Most of the temples and other such religious places in India traditionally have Oracles who are considered to be representatives of the gods.(See the pictures http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3235/2396067808_2e3cc10f71.jpg and http://www.wiki.indianfolklore.org/images/thumb/3/3a/NilaMarch2009_195.jpg/250px-NilaMarch2009_195.jpg ) I can vividly remember, as a child watching them with fear and awe as they would dance in trance.
The oracles participate in special rituals in the temples in their special costume ( red dress, anklets, bells, sword) accompanied by drums. The ritual normally consists of some kind of dance, walking barefoot on fire and wounding themselves on the forehead with the swords. As the rhythm of the drums progresses, they enter in to a trance and what they talk in that state is supposed to be coming from the gods. Even today, these oracles command lot of respect in the villages.
It was only after the incident described below, did I realize the brilliance of this whole thing. Anything that typically comes from the human mind is conditioned and limited by the logic. A true revelation or insight comes from a dimension beyond the logic.
But for this to come, the logical mind need to be silenced, which is extremely difficult. But then the ancient people have invented lots of methods by which the logical mind can be temporarily gotten out of the way and in that gap an unconditioned thought can arise.
One such method is ‘pain’. When you can consciously endure pain, it brings the mind to the present moment, which means the mind stops, which means suddenly you enter the realm of unconditioned space. This is what happens here. The Oracles walk on fire and wound themselves and when they do this consciously, they come to the present moment. The other paraphernalia and the drums just set the atmosphere for this.
And once they are completely drawn to the present moment, what they say comes from beyond and has a quality that’s beyond the logical human mind.