As with the journey itself, the Underworld (or Otherworld, if you prefer) Entrance appears differently for each person. Since it’s composed of energy, the local decor is furnished by the mental constructs of the shaman themselves. Like wearing different skins, or different clothes, the entrance is the same, only its appearance changes. So the entrance can take many forms, and is a key part in completing the transition from normal consciousness to the shamanic state.
The entrance usually takes the shape of a hole, portal or doorway that is attractive to the shaman. Depending on their background and personal experiences, it can vary from a passage among the twisted roots of a tree, a cave entrance, well, fireplace, secret gate, and so on. Its appearance is very personal and may or may not have psychological importance to the shaman.
Once the entrance has been discovered, the transition through it is normally brought about by the conscious will of the shaman. This is significant, as it usually involves some effort, and thus establishes that the shaman is intent on gaining the underworld, and is not merely daydreaming. The effort can involve squeezing between walls or tree-roots, scrambling over rocks, or unlocking or forcing open a door.
This is usually followed by a falling sensation, where the shaman feels as if they’re sinking or falling towards whatever is on the far side of their entrance. This sensation is the transition from one state of mind to another and is very similar to falling into hypnosis. The physical effect on the shaman is that their limbs become extremely heavy, to the point where they can’t move them, and they feel compelled to drop to the ground. They’re not usually aware, from that point on, of what is happening in the ‘outer’ world.
There may be several further state changes as the shaman falls, while they achieve a still-deeper trance.
A good example of this process described in fiction comes from C S Lewis’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice is enticed towards a rabbit hole by a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat. Trying to catch up with him, she crawls down the hole and suddenly finds herself falling. During the fall, she makes several attempts to resolve the problem, until finally coming to accept her situation.
Her shamanic state, at that point, is thus complete by the time she reaches the bottom.
Alice in Wonderland is a useful handbook for budding shamen. If taken alegorically, all the elements a shaman might encounter in the Underworld are represented during her adventure; from puzzles, to transformations, to guides and guardians and the journey itself – finding the white rabbit. All these elements represent state changes that affect the astral energy she’s journeying through, and thus filter down to affect the outer world.
All this, however, can only be achieved once the Underworld is gained. It can take many attempts to even find the entrance, let alone begin to journey.