth in time with her pacing. As she walked and muttered, her eyes rolled back in her head. She was deep in trance.

The Sheikha! The power of a demon catcher, the handler of the Zar demons! The Wise Woman, for who but such could demand anything of the invisible and dangerous Zar?

She paced the room, muttering to herself, her body now expressing violent movements. Off to the side was a younger woman sitting on her haunches, covered with a white cloth. With the shrill call of the wooden ney, the woman was helped to her feet, uncovered, where she stood with bowed head.

She was the possessed. Perhaps her husband had brought her to the ritual. Perhaps she could be healed.
But perhaps the Zar that possessed her could overcome all the magic of the Sheikha and possess her!

Each woman had a story behind her. This one was a very young woman, now married to a much older man. He lurked in the background, anger hard in his eyes, his mouth set in a grimace. He had paid a good marriage price for his wife and she had not given him what he expected. A son was what he demanded and she had only produced one stillborn in the two years they had been married. Something was wrong with her. Perhaps the ritual he paid for with heavy coin would answer to his concerns. If not, perhaps he could ship her back to her parents and demand the bride price back.

The Sheikha’s voice called out, her arms raised towards the woman, and this woman began to pace around the altar. At first her head just nodded back and forth as she slowly moved around the room. Then her body began to twitch, her arms rose upwards, jerking with her movements. Her hair was unbound, and with each violent movement of her head, it swung around in great, undulating waves.

Still the drums increased their tempo. The drummers were off in their own trances, their faces blank, their eyes unfocused. The ney player, his wooden flute dark with age and the stains of fingers, was answered with finger cymbals and an undercurrent of chants. The room seemed to pulsate within another dimension as the incense and drums took over the senses. The chants increased in strength and sweat poured down the face and breasts of the Sheika and the possessed young woman, making transparent their white cotton dresses. Dark tipped nipples and golden breasts, the sheen of skin heated to match the frenzy of all around them, they danced on, now uttering incoherent growls and high pitched exclamations. Other women sat in place and tossed their bodies back and forth and a few stood up and joined the young woman, their own bodies beginning to mimic hers. Shrieks and groans were heard from different corners of the room and still the drums increased in rhythm, exciting the senses to a fever pitch.

Suddenly the Sheikha stiffened, her eyes rolled back as the young woman passing before her collapsed at her feet.

She had caught the Zar! He had released hold of the ends of the hair of the young woman and flown into the arms of the Sheikha! He had hit her with enough force that she staggered backwards and only the support of the women behind her kept her on her two feet.

Now the Wise Woman talked in a low, unknown language. She berated, cajoled, implored and threatened the Zar. She grasped at the air and shook it violently. She brought the Zar to her breast, seemed to stroke it, this unseen matter, and then push it from her, chiding and scolding.

For those in the room who knew about Zars, knew one never could get rid them. No, he could be appealed to, reasoned with, but who but one equal to a Zar can reason with a Demon?

A man brought forth a white cock and with a quick flash of his knife, cut its throat. With a bow he presented the dying cock to the Sheikha who began to sprinkle the warm blood about the now still woman. Again low guttural chants rose all around but the drums remained silent.

The Sheikha would threaten this Zar with her own spirits. She would threaten with her own history of wrestling with past Zars, and call upon their power for her to subdue this one.

Silently she prayed the demon before her would attend. It would be a fierce battle to the end, and onlookers watched for signs of who was winning; who was more powerful.

Ah! There always was signs of the battle within. Exhaustion threatened to overtake the Sheikha. She would have to bargain hard with this Zar. He was a powerful one; not about to give up his berth without a fight.

But, slowly, slowly….there were signs she was winning, and those who knew of these things would see renewed energy on the part of the Sheikha, a renewed passion for what she was facing. If she was coming to victory, her voice would soften, her appeals would be as to a child and perhaps this Zar would listen.

But success was never assured. These Zars were thousands of years old and wily creatures. They may be made of air and malevolence, but they were a force outside Nature.

No victory over a supernatural force could be guaranteed. It always was a battle to the end. For you never get ride of a Zar, the possessor. You only give him a good shakeup, new marching orders, and you send him back into the possessed.

No one wants a Zar running around scaring the children and chickens. And a goat for possession will not do.

The Sheikha looked down at the woman at her feet. Ah! There was a change in her face, a smoothing of her brow, a peaceful countenance. She could be restored to her husband and the Sheikha prayed that he would see his wife in a new light.

The Sheikha knew what was wrong here. It was the same old story over and over. A man, too old to give his wife the pleasure she was made for, would demand from her what he could not give. So the senses were imbalanced, the forces of love were destroyed, the woman would suffer unless….

The Sheikha’s eyes snapped to the husband and with a gesture she had him approach. She stared deep into his eyes and held them. She muttered in her strange and frightening language and still she did not drop her eyes. Then she sprinkled his white robes liberally with the cock’s blood.

She had the satisfaction of seeing the fear in his eyes.

Perhaps this time the Zar will behave. And better, perhaps so the husband, too.


Outside the walls of the souk, outside where the night wind rested, camels complained and the dung fires scented the air, where the moon looked down on the sea of sand, other Zars were gathering to float over the walls.

The food on the altar would not last long. Again Spirit would invade Flesh and the drums would call out demons into the arms of some Sheikha.

In this part of the world, the Zars were part of human destiny.

They were a part of life as much as the desert sands, the groans of camels and the dark eyes of beautiful women.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012-2014

Some short thoughts on poetry, writing and research, and some issues writing “Tin Hinan”

July 15, 2014

Some thoughts on writing and poetry…


Very recently I have been talking with a dear friend, Dr. RK Singh, in India. We have mulled over topics for about 4 or 5 years now. RK is a well published and marvelous poet of short verse, including tanka. He is also known for his academic papers and books. But this sensitive man is a joy to engage in what we both love so much, which is poetry. Later this summer, I will review on this blog his latest poetry book: “I am NO Jesus”. I have read these poems he so graciously sent me as proofs, and I found myself totally captivated.

In his last email of this morning, RK said something about the difference between poetry and novel writing. Well, he didn’t actually state an opinion, or define the difference, but there is one I believe.

I have read that poetry is of the heart. But I think that can be applied to writing in general. Poetry appeals to many people because it usually (in its best state in my opinion) is short, decisive, heartfelt, impactful, and at times..perhaps the best of times…makes that connection between humanity. More than “there is nothing new under the sun”, it makes the links between our distant humanity. I think of the cultures around the world like the stars in the heaven at night: laying out in the desert, or in an area where there are no city lights, we have icy pinpricks of light too numerous to count, only defined by pictures and myths we hang upon these exploding and gaseous rocks.

I am not a trained poet or writer: I shoot from the hip in these things. And about that, I very recently broke my hip and now am facing a long summer of little activity and a lot of bed rest. But the upside of this is the chance to settle in with the books I need for further research and writing.

Seven years ago, out of the blue I suppose, I started writing “Tin Hinan”. Other writers probably will know the feelings of compulsion, where an idea, a theme takes hold of you and shakes you like a dog with a rat. I have said that this book wove itself one knot at a time, and very fast I had a rather muddy rug beneath my hands. I realize none of these things actually come totally out of the blue, but come from some experience that circles around your head, whether you realize its presence or not. For me, I would say that “Tin Hinan” was a continuation of my discovery and experience of the Hyperarousal Trance. I was a belly dancer at one important and informative time of my life, and from some beautiful and handsome Spanish flamenco male musicians, discovered that this was really ‘real’. That the ayoub beat led into a world of tangible mystery and exoticism. That our bodies and our minds conspired to raise us out of our humdrum lives, out of the usual patterns that we trod, and into something much different. I was trying to explain to Dr. Singh what this Hyperarousal Trance did, or was, (it is a brainwave sequence, called Theta) and how it made the connections between pieces of research in writng. Oh, it did a lot more than that, and belly dancers (besides these gorgeous Spanish men) understand the trance that movement throws one into, but it also has, or seemed to have, more application.

