Willing Channeler

Binding a spirit of many faces to yourself may have side effects.

A type of Host that "willingly" allows him/herself to be possessed by someone or something. In Real Life, this is usually someone who performs a Spirit Medium role, like that of a shaman. The trope has been used more commonly in fantasy settings in conjunction with Demonic Possession from an evil spirit or magician specialized in Black Magic. When a Willing Channeler is possessed by such an entity, they become a Living Bodysuit. The opposite form of spirit however, being possessed by a benevolent force, is simply called Channeling, as it is more or less a mutualist Symbiotic relationship of a spiritual nature, and rarely does the "virtuous guest" force anything upon the host without consent and/or necessity.

Usually a Willing Channeler must perform a ritual of some sort to conjure the target spirit (s)he wants to be possessed by, but this is not the golden rule, just the norm (for the genre of fantasy at least). Also, even if the spirit does not possess the conjurer, the character is still considered a Willing Channeler for having committed to the desire to be possessed, even if the desire is not natural but actually an artificial compulsion (e.g. enchantment, drug usage, Mind Control, etc, etc). This possession may be visually represented with Transformation Of The Possessed, Prophet Eyes or other cues; if the possessing force is powerful and/or evil, there may be a mild case of Possession Burnout afterwards.

Note: A Willing Channeler is NOT the possessing entity, it is the host. Truth in Television as this is what Spiritualist Mediums invited and encouraged. Some of their reported voluntary possession relationships lasted for decades.

See also Heroic Host. Compare Symbiotic Possession, where the possession is initially forced, but afterwards (either immediately or gradually) becomes a mutually beneficial relationship.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ling, who accepts being possessed by Greed II to learn the secret of immortality in Fullmetal Alchemist. The two start sharing Ling's body after Greed starts to work with the good guys, however.
  • Shaman King revolves around this trope. The shamans all have the ability to summon ghosts or other spiritual entities and channel them through themselves or objects for new abilities.
  • Kannagi - Zange is also a kami, in possession of a body named Haruka. She sometimes has conversations with her host.
  • In Naruto: Tobi wishes to become one by creating the Ten Tails (Jyubi), a fusion of the other nine, and binding it to himself.
    • Similarly a ninja from the Cloud Village tried to do that with the Eight Tails but died.
    • The Original Sage of the Six Paths did this to the Ten Tails when fighting it.
  • In AKIRA, Kei becomes a medium for the combined powers of the three psychic children, wielding them to battle Tetsuo. (The manga is clearer about her choosing to work with them.)
  • InuYasha has it when Onigumo merges with several demons, and he is reborn as Naraku from this.

  • In Swamp Thing John Constantine allowed Swamp Thing to use his body to father a child with Abby, since Swampy lacks the necessary equipment to do it himself. The only permanent effect on John was getting a tree tattoo on his ass, but it's not clear if he's aware of this.

     Fan Works 
  • In the X-Men fic The Wraith Saga, Jason Wyngarde allows a shadowy cosmic entity called "the Wraith" to possess him so that he can get revenge on Jean Grey, who drove him insane with the power of the Phoenix Force (the Wraith's mortal enemy) back in The Dark Phoenix Saga.
  • Harmony Theory: Nightmare Umbra is possessing the willing Twinkle Shine.
  • This is how Celestia's solo use of the Elements is depicted in Magical Pony Lyrical Twilight A's.
  • In Chapter 1 of Graduate Meeting Of Mutual Killing, Aya Sawashiro, ex-Super High School Level Medium, willingly channels the murder victim to find the culprit. The spirit of the victim takes over her body and starts talking to the surviving graduates. Subverted, in that all was a farce to get the wrong person convicted, as Sawashiro was the real killer
  • In I Against I, Me Against You, Sunny Side allows Tex to possess her in order to fight Project Freelancer.

  • In the movie Ghost, Oda Mae, a spirit medium, allows the late Sam to possess her so that he can touch his girlfriend again. Earlier in the movie she was possessed not-so-willingly by another ghost who wanted to talk to his widow.
  • In Racing Daylight, Sadie welcomes Anna and is even amused by her more free-spirited actions. They get along partly because they're both interested in Henry, whom Sadie has been too shy to approach.

