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Vision Quest
Bashir: Miles... it's working. I've had a vision, about the future. I can see it so clearly.
Miles: What is it?
Bashir: I'm gonna kill Worf. I'm gonna kill Worf. That's what I'm gonna do. I can see it clearly now, I'm going to kill... him...

Especially prevalent in The Nineties, this is when a character goes on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. The character is forced to confront his subconscious or seek guidance from his Spirit Advisors in the form of some kind of pseudo-Dream Sequence, possibly Adventures in Comaland. At times it is debatable whether the events actually take place or not. While on this journey the character may meet animal guides, dead people, ancestors, shamans, be forced to engage in some type of physical or mental trial, and will most likely experience a moment of revelation about him or herself which leads to making an important life decision.

The name is taken from the "vision quest" sacrament practiced by many Native American peoples. The best known is probably the Lakotah hanbleceya which is described in Black Elk Speaks.

Related tropes are Spirit Advisor, Magical Native American, Higher Understanding Through Drugs, and Psychological Torment Zone.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • The Waterfall of Truth in Naruto brings out a person's darker emotions and forces them to confront their own insecurities. It acts as a Threshold Guardian for jinchurikis seeking to master their bijuu; without first conquering their own dark side, they're vulnerable to the beast.

Comic Books
  • Done several times in ElfQuest:
    • After failing for the first time to save someone, Leetah stabs herself in the stomach to force a Vision Quest and gain more control over her healing powers.
    • Most Wolfriders go on Vision Quests of varying intensity to discover their Soul Names as part of becoming an adult. Goodtree's Vision Quest is described in her short story collection.
    • Some magically able elves, such as Savah and Suntop, do this on a regular basis, called "going out." Suntop eventually decides to go on a perpetual Vision Quest and leave his body behind for years at a time, interrupted only to be with his lifemate.
  • Jesse from Preacher. Twice if you count the voodoo session.
  • Famously done in Grant Morrison's run of Animal Man has the titular hero go on a peyote-fuelled Vision Quest. This expands his consciousness to the point where he briefly becomes aware of the reader, looking out of the page and shouting "I SEE YOU!"
  • "Echo: Vision Quest", a Story Arc in Daredevil comics, which focussed on... er... a character called Echo undergoing a vision quest.
  • Joshua undergoes the Sun Dance ritual after he is granted his mystical powers in Shaman's Tears.

Fan Works
  • The Pony POV Series has multiple occasions of Applejack looking into the Truth, seeing the past, the present, possible futures, and Alternate Universes. The first time, it's to help her cope with Discord's Mind Rape, and she comes away with her truth vision. The second time, it's to help stabilize that ability so that she's not at risk of becoming Nightmare Mirror. And we get to see Liarjack do this as well, which helps her from Discord's control.

Film
  • Jim Morrison is depicted as having a literal vision quest in the Oliver Stone The Doors Film.
  • That scene is then parodied in Wayne's World.
  • In Hidalgo Frank, raised as a traditional Hunkpapa Lakotah, has a vision of himself with his mother. It's a death vision, not one deliberately sought in the manner of traditional hanbleceya. But Frank and his horse can be said to be on a sort of vision quest — very loosely speaking — by participating in the Ocean of Fire race at all.
  • In the Star Wars universe, every padawan must undergo a "Trial of the Spirit", before they can earn the rank of Jedi. This trial often takes the form of a Vision Quest:
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda sends Luke into a cave that's a nexus of the Dark Side. There, Luke fights and kills a ghost of Darth Vader, then sees his own face under Vader's mask.
    • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin's mission to rescue the Nelvaan warriors led him into a cave where geothermal gases caused him to hallucinate. His hallucination symbolically foreshadowed his transformation into Darth Vader.
      • Lampshaded by the Nelvaan.
      • Anakin was an unusual case since he encountered his Trial after he had been promoted to Jedi Knight. One of the Jedi Masters protested his promotion for this reason, but he was outvoted.
    • The final arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has Yoda embarking on a spiritual quest to begin his training in how to become a Force ghost after death.
  • Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life lies somewhere between this and an existential crisis.
  • Averted in Vision Quest where nobody even once went on one.
  • In Inception, the Dream Weavers create a custom dream for a business heir that includes telling him he's on a Vision Quest to come to term with his relationship with his late father. However, the whole thing is orchestrated including the epiphany at the ending that consists of a fake representation of his subconsciousness in the form of his father that tells him that his father never wanted him to be as greedy and power hungry as he had become and that after his death his monopoly should be split up. When the heir wakes, the dream will fade, but the faked epiphany remains, influencing all his future business decisions.

Literature
  • The Trope Codifier may be the works of fake new-age spiritualist and all-around cult huckster Carlos Castaneda; many comic versions are direct parodies of him.
    • Castaneda himself being the indigenous Dante.
  • Nick Black Elk's Black Elk Speaks was the first book to describe the actual vision quest sacrament. Published in 1932 and reprinted many times, it was a college campus favorite long before Teachings of Don Juan appeared in 1968.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune, meeting one's spiritual Gom Jabbar is something like this.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Horus finds himself on a vision quest, where wolves force him to remember who he is and a Dead Person Conversation with an impersonator (also dead) lures him with a vision of the future.
  • Similar to the Star Wars example in the Film section, The Looking-Glass Wars features the "Crystal Maze," a sort of Psychological Torment Zone which princesses must endure to prove that they have enough strength and endurance to become queen.
  • In The Changeover, the main character, Laura Chant undergoes one of these to facilitate her transformation, or changeover.
  • Daire and all other Soul Seekers must go through one.
  • Space age version in the short story The Elements of Freedom, a seismologist, in order to convince a technologically regressed tribe that her warnings of an earthquake are sincere and not a "Star Fallen" attempt to steal their land, goes on a vision quest that involves inhaling some unknown drug. She confronts her doubts about her choice of career, and her totem animal leaves physical wounds that convince the tribe, and she joins them.