I found that this state of mind also could be applied to different cultural approaches. People have been confused, or at times, disdainful, of my cross cultural writings: I have written books based in Hungarian, Japanese, Turkish, Celtic and Berber cultures. This isn’t strange to me at all. It’s a continuation of interest in different cultures and a heavy dose (always) of the necessity of deeper research. And that is what it means to me to be a writer. And poet. And why not? Aren’t we part of the total mystery of humanity? Where are the borders for our minds? As writers and poets, don’t we strive to make those connections between cultures that are ‘strange’ and unknown to us? For me, I think this is a compulsion.

And, frankly, it is also necessary to rid your life of the people (and yes, family) that stand as obstacles to your creativity and productivity.  I no longer will tolerate this.  It took me long enough to find a purpose in life, and I am damned if I will let anything get in the way of this.  Including my own stupidity.  Writing gives purpose and JOY to my existence.  For years I allowed  others to either stop or attempt to detour this purpose. I see the angst of friends who are embroiled in conflicts that don’t give one damn bit of joy to their lives.   Life is too damn short for this.

In reading and reworking “Tin Hinan”, I have seen the necessity to go even deeper into this ancient culture, called Berber by the Europeans, and Imazighen (amongst other names…) by “The People of the Veil”. Perhaps it is the luxury of being able to slow down (a bad hip will do that…) and settle into the more descriptive and important things of a culture. I do know the Berbers bring to life the mysteries, the spirits of the deserts, especially the Sahara and the mountains of Morocco and Algeria. The Berbers I have known are some of the most gracious and hospitable people on this earth. I believe this is because they understand, fundamentally, the things that are important to survival and they shake their veiled heads (that’s the men, the women don’t wear the veil) at our modern silliness. Or perhaps they, being the ancient culture bred in some of the harshest conditions on earth, understand the true concept of humanity.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014



Transcendental Meditation, Dr. Norman Rosenthal and Hyperarousal Trance

September 4, 2011

This weekend my husband and I went to a program at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation here in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was an interesting program presented by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist originally from South Africa, now practicing in Washington, DC, and also a twenty-year researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health.  He is the psychiatrist who pioneered the study of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and has just published a book on TM:‘Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transendental Meditation’. (Penguin Books)

Dr. Rosenthal is an affable fellow, and presented his  talk with a slide show.  Doing so can be an issue, as slides give a visual presentation of important points, but sometimes slide shows are either too academic or just fillers where it would be better to verbally draw on the same issues with examples within the presenters experience.  To strike a correct balance isn’t easy, and not all scientists are great public speakers.  Dr. Rosenthal certainly embraces TM for the  correct reasons, and we bought his new book to get a better understanding of what he was presenting. I’ve been reading since last night and it looks to be a good book on the subject.

Both my husband and I are old enough, having been around during the ’70’s when TM was all the rage: Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi making TM a more ‘acceptable’ discipline for Westerners, many other trends that came from this very ancient discipline and some fraudulent movements, too.  Many people stuck their toes into the inviting stream of TM and after a few attempts, withdrew their feet.  It’s a discipline, after all, and reliable results need practice and continuance.

During the question and answer after his presentation, I wondered if Dr. Rosenthal had ever come across Hyperarousal Trance and asked him.  His answer shocked me: actually annoyed me that this also very ancient and cultural practice could be so misrepresented by a scientist who should know something about it.  His answer was something along the lines that Hyperarousal Trance was something that people doing ‘sex-talk’ on the internet fell into. 

My response was immediate:  “I disagree.”  My husband said Dr. Rosenthal’s face fell, and he could feel the gathering storm (in me) just by my tensing presence.  LOL!

I tried to explain something of what Hyperousal Trance was, and I have to admit that this was the FIRST time I had ever heard such an explanation. As readers here know, I have written numerous articles on Hyperarousal Trance and Belly Dance, and some of these articles have been picked up and published in magazines and blogs.  I have been a belly dancer for seven years, and just this month went back to it because I have been holding an exercise class for friends (and Husband) and I realized that Belly Dance is a good part of this routine because how much it strengthens the body core.  But way beyond this, is the issue of WHAT Hyperarousal Trance does to the mental state of the user.  Dr. Rosenthal was just  uninformed as to Hyperarousal Trance, and hopefully, he will do some research into this very useful and dynamic practice. 

I want to copy and paste something here about brain waves and how they effect all of us.  I have to check out this website more, but I think this is pretty reliable…at least to the issue of what these catagories of brain waves do.

So what exactly is a brain wave?

By attaching electrodes to the scalp and using a device known as an electroencephalogram (EEG), we can view and analyze the traces of electrical activity in the brain that represent the “brain waves”.

Like all waves, brain waves have a frequency, measured in cycles per second or Hertz (abbreviated Hz), which is the number of cycles the wave goes through in one second. So, a lower Hertz number represents a slower wave.

Brain waves are categorized by their frequency. There are four kinds brain waves generally known to science and measured by EEGs – alpha, beta, theta, and delta – and one more that has been recently discovered now that EEGs are becoming sensitive enough – gamma.

  • Beta brain waves, measured at 13-40 Hz, are the brain state of our normal waking consciousness. Nearly all forms of action, thinking, and problem solving are done with a beta brain wave. Most people spend most of their waking lives in a beta state.
  • Alpha brain waves, measured at 7-13 Hz, are the brain state of relaxation and meditation. The alpha state is associated with creativity and super learning, where the brain learns at a faster and deeper level than it does in beta. Most meditation and energy healing techniques cultivate and utilize an alpha brain wave for relaxation and healing.
  • Theta brain waves, measured at 4-7 Hz, are the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming, and the barely conscious state just before sleeping and just after waking. Theta is the border between the conscious and the subconscious world, and by learning to use a conscious, waking Theta brain wave we can access and influence the powerful subconscious part of ourselves that is normally inaccessible to our waking minds. While in the Theta state, the mind is capable of deep and profound learning, healing, and growth – it is the brain wave where our minds can connect to the Divine and manifest changes in the material world.
  • Delta brain waves, measured at less than 4 Hz, are the brain state of deep sleep and unconsciousness.
  • Gamma brain waves, measured at 40+ Hz, are the brain state of hyperalertness, perception, and integration of sensory input. When time seems to slow down during a car accident, the brain is entering a high gamma state. Vianna teaches that when using the Theta Healing technique the brain is actually moving back and forth between the theta and gamma state.

“Theta is the border between the conscious and the subconscious world, and by learning to use a conscious, waking Theta brain wave we can access and influence the powerful subconscious part of ourselves that is normally inaccessible to our waking minds. While in the Theta state, the mind is capable of deep and profound learning, healing, and growth -“

I emphasize Theta brain wave state because this most closely relates to the Hyperarousal Trance state.  I’m no scientist, though I have worked in the biochemistry department at Emory University years ago, and read many scientific journals on biology and brains, but this, through my direct experience in HT makes ultimate sense. 

A quote from Dr. Rosenthal’s new book really grabbed my attention: it was from David Lynch who was working to bring Mulholland Drive into the highly polished movie it became.  He was a practictioner of TM and he wrote:

“Like a string of pearls, the ideas came. And they affected the beginning, the middle and the end.”

That is the best explanation of what the Hyperarousal Trance state has done for me in my writing.  In “The Zar Tales”, my second book, I have an essay in the very back of this book, trying to explain my experience as a belly dancer and also as a writer with this trance state: it makes things connect, clearer, I see the patterns in what I am researching and the cultural issues are made ‘plain’.  These things are indeed like pearls on a string, making up a whole picture or element.

Of course, the entrance into Hyperarousal Trance for me and many others has been through movement.  That’s what belly dancers do.  They move a lot.  But also, listening to the ‘ayoub’ rhythm, which is prominant in Middle Eastern/North African music is the key.  It’s actually something of a heart beat, and drummers use this to great purpose during the Zar dances (also called ‘trance dance’)  Three years ago, I was writing the novella, “The Zar Tale” and listening to what turned out to be trance dance music.  I was lost in the writing, and time passed without notice. What I thought was an hour, in reality was four hours passing.  But the quality of the writing had changed: it was much deeper, the conversations were very difference, something I don’t think I could have written in a ‘normal’ state.  I do know that I was disturbed by all of this, and only when I raised this issue with Berber and Moroccan drummers and musicians, did they laugh knowingly.  This trance was something that they fell into often, and to them, it gave endurance and substance to their music. I found endurance and substance to my writing, but I still wondered what was really going on.  I had to do what little research I could find, but I know now that Hyperarousal Trance is real and scientific.  It is not sex-talk on the internet.

