Jenny Wade

Published Article Full-text Now Available At:

Document Type


Publication Date



Battle trance, which evolved from instinctive defensive and offensive behaviors for close combat, involves socially transgressive processes like becoming-intense and becoming-animal that produce non-ordinary psychophysical states useful in fighting. Berserkergang (going berserk) is one of the best attested types of battle trance and the latest in a long history of Indo-European ecstatic warrior cults, but the state has been identified cross-culturally in consecrated holy amok warriors and in juramentado. Colonial interpretations for centuries have tended to denigrate such fighting styles, even though they involve discipline, spiritual dedication, and altruistic self-sacrifice, especially by falsely attributing such states to intoxication or insanity. The features of berserkergang are considered signs of spiritual attainment in various traditions up to the present day, and the techniques for achieving berserkergang remain in use in battle, spiritual disciplines, and martial arts. Research is validating even some of the most extraordinary features of battle trance, pointing to unrealized potentials with promising benefits for human performance and healing.