Live-Action TV
  • Dr Franklin in Babylon 5 goes on one of these as part of his efforts to break his addiction to stims.
  • Thad Castle goes on a vision quest in the Blue Mountain State episode "Vision Quest" in order to decide whether to remain at Blue Mountain State another year or to go pro. Subverted when the vision quest tells him to stay at Blue Mountain State and remain true to his heart, but he decides to go pro because the guys on the team at BMS "were all dicks to me anyway".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Giles takes Buffy on a drive out into the desert in "Intervention". Buffy is not impressed when the ritual resembles the hokey-pokey and her Spirit Advisor — the First Slayer — informs her that "Death is your gift." In Season 7 Giles takes the Potentials on the same quest, and Buffy's attitude doesn't help things.
    Giles: Do you think they appreciate the gravity of what we're undertaking? It's frightening, and it's difficult. And then, apparently, someone told them that the vision quest consists of me driving them to the desert, doing the hokey pokey until a spooky Rasta-mama Slayer arrives and speaks to them in riddles. (looks at Buffy)
    Buffy: That's not exactly how I put it...
  • Leo and Phoebe in Charmed underwent vision quests of their own. Of course, Leo's was closer to the actual definition of a vision quest. Phoebe's was a message that she must have babies.
  • Locke goes all vision-questy in the LOST episode "Further Instructions." Not to mention that he ended up on the island after trying to go on an Australian Outback walkabout, only to find himself on a deeper spiritual journey.
  • Mac experiences one in the MacGyver episode "Trail of Tears".
  • Tommy Oliver has to go on one to get his head straightened out in Power Rangers Zeo. The spirit animal he has to follow is a falcon, which makes sense because that's the animal spirit his Ninja powers were drawn from.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Dax symbionts (Ezri and Jadzia) do something similar when they communicate with their past hosts.
    • Lampshaded in You are Cordialy Invited. Worf leads his four groomsmen on the path to Kal'Hyah, which is a very Klingon wedding ritual. In the midst of hanging from the ceiling over hot coals, Julian says, "I have had a vision...I am going to kill Worf". O'Brien, hanging with him, agrees it is a good vision at the moment.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:

Tabletop Games
  • The Lunars in Exalted have a Charm that actually allows them to make some sense out of the Wyld — they read the flow of chaos there in order to gain insight. The process is described in the general tone of a vision quest.
  • In Mage: The Ascension the player character have to go through one to gain a level of magical power.
  • In Shadowrun, it's the most efficient mean for a Shaman or Mage to improve their magical power and gain metamagical powers.

Video Games
  • One of the Avatar: The Last Airbender online flash game had Aang meeting some of his former incarnations in order to regain his power.
  • Tauren characters in World of Warcraft get a quest like this during the lower levels, although it pretty much boils down to following a ghost wolf to your next quest objective. (You aren't even required to follow it, as long as you know where you're supposed to go next.)
  • Hakumen's story mode in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger details the Vision Quest he had to undertake to escape from the pocket dimension he was sealed in and return to reality. Complete with fighting Jin Kisaragi as a manifestation of his past sins.
  • In Soul Hackers, which is influenced by Native American mythology, Kinap sends the protagonist on Vision Quests. Although they are really more of an example of Another Man's Terror.

Webcomics

Web Original
  • The Hitherby Dragons story "The bridge" involves a character going on a spirit quest. She's rather surprised to find her spirit animal is a Pikachu.
  • The web serial Stone Soul Saga extensively features vision quests. A fictious religion known as the "Thunderkin" regularly use vision quests similar to the original Native American version of the concept. One of the main characters, Olav, has his vision quest done focused on heavily. In addition, the creatures known as "Skraeling" can voyage Within. This is a sort of meditation technique very similar to a vision quest.

Western Animation
  • A character does this in Exo Squad.
  • The Simpsons, in the Mushroom Samba chapter "El viaje misterioso de nuestro Homer", has Homer going in one of such journeys after eating the Merciless Peppers of Quetzaltenango.
  • Mocked mercilessly in South Park when Native Americans are trying to buy out the town to build casinos and Stan has to unlock his 'Magical Middle Class White Guy' abilities. He basically gets high on meth.
  • Parodied in Family Guy.
  • A version similar to the Simpsons example above happens to The Tick when knocked into orbit.
  • The Water Tribe in Avatar: The Last Airbender are Inuit-based but extremely pragmatic; Sokka even appears to be an skeptic-atheist to start. Aang goes on several vision quest things to the spirit world to get advice and sort out wrongs. Zuko goes on one from his bed while sick with fever; it doesn't immediately equal a Heel-Face Turn, but it does pin down his soul on the 'good' side, even if he doesn't realize it right away. Though his character development is actually pretty independent of this, it's all symbolic. Given this spirit stuff is actually real in universe, one must wonder whether, had the blue dragon won him, the person we know as Zuko would somehow have been able to make his peace with Ozai's Fire Nation after everything he'd seen and done. Not that he'd have survived long.
  • Brock Samson went on a Castenada-influenced Vision Quest (along with Dr. Orpheus and his mystical crew) in The Venture Bros. episode "íViva los Muertos!"

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