I don’t see any contradictions in either the practice of TM or Hyperarousal Trance.  Both are ancient cultural practices, and it is just our ignorance as to their fullness, their relatedness to the transcendence of the human mind that stops us from embracing, exploring, acknowledging their benefits and worth.

We are poorer when we maintain our cultural bias and ignorance.

Jane Kohut-Bartels (who is also Lady Nyo)

Steve Isaak reviews “The Zar Tales”

April 24, 2010
Steve Isaak has reviewed “The Zar Tales” on his website: .
Steve is a writer in San Francisco who has just published his first book:  “Can’t Sleep”: Poems from 1987-2007, by As soon as I receive his ordered book, I will read and review. But knowing Steve’s writing… least the last 3 years of it….it’s going to be quite an adventure.  I  don’t always understand his poetry, but he certainly takes me places I would have never gone.  Someone asked me to describe him once….as a writer:  I saw a Hindu-God with machine guns/Temple bells/fireballs and other goodies.  And the musical stream of anything Joan Osbourne.
Reading Steve is like jumping feet first into an active volcano.  Intense.  Cleansing or die.—2007/

Lady Nyo

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Zar Tales, by Jane Kohut- Bartels

(pb; 2010: poem/story/novella anthology)

Overall review:

This anthology focuses on the concepts/forms of the Zar.

In her introduction to one of the stories, “A Turkish Tale,” the author writes:

“The Zar is a number of things in Middle Eastern and North African societies. It’s a ritual of extracting a Demon (a Zar) from the possessed, placating and then restoring them to the host body. A Sheikha gives it new marching orders. . . Hence, a Zar is also a Demon or Djinn. The Zar is a bonding or ritual dance among women, The Zar dance is also a form of Hyperarousal Trance, distinct from meditative trances.”

Kohut-Bartels has matured as a writer.

Her first anthology, A Seasoning Of Lust, is as masterful as a multi-cultural anthology can be. By telescoping her creative visions onto a specific culture/theme (in this case, the Zar), she’s taken her writing to a new level. (We, as artists and writers, can always get better, with time, work, the right subjects, and patience.)

Expect more great things from this author. Own this anthology.

Review, piece by piece:

1.) “Wrestling With The Zar” (poem): A woman, set to be possessed by a Zar, sends a message to her lover.

2.) “The Troupe” (poem): The power-dynamic between a restless Sea and its followers is addressed in (mock?)-sacrificial dance.

3.) “Goddess Nut” (poem): Sensual poem about the all-encompassing deity.

All of these poems written in a ritualistic-symbolic-formal tone; they, like the rest of the pieces in this anthology, are tightly-written, concept-centric, effective, wise, intriguing and educational. They transported this reader, in dusty whirlwind fashion, to alien locations and pasts, and their relatable characters.

4.) “Ali Baba And The Four Thieves” (story): A woman revels in her ancient, yet socially progressive role, amongst her desert brothers.

This story was originally published in A Seasoning Of Lust. Given its subject matter it’s a logical addition to this anthology.

5.) “Ahmed Is Dying Of Love” (story): A kind-hearted American belly dancer in Turkey gains a “much-younger” male admirer, a flute player (Ahmed). Sweet-natured, smile-inducing piece.

6.) “A Turkish Tale” (story): Ali, a Demon, sows seeds of unrest between a recent young bride (Aya) and her husband (Ahmed, presumably from “Ahmed Is Dying Of Love“).

A Sheikha (Wise Woman) named Shakira confronts the source of Aya and Ahmed’s discord, so that Ahmed and Aya may be rid of it.

Practical, tastefully erotic, excellent.

7.) “The Desert Zar” (story): Cinematic swoop-shot of a Zar possession ritual. This sensory-rich piece made this reader feel like he’d been immersed in this intense tableaux.

8.) “The Zar Tale” (novella): Southeastern Turkey, the 1980s. An Islamic mayor (Mazud Nageesh), threatened by the Zar possession rituals enacted by Shakira Arsan (from “A Turkish Tale“) and other village women, sends for three Mullahs (Islamic priest-judges), so that the Mullahs may end the outlaw/pagan meetings.

Shakira hears about Nageesh’s actions. She implores her lover-Zar (Ali, also from “A Turkish Tale“), a former “Berber chieftan of the Turaregs,” to head off this life- and sanity-threatening danger to her and the women.

Suspenseful, plot- and character-wending work that ends on a cliff-hanger-ish note. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

9.) “Explanation of Hyperarousal Experience” (essay): Subtitled “Hyperarousal Trance, Belly Dance, And General Creativity,” this brief essay is exactly what its title says — an explanation of hyperarousal experience, from various points of view (drum beat patterns, scientific, et cetera). Solid, fascinating stuff.

The Zar Tales can be purchased from

Posted by Steve at 12:57 AM

Stealing Souls, Healing Souls…..The Magic of Belly Dance

October 12, 2009
from Delilah's "Visionary Dance" site.  Delilah is a good dancer and a friend in Seattle

from Delilah's "Visionary Dance" site. Delilah is a good dancer and a friend in Seattle

If anyone reads this blog, they will come to know I am now a belly dance teacher.  A new one, but it is beginning to be quite a journey.

I have been thinking how teaching changes you.  In some ways, it has the potential, and should….to radically change you.  You are collecting your information and experience and passing it around.  You change your whole attitude, from one who ‘leads’ to one who serves.  And you do. But you grow through serving.

Of course you still lead, because you lead by example:  movement, positions, attitude, etc…These are the things you transfer to students.  But it is much more:  The radical changes in you can be instant.  You are more concerned with THEM, how they are picking up the lessons, the movements,  the potential for the dance.  You are concerned with what they are finding out about themselves, and this is the point.

You are concerned about their growth and joy.  You feed from it.

Belly Dance has the ability to radically reconstruct lives.  It’s not only in the transformation of bodies, the found flexibility, the delight in knowing  you are working to a sort of personal perfection, but it’s more. It’s a mental process: it’s in the attitude about a whole lot of things.

I have seen women (myself years ago) who were shy to move, self-conscious about their bodies, thinking that what they were as women was way beyond what they were seeing on stage:  That these graceful  and POWERFUL dancers were really mortals. That what they were doing was attainable.

It’s so much more than the physical presence of looking like a belly dancer.  The mental process is kick- ass and a dynamic that will pull you through death to life again.

A week ago I went with a student to a book signing and talk-to-the-author at our local library.  The author had survived breast cancer and was a physical therapist.  This was no young, personal trainer sort of therapist, she was grey haired and serious looking.  She looked like a nun.  She had written a book recently, with a lot of photos of exercises to do after a mastectomy.

We all went through the steps, and they were basically Tai Chi.  Good enough…..but they were so slight in her hands, that they were almost non-existent.   I wondered  is  this from the physical and mental devastation of cancer, or something different?   Since the surgery is done in the chest, there must be muscle restrictions for a while.  But what I missed was the ‘range’ of movement I am now so used to doing and seeing in others.

This physical therapist speaks from her own personal experience.  Others speak from their own.

But I found no joy in the demonstration.  Belly dance has come to mean something different to me.

Belly dance, when done for a longer time, is a transforming power. It goes quickly from the physical to the mental.  Perhaps the mental is driving the body.  There are so many avenues to explore with belly dance.  Self-expression, (improvisation) choreography, a physical strengthening, a graceful , endurance dancing, etc.

But perhaps the greatest is the Healing of Belly Dance.  I almost wrote ‘potential’ of Belly Dance, but that is untrue…at least to my experience.  It is concrete, bedrock, fundamental  when  learned, even in the beginning…and it  colors just about every sphere of my life now.