  • Matthew Swift and the blue electric angels in A Madness of Angels. Their... cohabitation in Matthew's body is more or less an accident, but neither party seems to have a problem with it, probably because they're combined so thoroughly that they're pretty much the same entity now anyway.
  • In the last book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy Nathaniel becomes one of these to Bartimaeus, though neither of them is fully in control.
  • Wicked Lovely: The Ink Exchange turns Leslie into this.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the energy beings known as the Fates can enter into a being's mind and control their body while their own consciousness is inert. The being has to be a) the right sort of person with the correct genes or mental abilities, and b) willing. Astraea, the leader of a Cardassian religion based upon worship of the mysterious "good" Fates led by Oralius, is the best example of the truly Willing Channeler. See: Terok Nor and Star Trek: The Lost Era. The Evil Counterpart to Oralius, Uramtali (leader of the Night Spirits) shows up in the Star Trek: The Lost Era novel Well of Souls. She cheats a bit; she ensures her host is "willing" by placing him in a situation where if he refuses his child suffers.
  • In The Host, Melanie eventually becomes this to Puppeteer Parasite Wanderer. Although she initially resists, by the end of the book she actually tries to convince Wanderer to stay in her body.
  • Voluntary Controllers in Animorphs, who make up a minority of the Yeerks' hosts (known as Controllers). When separated so the Yeerk can feed in the Yeerk pool, the willing hosts are rewarded with the privilege of getting to sit in a lounge-type area, watch TV, and generally hang out, instead of being locked in a cage for the duration like the unwilling majority. There is also a a peace movement among the Yeerks, and they and their hosts work together to try and change Yeerk society from the Alien Invasion route to something more like this.
    • "The Illusion" features a particularly interesting Willing Channeler: Taylor, an extremely attractive girl in her late teens whose Yeerk is a Sub-Visser. At first, she seems like a psychopathic, sadistic torturer, but she eventually reveals that she was the most popular girl in her high school until she was trapped in a house fire and became covered in burns. After being shunned, she joined the Sharing and accepted her Yeerk in exchange for promises of being restored to her former beauty. That willingness has made the pair so interconnected that they can't distinguish themselves from one another: the Yeerk uses first-person plural pronouns to refer to herself and Taylor as a single entity, as opposed to other Yeerks, who refer to their bodies as "hosts."
    • There was also a more literal one with Cassie, who let herself play host to the spirit of Aldrea, the daughter of Seerow, the Andalite who was needed to help find a weapons stash that the last of the Arn hoped would give the Hork-Bajir a fighting chance in their world.
  • Serroquettes from The Fallen Kings Cycle are prostitutes who allow ghosts to use their body for one last encounter with a loved one.
  • From the Dexter book series, Dexter in the Dark. Dexter shows that he's more than willing to be possessed again, when he temporarily loses his Dark Passenger.
  • Sorcerers in Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion novels are people who use their Demonic Possession to work magic. Sometimes this possession is involuntary, but some sorcerers deliberately make deals with demons in order to gain their powers. Almost all sorcerers, except those who have been specifically trained by the clergy of the Bastard (a half-demon Dark Is Not Evil god) eventually lose control of themselves and end up fully under the demon's control.
    • In The Hallowed Hunt, the eldest son of Hallow King Horseriver was this to his father's spirit when his father died. The younger son and the later descendants of Horseriver... not so much.
  • This is how Surgebinders in The Stormlight Archive work. A Surgebinder is created when a spren binds itself to a human companion. The spren gains the ability to think in the Physical Realm while the human gains the power to control two of the ten fundamental Surges of reality.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek"
    • The Trill, first introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation but most often seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (main characters Jadzia and Ezri Dax, among others), are a non-supernatural example. Their species evolved in parallel with a benevolent parasite or "symbiont" that can house the memories and personality of the host and transfer them into another host after the original host's death. In their appearance in TNG, the symbiont appears to completely override the personality of the host, but the host's personality is restored if the symbiont is removed before the bonding is complete. In DS 9 this is retconned; the personality of the new joined being is a "merging" between that of the host and of all the previous hosts contained within the symbiont. Trill society considers it a great honor to be chosen as host, and prospective hosts compete fiercely for it. Ostensibly this is because unsuitable hosts will reject (or be rejected by) the symbiont in a way that is dangerous to both; in reality, almost anyone can be a host, but there aren't nearly enough symbionts to go around.
    • In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Kira let herself to be possessed by an Energy Being that her species, the Bajorans, worship as gods. The possessor even explicitly declares (when in her body) that "this vessel is willing." (On the other hand, its evil opponent forcibly possesses the body of Jake Sisko, but later finds a willing host in Dukat.)
  • Jimmy, the host of Castiel in Supernatural. An angel's true form is too powerful to accomplish anything on Earth that doesn't involve leaving a wake of destruction, so they need to occupy human bodies. Most - but not all - angels use willing hosts. Specifically, an angel requires permission to possess someone. However, because angels tend to have a Knight Templar attitude with little respect for humans, if an angel needs a particular host who happens to be unwilling for some reason, apparently it's OK to torture them until they say yes.
    • Although Castiel doesn't actually do this. The first time Jimmy accepts seemingly of his own free will, since he's a devout Christian; the second it's because a) he's dying, and b) Castiel's other option is Jimmy's daughter.
  • In Stargate SG-1 an entire group of the normally Always Chaotic Evil (at the time) Big Bad race elected to become this trope and form a resistance movement to fight their evil kin.
  • Gwen at the end of the Torchwood episode "Day One".
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Ryotaro is possessed by different Imagin, who wear him and the suit (each a different mode.)
  • Most incarnations of Ultraman have elements of this, though just where the host ends and the possessing entity begins when the hero is in suited form differs/isn't always clear.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Book of Exalted Deed introduces Channeling as the Celestials' counterpart to the Fiends' Demonic Possession, though unlike the latter it requires a willing host. The mortal gains stat boosts and the powers of the Celestial being channeled, but retains full control of his or her body. The more powerful Celestials can do this as a matter of course, while mortal casters with the right spells can channel any Celestial ally.
    • The 3.5 edition of the Tome of Magic introduced the Binder class, which uses this trope as a core mechanic. These characters make pacts with Vestiges, entities outside normal conceptions of life or death, and channel them to gain spell-like abilities, skill bonuses, and other powers based on the Vestige in question. These Vestiges are so eager to vicariously live again that they never turn down a pact - instead whether the Binder succeeds or fails at a pact determines whether the Vestige will have any influence over them. A former paladin-turned-blackguard who gave up the battle between good and evil, for example, will influence a Binder to withdraw from melee combat after ten rounds, while a Vestige who stole a goddess' armor will keep a Binder from removing any such protection. Vestiges also leave a physical mark of their presence on a Binder, from odd scars to faintly-glowing eyes to an extra face like the fellow in the page picture.
  • Warhammer 40,000 features Possessed Marines, Chaos Space Marines who summon Daemons into their bodies, thus sacrificing what little humanity remains in exchange for fearsome powers.
  • In Pathfinder, this is one way of flavoring the Oracle class, and eventually became the basis of an archetype called the Possessed Oracle, who gets its powers by allowing spirits to inhabit its body.