Last year at this time I fell seriously ill.  Well, it cost a lot, even with insurance.  I was hospitalized 3 times in October, and still there was nothing they could definitely pin the horrible pains in the stomach.  Lots of stupid tests and repeats.

I was sick enough that I couldn’t perform in Montreal in January, but I was able to make the master class of 4 hours duration.  It was worth the trip alone to work with Audra Simmons.

When I came home, I was elated by the class and watching this wonderful performance by various dancers and various core disciplines.  But I was still sick.   I wrote a lot of stuff this spring, thinking the mental exercises of a particular exorcism would cure me and still the pain was there.  I was avoiding the very thing that would pull me through, mentally, emotionally and physically.  I started teaching but only limited myself because I was tired and without energy.

Only when I started practicing for myself….and started to make a little get- your –ass- back- in- motion routine did I start to perk up and mentally cleaned house.  When I made a fuller commitment to myself the healing could begin.

This fall I started to teach more students….and it’s twice a week now.  I have been asked to teach a belly dance class at the library, and have been offered the usage of a good, large room at another neighborhood center.  I want that to be after the first of the year, ….perhaps and good.  I’ll see what life has in store for me, then.

I do know that I am very fortunate in the students I have.  They are interested in the spiritual, healing nature of what we are exploring, and they are making great strides even this early.  When they ‘catch fire’ and start to practice at home, on a regular basis, they will fly.

I am thinking of exploring this issue of trance, Hyperarousal Trance, with them.  They have already seen me dance a couple of times where I went into trance state very easily.  They are curious. And because it comes about from the physical repetition of movement, added by the natural  ‘muscle memory’ that is the core, it is theoretically attainable to any dancer.  They want to learn this, but I was shying away from it.  Mainly because I didn’t know ‘how’ to teach it.  I still believe that it is an individual progression to trance, and they will find their own ways.

But I can’t help but think how easily it will be for them if their paths are anything like mine:  the repetition of movement that trains us and makes those movements fluid and flexible, in part ‘removes our head’ from the process and allows us to float to other ‘places’.

We sit on the floor for breaks (one time the class lasted 2 full hours) and talk about how our bodies are feeling, how  especially how their minds are reacting to new and untried things, concepts.  They want to ‘try’ trance, you can see it in their eyes!  And when they get there?  They will be on fire with the magic of Belly Dance.

And they will be healing, too.


Belly Dance and Teela Gets Her Groove Back

September 25, 2009

Yesterday I gave an hour dance class. It was the first time I have taught in probably 4 months. Spring and summer hit and the heat came faster than expected. The few students and I agreed “Summer in the South” was not a time for dancing and sweating. There were other seasonal tasks to attend.

If I told the truth it would be this: I haven’t danced since those spring months. I played around with giving it up. It’s been over 5 years now, and that’s not a long time to learn all the ins and outs of belly dance, but I wondered if I really had it in me to continue.

I’ve been so involved in writing and rewriting and getting manuscripts together to publish this late fall and beyond, I didn’t think I had much energy to expend on other things. The garden had to be rebuilt after the sewer debacle of this summer and there were other events that pulled on my energies.

Well, some ‘things’ don’t die so easily.

I gave a class to a new student, a woman about my age, a little younger, who had no dance experience. She had some yoga, but there were problems with that discipline and she had a bad back.

We were introduced about a month ago and hit it off from the start. She doesn’t know me as a dance teacher, and I didn’t know how she would turn out as a student. But something was definitely clicking in that hour.

I have been using the “Luscious Workout Belly Dance” dvd from World Dance New York for about a year now. It’s one of the best dance programs I know. I’ve had a few videos and dvds over the years, but mostly classes in a studio. There were times, months sometimes, I would drop out, bored with the routines, the choreography or perhaps just not extending myself to dance in troupe-like behavior. I overall loved belly dance, but I was restless. There were also long standing injuries to one knee.

I had four years of Turkish/Egyptian technique, and sometimes dancers get into a rut.

I think part of my problem was this: I wasn’t seeing anything new to do. You can get awfully bored with the same combinations.   It  can become so automatic you aren’t being very creative.

“Going through the motions” I think applies here.

I knew I had to shock myself out of this malaise. To that end I went in January to Montreal to attend a 4 hour intensive class under Audra Simmons. I picked Audra because she was about as ‘out there’ as you can get…At least for me. Her teaching and class opened my eyes to a lot of Tribal techniques but there was also a good dose of flamenco influence. What evolved was a regeneration in my own stalled technique. Now I had some new examples ….had started the basis of developing the necessary muscle memory of these new techniques, and new movements.

I came back in the dead of winter to some students for the first real classes.

Stepping into the unknown of these other styles allowed the most important thing to happen: I grabbed from all of it, but I made it my own. In other words, I incorporated it into my natural dance movements and layered some different techniques.

So yesterday was a test run: to see what she could do, and also for me to see what I would do.

One thing I have learned with this new avenue of teaching: Every student is different and a teacher must attend to those differences. Many things need to be corrected and positioned, but there also is a question of the basic style of the dancer. This is an amazing thing to see unfolding. One lesson doesn’t tell you much about a new dancer except her attitude and little about the range of her body.

This new student was a quick learner. And I had such a ‘transforming time’ it knocked out any thoughts of giving up.

We started with infinity loops (vertical and horizontal) and pelvic circles…staccato and fluid. Some layering with arms and a little kick out but that is actually a lot for a new student to grasp. The muscle memory has to be developed and the muscles have to be warmed up to receive all these ‘messages’. So we went slow, and then flipped on the dvd so she could see what it looked like in costume and by better dancers. It was quite overwhelming for her as it always is when you see three dancers going through their paces. A new student just doesn’t know where to look! So, I demonstrated for her some of the movements…breaking them down piece by piece. The point is this: you can’t really learn from a video….you have to know how to place your body, your butt, your shoulders, how to stand, how your neck and head lifts and elongates, what the bottom half of you looks like: the knees never locked but gently bent…’soft’.

Many teachers shun dancing for their students in a studio. I always wondered why. It’s so instructive for students to see their teacher ‘make real’ the movements they are learning. It’s good when we fall out of just endless, disconnected (or barely connected) movements and really show how they so naturally combine and the myriad possibilities for it all. And they are really endless.

We are DANCERS, after all!

I flipped on some music and did a short beledi for her, a barefooted dance that can be very vigorous. And then I felt it. This Hyperarousal Trance, this state of brain activity and endorphin change, and she said that there was an immediate shift in mood, appearance and energy.

Ah God! I have missed this endorphin /whatever rush! I got so used to it dancing before. I didn’t really appreciate how it looked from the outside. I used to be very self-conscious about my dancing and how I was doing ‘the steps’….but later, I chucked all that concern because I had developed enough confidence and style so I could free-float in the dancing.

I was coming into my own as a dancer.

She said my whole face changed and I radiated a bundle of obvious energy. Hah! I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but inside I was flying. I have to be careful about this because you can spiral outward for a long time, and about time? It seems to have a different meaning under Hyperarousal Trance.

Movement, repeated movements, an internalized ayoub rhythm is the portal into Hyperarousal Trance. She saw it happen and she saw the transformation. There is no drug that can match it. And she wants to ‘be’ in that same space….that ‘zone’. She will get there in time. It’s very much worth the effort.

The upshot was this: it was a good class. Both teacher and student had fun and our collective energy level rose and lasted for hours. I really believe a major part of dancing is having fun and discovering the movement-potential of our bodies.

Yesterday it was only one student, but it was the particular one- on -one that can be so good and instructive. I am anxious to see how the two other students work together and feed each other.

That will come, and soon enough, but yesterday? I found my groove again, and this time I’ll be careful not to lose it.

Teela…who is Lady Nyo….who is Jane

An Exerpt from “The Zar Tales”, Chapter III

August 21, 2009

I know this drives some of the readers of this blog crazy when I do this, so I apologize up front. This jumping from one story to another.  But this blog is a writer’s blog and I confess I use it for feedback for the writing. Readers always give me the goods on things that work and don’t.  Things that sing or sink.

I am test driving the rewrite of “The Zar Tales” for publication later this fall, and put up this chapter.  I do it for a couple of reasons, and one is I have a couple of impatient private readers of “The Zar Tales” and this chapter was rather important for the novel.  I am not sure if it makes it’s mark.

The other reason is my belly dance students.  I was having lunch with one yesterday, a woman who has many multicultural experiences  in life and is old enough to sum up the important lessons.

We talked about why it was so hard to get back into the physical swing of life in the South in the summer.  She thinks it’s something in the DNA…the heat is withering to  flesh and spirit. Dancing is suspended in all forms because there just isn’t enough air conditioning to allow survival in this heat.  Anywhere, in studio or house.

She is familiar with Hyperarousal Trance, and we talked about the problems with that.  I can write long passages where I feel transported:  I can enter into the spirit of the piece, and I believe H.T. takes me there.  It’s a developed technique, and not a mystery at all.  I have been using it for about 5 years.

However, since the heat of the summer, all physical movement is a chore.  I can’t tap into H.T. with the dance right now, and that got me worried.  H.T. first came to me with Belly Dance, and I rely on it for patterning (not choreography) of movements, in fact, movement throws me further into trance.  It’s that tap into Muscle Memory, and any person who is ‘in the zone’ will recognize what I am writing about here.

Talking to other women, writers and dancers, we tried to explain our own avenues to the ‘zone’ and we generally agreed that music AND the resulting movement is the path.

I am hoping this chapter of “The Zar Tales” expresses some of that, but I am sure I will hear from them if it doesn’t.  Perhaps it’s just getting off our asses and moving and throwing it all up to fate.

Lady Nyo

“The Zar Tales” is set in a Middle East country around 1980’s when the Zar (which is a dance of exorcism of demons, a communal gathering of women) was threatened by religious authorities for their ‘pagan’ and un Muslim behavior.  A zar is also a demon, a devil, that possesses a woman.  They are handy little buggers because you can blame things on the zar and your husband can’t blame you.  It’s actually a very old ‘mental health’ solution used in many countries, especially   Egypt and Africa and some M.E. countries.

Wmen have been jailed for holding the Zar dance, and it’s practiced in secret in some countries, like Egypt, but it’s a popular event, even amongst rich Egyptian women.  It also must be practiced in Morocco and parts of Spain because I have met a couple of Moroccan and Spanish flamenco guitarists who were very knowledgeable of the ayoub beat…which they called the zar beat.

This chapter is rather self explanatory, except for the history of the Zar dance.

(Note:  The word “Ayaaaa!” is  an exclamation used on the floor to encourage the dancers, to introduce them, to create excitement.)


Chapter III

Shakira looked at the women sitting on the floor. Some were smoking, most talking and the sound of clinking bottles could be heard though the women’s  robes muffled most of the sound.

Aliya, don’t be so stingy with that bottle. Pass it over here, woman.”

You will guzzle it, and then we will have to clean up the mess.” Laugher sounded throughout the room. Some of the women sipped from the hidden and forbidden bottles of their husbands. They were not the young ones.

Give them time, thought Shakira, the wine will flow as easy as their tongues and their laughter.

It was not often they could gather, and each yearned for a time where inhibitions would lessen and gossip, the companionship of women, was allowed.

Jassa”, called Shakira, “come spread the cloth on the altar. We must do this properly if

we are to catch a Zar tonight.”

Perhaps cousin we catch two Zars tonight. My Farah has been complaining of stomach troubles and maybe a Zar has gripped her middle.”

Shakira shook her head and laughed. “Farah eats too many dates and she is fat as a ewe. No Zar would have room to lodge in her stomach. Too much food in there.”

Dried fruit, stuffed dates, nuts and sweet breads were passed around on large trays. A large brass one was placed on the altar, made of a high stool in the middle of the room. This was for the spirits who happened to come wandering in during the drumming. No mortal would dare touch that offering.

A number of women had drums, smuggled under their voluminous robes. The tamboura , an ancient lyre-like instrument, was already in the hands of Leila, and she busy tuning it to suit the mood of the evening. Leila usually started with sad songs, and as the wine made the rounds, the tempo of the tamboura , followed by the drums, would increase and the women would make little effort to confine their happiness.

Ah! Life could be good! It was just a matter of side- stepping the men.

Tonight Shakira had an idea, something she had been thinking about for a while. The festival of the Goddess Nut was approaching, and though no longer celebrated openly, Nut was a Goddess close to the heart of women. Protector of the dead, Nut was also beloved by the living, for she spread her body over the Universe and fed and comforted them from her teats. There was always enough milk from generous Nut and she was beloved by mothers, and most of the women in the village were mothers. So many babies now in the arms of Nut, resting like stars in her bosom. She had lost her only babe, along with her husband many years ago. So Ali was both to her and tonight she would dance in celebration. Allah was the men’s god, but Nut had the heart and devotion of women.

Leila started to play her tamboura, and slow, sad chords and plaints tumbled from her fingers. Women around the room hushed, listened with their ears and hearts, heads nodding. This was the music reaching up to their wombs and lifting the sorrows of their lives off their bosoms. Shakira could imagine the ghosts of children and husbands long gone floating like wisps of smoke in the center of the room. Tonight they would join together, still part of the village though no longer in corporal form. The magic of Leila’s fingers drew forth tears along with these invisible spirits.

Then her playing changed and the drums picked up a faster tempo. Gone was the mourning of the women, to be replaced by joy. Voices were lifted in song and personal chant, and shoulders swayed and hands clapped out a counter rhythm to the drums. She felt a trance take over her body, slip up her loins and envelop her mind.

Ahhhh! It was a warm embrace, and it wasn’t Ali! Warm enough to make her hips and breast start to move. Shakira rose to her feet and discarded her outer garment. She shook out her arms and rolled her head around. Her white cotton undergown was loose over her swelling breasts and haunches. She kicked off her sandals and her long black hair streamed down her back, unplaited, flowing like dark waves. She paced around the circle, her body picking up the rhythm of the drums and tamboura, her hips defining a pattern of movement, her arms held out from her body. She was dancing the age-old dance of women, for women, to greet the cares and concerns of their tribe. For, men aside, women were the heart beat of the village, they were the blood coursing through the alleys and up to the well. They were the waters of Life and they lived it.

Shakira stalked the room, now a tigress, the drums following her, she commanding the rhythm. Shaking, bowing, swaying, each movement mirrored in the watching eyes of the women. She danced alone, but the movements were blood, flesh and muscle of each woman that sat before her. Heads nodded in time with the drums, hands clapped, some women pounding the floor in counter rhythms, swaying with their own bodies in imitation of Shakira’s dancing. She moved around the room, hips shaking, belly rolling, shoulders thrown back and forth, hair cascading outward like the whirling skirts of the Dervishes of Turkey as she turned in circles, feet pivoting beneath her body in time to the drums.


Sheikha Shakira dances in the river of life! The Sheikha captures our hearts and lifts them to the Goddesses’ lips!”

Ayaaa! We dance with you, Shakira!”

Voices were raised in chants, joined together in different harmonies, rising up to the ceiling, taking wing in the nighttime air. Shakira’s feet pounded out rhythms deep into the earth. Her hands and flinging arms commanded the winds, and the women’s chants rose to the ears of heaven.


Sweat dripped on the face of Leila as she played the tamboura, her fingers flashing on the lyre-like instrument and the drums beat different cadences, creating multi-layered sounds. This drone of music underlaid the vocals of  women singing in strange harmonies. Pagan magic filled the room and Shakira’s body radiated the energies of an older culture. Gone were the cities, the stuff of modern life, the mullahs, the chadors and berka that veiled the beauties of women and in their place were the teats of nourishing Goddess Nut, spreading her body over the universe, the stars coursing through her body, the planets, the moons, the comets, too. The sun crept up her holy woman’s place at night, to be born out of her mouth at dawn. The moon too, came forth from her body, and the passage of the hours were marked by her Houri, the original women of the night, dancing with lessening veils till they lay under her belly at daybreak, sleeping.

Praise Nut! Goddess of women. Goddess of our own, time before time, Goddess before any God!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

Belly Dance, Spiritual Connection, Muscle Memory and Summer Heat!

July 22, 2009

Jesus!  It’s hard to get back to it in this sultry heat.  Even air conditioning doesn’t make much difference when you are working hard and fast.

The summer is always the dead zone for classes, and my students and I (the few I have…..we aren’t talking hordes here…) have agreed to ‘can it’ for the duration of the heat.  Late September is when I go back to studio or dancing in public, and my students are welcome back then.

However, I realize that there is a deep and enduring body/mind connection for me with dancing.  And in particular, belly dancing.

I’ve been dancing for a little over 5 years now, and people would have thought that I would have lost interest by now.  At least some.  But belly dancing is something that goes deep in your body.  Five years of moving in particular ways means that muscle memory is  up and working, present even when you aren’t.

And then, there’s that spiritual connection that is intangible but we feel it.  The flesh made Spirit.

It took me a couple of minutes, putting on music and listening to ALL of it….not just the tracks I like, but the ones I don’t like.  When you dance in clubs, venues, you don’t get the privilege of choosing most of the music you like.  Sometimes, but that is  not always.  But the music goes deep (most of it) and the body on a very primitive level starts to respond.  It twitches.   The  shoulders go back and down, the shoulders start to rotate, the breasts lift, the arms come up and at least the upper torso starts to come alive.  The neck and head perk up.  Something responds at a very deep level, and you find movement and satisfaction in this beginning movement.  It floods the senses and soon you are on a different ‘plane’.

I think it’s this ‘hyperarousal trance’ thing.  After a few years of training your body to respond to movement, and particular, repeated and enforced movements…something clicks in the brain.

Something magnificent and and transcending.  Little zars running around your brain and body.

Yeah.  I have missed this fundamental part of my life for the past few months.

Just enough to make me realize what is bedrock in my life.  Today I’m going back to self-classes, to regain that power and confidence that all dancers have…at least those who recognize the inherent power of their bodies and movement.

Some good dance music a la Arabic/Turkish style:

“Beats Antique” tribal derivations.

“Wash Ya Wash” Sharif & Hassan  (takes a bit to get used to: warning: Popular Egyptian music…but of some merit for dancing, especially the middle passages of most songs.

“The Kabila Project” Eventide Productions

“Alif” Omar Faruk Tekbilek  (a personal favorite, for listening to  and also dancing…)

Part of the problem with most canned music is finding songs, tracks that are SLOW enough to really work the zones.  So much of bellydancing music is too fast.  You end up doing some weird things.  Slowing down the tempo makes for a concentrated application of movement particular to a zone that can be repeated again and again to develop muscle memory.  The second track on Wash Ya Wash is a pleasant surprise.  Slow enough, and with repeat phrasing to go decently through combined movements, or just single movements.

And the fact is — you can dance until they place coins on your eyes.

Teela/Lady Nyo

“Hyperarousal Trance, Belly Dance and Creativity”

February 13, 2009

I have been asked by some people, and some of them belly dancers to repost this blog entry from a while ago.

They have their reasons for asking, and I am only pleased to oblige.

Lady Nyo/ Teela

Hyperarousal Trance, Belly Dance and General Creativity

I have been asked to explain what my experiences have been with Hyperarousal Trance and how it has effected my creativity as a dancer and a writer.

I can only ‘tease’ here because I am just becoming more aware of the issue of ‘how it works’.  I never really thought about it because it just seemed to appear when it was needed, whether I was conscious or not of its ‘need’.

Perhaps it would be better for me to start with an attempt to explain H.T. and why I started using it.

Two years ago I came across an article somewhere on the web about the ‘ayoub’ rhythm and the Zar trance dance in Egypt and parts of Africa.  Being a belly dancer, I was interested and read as much about the Zar trance dance as I could. Actually there was not that much information at that time. Later there was more written.

I found there was a common element in this Zar dance, wherever it was utilized.  It was this consistent  2/4 rhythm of the ‘ayoub’ or ayyoub (or zaar) rhythm.

It is hard for me to explain, but the dumbeks  (the drums) used beat out this rhythm like this: Dum…tek!, Dum tek/Dum..tek!, Dum tek.

Sort of like a dotted quarter note on the first Dum…followed by an eighth note tek, but the next Dum tek is evenly beat.

Repeat until trance ensues.

And it does.  Now, everything I write here will be contradicted, because it seems that each country where the Zar trance ritual is practiced has their own rhythms used. Some are particular to the demons entrenched within.

Oh, yes, the Zar ritual.  I can’t make any assumptions here.

The Zar ritual is a healing exorcism used to shake up a demon residing in a woman.  You don’t exactly evict a Zar (demon)….you give them new marching orders.

There are many issues about this, and I won’t go into them except to say that this is a highly controversial cultural issue and I for one, am remaining open to it all.

However, I will speak on my own experiences here with the Zaar rhythm (or ayoub).  And I will try to link how this experience of listening closely to the ayoub rhythm changed points of creativity in my own life.

As much as I can understand this.  I haven’t really closely examined it before, just took its presence in my life as natural.  It is tied with my belly dancing, or perhaps it is more correct to say that I first became aware of the transforming and trance making behaviors of the ayoub rhythm in my belly dancing.  I would find that I was going into a trance, and this was when I wasn’t attempting any set choreography.

Choreography  seemed to interfere WITH the ability to fall into trance.

My belly dancing brings me into an altered state. This is very common to many dancers but I believe is disrupted when we are doing choreography.  Set patterns, which we practice to take into ‘muscle memory’ still makes us conscious of our movements and somehow takes us out of the free-fall of trance.

The constant beat of the ayoub transforms consciousness.  Some where I read it’s like a ‘horse’ that is carrying you inward and upward somehow.  Perhaps the connection is a universal heartbeat, I don’t know really, but I do know ‘something’ happens to me.  If it’s an altered state of consciousness, it has it’s reoccurring points: time disappears and something definitely shifts.

We do know through brain studies that there are many physical functions that are effected by Hyperarousal Trance.  Blood pressure lowers, the heart beat slows, the body temperature changes.  Now, I am not sure that this exactly applies to belly dancing, which can be quite vigorous.  But rhythmic stimulation does change brain waves.

We also know that there are definite issues with Hyperarousal Trance in heightened endorphins, boosted immune system (even temporary) and accentuated energy…and an overall feeling of ‘high’ or ‘good’.  These probably are no different than exercise highs. Another issue is that pain seems to be lessened with the trance state.

However, there is already a lot of evidence piling up that shows the brain issues (waves, etc) are different in H.T. than in hypnosis, or self-hypnosis.  It’s a deeper effect on the brain in some way than these above.

I do find that listening to the ayoub rhythm beat out on drums or picked up in the background of music, effects me fast.  I also drum on dumbeks, and this practice has allowed me to access the trance as much as listening or dancing does.

Somewhere I read that “Theta” brainwaves is the ‘set’ of Hyperarousal Trance, but I am still investigating this.

This entry is a work in progress.  I have other things to say about Hyperarousal Trance, specifically to it’s relationship to subspace (another altered space) hypnosis, etc.

Generally the issue for me is creativity.  I have realized over the past two years that H.T. is somehow very much bound up in my ability to ‘tap into’ different cultural issues, and to write about them. It seems that research is much smoother, easier and the writing, when I consciously strive to place myself in H.T. flows to where things reveal themselves and blossom.
At times, and these are not as rare as they would seem, I can access this trance almost without effort.  That is a good day of activities, and especially writing.

I am researching DNA and mysticism and have come across writings were it is proposed that everyone is capable of psychic powers, heightened intuition, clairvoyance, etc.  Perhaps with a relaxed and then again…directed mind, you can tap into the prime DNA alphabet soup for transport into a heightened  highway of the mind and the cosmos.

Anything is possible out there…and in here.

Lady Nyo

“Tin Hinan”

January 5, 2009

I started this story which turned into a novel, two years ago this summer.  Some readers know I am a belly dancer.  I think the inspiration for this peculiar story came from the fascination I had developed with the Berbers I worked with in the belly dance clubs.  They are a complex, compelling and tolerant people. Tolerant of a white woman who pried into their culture and probably asked many questions women in their culture don’t.  I collected enough ‘research’ to start this story, and then it took over and developed itself like a plodding camel.  My Berber friends, Ali, Ahmed, Tojur, etc. remain good friends and dance partners and excellent drummers.

They are men without the complications of most Western men.

This story is probably one of the very first written under the ‘influence’ of Hyperarousal Trance…. music I remember listening while writing was Berber music, from Morocco, different tribal music, because Berbers are wide and broad with different clans.  There are great differences in customs between urban and mountainous Berbers.

The story seemed to weave itself like a rug, knot by knot and color by color.  It’s 12 or so chapters and this year I will finish it.

Some explanations of Berber culture.  The Soul resides in the Liver.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
July, 2007
Copyrighted by the author.


I am called Tin Hinan. I had the destiny of a woman ‘rooted in flight’.  Even my name means “Nomadic Woman”.  Sometimes I forget my birth name before I became Queen. It is now lost in sands of the Great Desert.

I founded a nation from the stirrings of my womb.  This is my story.

I was born in an oasis near what is now called Morocco.  My people were nomadic, but if our tribe had a name, we would be Tagelmust. That means “People of the Veil”. The Arabs, our enemy, rudely called us Twareg, “Abandoned by God”. We now are known as Tuareg, or Berber by the white Europeans. But since I am speaking from my short time of fifty years on this earth, you should know my story and my life harkens back to the sixth century.  Life was very different then. But men and woman were not so different from now.

Our tribe is matriarchal.  All things, possessions, are passed down through the women.  The men still make the laws, but we women have great power. We had basically two classes of Tagelmust people, Imajeren, the nobles, and Iklan, the slaves.  There are subgroups in all that, but that’s not important. My family were Imajeren, my father a tribal elder and leader.  My mother had great status as the first of his four wives.

I was born in the spring, during lambing time.  I was exceptionally tall for my sex, and poems were written by my mother and other women about my hurry to reach up to the stars.  That is the reason they gave for my height.  I had long, thick black hair and hazel eyes, which was not rare. As I grew to marriageable age, more songs were sung openly around the fires as to my beauty.

Perhaps you wonder when you think of Arabic women with the chador and burkah covering their features, how would you sing to a black sheath of cloth with two black eyes staring back at you?  We, the Berber, are blessed by Ammon and Isis.  For “ The Veiled People” only applies to the men!  They wear the veil, an indigo dyed cloth that wraps around their heads and covers their faces, with only the eyes and the tips of their noses exposed.  We, the women, carry our faces proudly to the sun, to the wind and, when it comes, the blessed rain.  The men are mostly stained a dark blue, like a devil or zar because their sweat makes the dye run from the indigo and stains their faces.  They look funny for it does not wash off, but seeps into the skin.  So when you marry, you beget children from a zar-looking creature.  Perhaps that is why children are such little devils.

“Aicha, Aicha!” The aunties were calling me in from where I was loafing.  I liked to stand at the edge of the oasis, and look at the sea of sand before me.  I would think of great spans of water, for some travelers told me about the great ocean to the north.

I turned and ran towards my mother’s tent. To ignore the aunties would be rude, and besides, they had many surprises and secrets in the folds of their robes.

“You, Aicha!  Your mother wants you to come to her, hurry!  Here, be a good girl and take this basket.” I slipped the large basket over my arm and went into the tent side of my mother’s.

She was sitting on the floor of the tent, shelling dried beans. There were other women, most of them my aunts, her sisters, also working on the floor.  Our clan is a large one, one of the largest that makes up the tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe me when I was mournful.

My mother looked up, noticing me standing there and motioned for me to sit down by her.

“Aicha, you are of the age when you should be married, or at least engaged.  Your father and I think it time that we look around for a husband for you.”

I knew it!  I saw the sly glances of the aunties, and heard the laughter when I passed a group of women. At the river, when I carried down the washing, I got looks and giggles even from those women and girls I didn’t know well. Something was brewing and this time I was the last to know.

“Come, you graceless girl.” These words from my mother’s oldest sister, Auntie Aya. She reached behind her broad hips and pulled out a packet wrapped in wool.  Slowly opening it, she revealed a heavy silver and amber necklace made up of many silver rounds and large amber beads.

It was fun for them, to dress me in the women’s jewelry like I was a child’s doll.   But they were serious in their business.

“Hold still, you silly girl. This kohl will poke out your eye if you don’t”. This from  another auntie.   My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.

That day, they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the whistles and comments of the collected tribe.  My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head.  Heavy silver and wood earrings weighted down my earlobes.  I was of course, without a veil, and two women held my hands, leading me around the tribe’s main fire to the sound of drums and the ney flute.

Although I could not to marry within my tribe, I was being presented for our tribe’s delight.  Grooming for marriage was a ritual and my blushes showed appropriate modesty.

There was a young man who was part of a neighboring tribe a days camel trip away. During marriages, celebrations and festivals, I would see him and he would look for me.  We are modest women, but we do stare in the eyes of a man we are interested in marrying. We even wink at them. We have many customs, but women, before the hated Arabs, had much freedom.

Hasim was his name, and he was a tall man, taller than I was.  I thought only proper I be married to a tall man. What woman wants to look down on her husband? It sets a bad example for a woman.  She starts looking down on him in other things.  Hasim was a few years older than I, and at one marriage celebration, I danced a line dance with other maidens and gave him one of my bracelets.  This was an accepted way of flirting. When the musicians took a rest, I went to get my silver bracelet back, and he slipped it down the front of his robe. He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled boldly. I should have known then Hasim was trouble, but my foolish heart flip-flopped.  Ah! Girls can be so silly.

Hasim was handsome, already a man though only about twenty-two years of age.  He had golden skin where the sun had not burned him dark and black eyes like deep shaded pools of water under the trees.  His nose was long and straight, like the hunting hawk, and his mouth was full and red, like a split pomegranate.  His teeth were white like bleached bones in the desert.

How do I know this, if our men are veiled?  My Hasim, for I already claimed him mine with the certainty that he would be, had unwrapped his indigo blue veil from his face. And yes, his cheeks were stained a light blue where his beard would be.  I should have known that the Zar blood was deep in him, not just on the surface, but Isis! How was I to know then?

“Come, little sister, fish deep in my waters and you will find your silver bracelet.  You want your precious silver back, do you not?”

Ah! My father would kill him if he heard his words.  But Hasim just grinned at me, playing a man’s game and my head whirled inside.  Other parts of me were disturbed, but I only knew of this by our women’s bridal parties before the weddings.  My heart flipped and my stomach turned over, too.

I am not known for being shy, perhaps it is because I am so tall, but shy I was before Hasim.

He reached out his hand and traced my cheek to my chin, gently pushing the back of his thumb over my lips.  My eyes were locked to his and I could not pull them away. I must have looked like a little fool, for my mouth opened a bit with the soft pressure of his finger.

Hasim dipped into his chest and reluctantly pulled out my bracelet.  “Little sister, be careful who you give your jewelry to.  You might come across one who will take more than your silver.”

I heard his voice as if far off in the distance.  He closed his eyes slightly, his long, black lashes brushing downwards, and the spell was broken.  I staggered a bit, and he threw out a hand to steady me, an enigmatic smile on his face.

I saw Hasim a few times after this first occasion and each time grew dizzy by the sight him.  During the last harvest festival, Hasim was mounted on a large, white camel as he raced across the desert with the other riders.  The groans and bellows of the beasts, the yelling of the men placing their wagers and the dust churned up from many feet made it hard for me to concentrate.  I could only follow the white of his camel for he was surrounded by mounted men.

That autumn, my mother and father called me before them, and announced that it was time I marry.  I of course had no choice, I was of age, but I noticed an exchange of smiles between my parents.  Unbeknownst to me, my father had consulted with the marriage broker and a visit had been made to Hasim’s parents.  He was considered a good prospect, and with the status of our tribe and that of my father, I was considered a likely bride for Hasim.

My heart was light and leaping about in my chest.  I walked now with confidence, my breasts pushed out and a constant smile upon my face.  I would have the status of a wife, not just a common, unmarried girl.  There were many things to settle, preparations to make and issues that were far beyond my concern.  These were the matters of the elders and my mother’s family. But I was to be a bride!  Finally, I would take my place in the tribe with all the authority of a wedded woman.

Though the wedding was months off in the future, the first thing to do were to take a piece of my Mother’s tent and sew it into one of my own.  All the woman of the tribe gathered at my Mother’s tent one morning and with singing and playing of the bendir, a frame drum, we cut out a large piece in the back of her tent and started stitching the heavy cloth woven from goat hair.  It was long and tedious work, but we ate dates and millet puddings and drank mint tea and told stories.  For a fortnight we worked on my marriage tent.  The east side would be for Hasim, and the west side for me.  I would have our marriage bed and our stores, musical instruments and rugs on my side.  The marriage bed would be a day couch for my children and me.  Hasim would fill the west side with his weapons and saddles.  By tradition, after the marriage, Hasim would sleep outside, part of the guard men protecting our settlement from raiders across the mountain and from  the desert. By custom, the tent, the bed and everything in it, except the weapons and saddles would be my property.

Our settlement was in a large oasis, nestled at the foot of a mountain range.  It was lush and shaded in parts by woods and orchards and streams running through the land. We tilled the fertile earth, made so by the runoff of water from the mountain, and fed by the snows of winter.  It was a beautiful site for our nomadic people, and we defended it fiercely from others who would drive us away. I walked to a little plot of land with my father and decided this would be the place for my tent.

There was much more to do, but the next task was to build my marriage bed.  This was to be the most important piece of furniture a woman could have, and each was done differently according to the skills and imagination of the carver.  My father hired the best carpenter and carver around to build it.  It would be big and wide and would not be too high off the carpets paving the floor of the tent.  My father went with the carpenter to pick the wood, and he obtained some beautiful, scented cedar to make the bed.  When it was carved and doweled together, it took six men to carry and place in the tent.  It was so beautiful, but of course, I was not allowed to lie down on it, or even to sit upon its frame.  I would have to wait for the wedding night with Hasim before I was even to touch it.  But I did peek in the doorway before the divider between sides was hung and saw the beautiful symbols of fertility and good fortune carved along with flowers and palm trees.  In the middle of the back of the bed, was a large and flowing palm tree, with its roots extending outward towards the side posts. Little pigeons and doves were being chased by two hawks and some of the doves were hiding in the tree.

Next  was the sewing of the mattress.  My mother and her kinswomen sheared sheep and stuffed the thick wool into two large sheets of thick and coarse cotton. We spread it out on a carpet and during the night, my kinswomen, young girls to elderly women, my cousins and great aunts, would sit around the heavy mattress and we would all take up our bone needles and stitch carefully across and down the mattress.  This would be laid upon the woven ropes that were stretched from one side of the bed frame to another, and woven back and forth until there was a tight foundation for the mattress.  Our tradition said that a tightly woven bed frame augured well for a marriage.  Loose or slack weaving would let the attentions of the husband sag and the wife would stray in her affections.

As the wedding approached, I was bundle of nerves.  I had not seen Hasim, except from a distance.  We were watched very closely, for there was to be no contact before the wedding day.  I was not allowed to venture to the river without another woman with me, and I believe Hasim was told he could not approach me when his tribe came with herds of goats or to discuss shared pasturing with our men.

All seemed to be going according to plan, when the demons of Death took matters into their own claws.  I say Death  for nothing but that could have caused such a reverse of fortune and happiness in my life. We Berbers believe strongly in malicious spirits, and they seemed to hold their own festival with my wedding plans.

One day, very close to the time of the wedding, when already there were preparations for the five days of celebration planned,  I heard some women in my mothers tent crying and went to see what had happened.  As I neared her tent, two of my favorite Aunties  ran out and threw themselves upon me.

“Aicha, Aicha,” said one fat old auntie, panting in her excitement. “You must prepare yourself!  You must be strong and comfort your parents!”

“What? What? What has happened that I am to be ‘strong’ as you say?”  I started to run towards her tent, and since I am tall, my legs were long, and my Aunties could not keep up with me.  I heard them wailing behind me, yet I did not heed their cries.

I made it to my mother’s tent and entered her western side, where I found both my parents in her quarters.  My father looked somber, and my mother was rocking back and forth, like she was in grief.

“What has happened, oh my parents?  Has something happened to Hasim?  Tell me, oh tell me now!”

My mother was beside herself, and had thrown a cloth over her head as we do when a kinsman dies.  This is to blot out the sight of any happiness and is one of our forms of our mourning.  I was white faced with fear and was sure that Hasim was dead!

“My daughter, my daughter,” began my father, with tears in his eyes.  “Our family has been tricked, we have all been betrayed. Even though our gifts were returned this morning, it is not to be borne.  Hasim has contracted to marry another and has left to go to her tent.”

I was told I stared like a dead person, my eyes empty, my mouth open without sound. Then, one long wail came out of my throat before I collapsed on the carpet at my father’s feet.

Three days later I had recovered my senses under the loving care of my kinswomen to sit up in my mother’s bed, for she would not have me leave her.  I drank mint tea until I was tired of walking out into the desert to squat down.  I thought my senses had taken leave of me, for one night I started to walk outward, after dark, when the desert turns dangerous, even more so than by day.  The old women told me there were Zars out there, waiting to claim my liver, but I knew there were desert snakes and scorpions and these alone were trouble enough.

I did not care.  I was torn between love, a pitiful, self-effacing sentiment where I  cried out for the man I had never really known.  But then, like a limb that has fallen over a high rock, and teeters, first one side then the weight of it on the other, I fell to hating Hasim with all my heart. My hatred for him made my fingers curl and a lump of burning pain in my stomach rise up to my throat.  If he were before me now, I would be savage and kill him with my bare hands.  He had brought shame on my family, but mostly he had disgraced me, the woman who was his intended, the woman who was to bear his many sons.

Until a new moon rose in the sky at night, I walked a part each night in the desert, tailed by the girl Takama, who was sent by my mother to watch me.  I bore her presence until finally annoyed, I yelled for her to go to the devil.  Takama was a good girl, a slave in our family, and she fell on her knees and threw her apron over her face.  I took pity and told her she could follow, but only at a distance of three camels. I turned and continued to pace out in the desert, always in a wide circle around our community’s many tents.  I was trying to make up my mind what to do. I knew my parents would take some kind of action, but I had my own to deliver.

On the third night of my pacing, I went out into the desert, and forbade Takama to follow.  I had bathed myself in a ritual bath in the river that ran through our oasis, and had thrown off all jewelry.  I unbraided my long black hair and drew on a white cotton dress, and barefoot I went into the desert.  There I chanted and prayed to my goddesses for I wanted their help in deciding my course.

Isis was the first goddess I prayed to, lifting my hands to the heavens and imploring her. It was Isis who gave justice to the poor and orphaned, and though I was neither, I knew she would hear my plight.  Isis was all-seeing, but apparently busy.

I next prayed and chanted to Tanit and Tinjis.  I needed all the answers and ideas I could find.  They were silent, but suddenly I shivered, and I knew that one of them had listened.. Or perhaps it was a Zar that tickled my spine, for Zars were known to attack a woman when she went alone in the desert. They delighted in that.  It made access to souls so much easier.

But I was looking for a stronger solution. I was enraged at the treatment of that man. By now my anger was such  I could not speak his name.

I closed my eyes, threw out my arms to the heavens, to the moonless sky above me and threw myself into the vortex of my misery. Ayyur, the Moon God was one I exhorted, and then Ifri, the war goddess.  I needed some answers, some plan of action. I mumbled and prayed and exhorted them all until the constellations in the sky above me revolved with the passage of hours.

Finally, it came to me.  I knew what I would do when I heard the sound of the imzad, the violin only a woman can touch and vibrate.  I heard it’s sad sound floating over the desert in the evening air.  My destiny was staring me in my face.

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