    Video Games 
  • Practitioners of the Kurain Channeling Technique, most notably Maya Fey (and Pearl Fey when Maya is unavailable), in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games. Unusually, this technique also allows the host to take on the approximate physical form of the dead person being channeled. The only physical trait that remains the same is hair color and style (and a person's hair isn't alive...). The users can also change in age and size (Pearl, a young child in the clothes of a young child, channeling Mia, an adult is the most noticeable example)
  • In Breath of Fire IV a medium briefly serves this purpose for the Endless who resides in Erishin (who cannot survive any other way due to the botched method of summoning that brought her into the protagonists' world). She overeats a bit, but doesn't do anything worse than complain the medium who lent her the body wasn't sufficiently attractive.
  • Devil Survivor has a two examples of this. Mari allows Kresnik to use her body to kill her fiance's killer Kudlak and Amane does it with both a demon and an angel.
    • Done again in the sequel, where Io takes in the essence of Lugh to summon the Dragon Stream and to defeat a particularly tenacious enemy.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Yuko allows the false deity Aradia into herself in an effort to gain a Reason. Which Aradia cannot possibly grant. Not that she ever tells Yuko.
  • Ryuusei Cartwright in AdventureQuest freely allows the Devourer The'Galin to manifest in his body. Curiously, he retains the ability to shift into this form after The'Galin had left.
  • Meibisi tries this at the end of Rise of the Kasai with his God of Evil, Kri. Doesn't work out very well.
  • If you spared the Rachni Queen in Mass Effect 1, you'll meet her channeler in Mass Effect 2 on Illium. While Shepard is skeptical, the channeler insists that she volunteered. Given that the last person the Queen used as a host was dead at the time, it's possible this is the case here.
  • BioWare also used this in Jade Empire with Wild Flower and her "guardian" Chang Ka. Wild Flower is a sweet-natured small child no more than ten years old, and Chang Ka is a massive, shaggy demon. Of course, he's not the only one that's possessing Wild Flower. It ends up being justified in that the Guardian needs a host to tie him to this plain of existence and help the Spirit Monk, and Wild Flower's happy because she should be dead and Chang Ka's possession gives her a second chance.
  • A third Bioware example: in the Dragon Age: series the 'Spirit Healer' Mage Specialisation is described as getting their exceptional healing powers by channelling benevolent Fade spirits. The two recruitable Spirit Healers expand on this:
    • Wynne, The Medic in Origins, describes how a particular spirit has seemed to be watching over her her whole life and helps her out with the healing. She's also technically dead, having pulled a Heroic Sacrifice before you recruit her, and her spirit friend is keeping her alive through possession. This can be seen as foreshadowing...
    • Anders, a healing-focused mage and all-around snarker, who is the resident Spirit Healer in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. Another character in the same game is Justice, a spirit of the Fade possessing the dead body of a Grey Warden. After the end of the game, Justice gives up the Warden's body, but Anders allows himself to be possessed so that Justice can remain in the physical world. This unfortunately backfires by the time of Dragon Age II, when Anders' hatred of Templars has twisted the spirit of Justice into a demon of Vengeance.
    • Avvar mages and Rivaini seers are generally friendlier towards spirits than the Chantry, and allow benevolent spirits to briefly possess them. For Avvar mages, this is a central part of their training - a benevolent spirit keeps them safe from malicious ones until they're strong enough, and other spirits ensure that neither party is corrupted.
    • All magic in the Dragon Age franchise is an example of this. Mages perform magic by channelling the spirits of the Fade, something only they can do because mages are essentially living Fade portals. Even elemental magic is performed this way: conjuring a fireball requires that a mage commune with fire elemental wisps in the Fade.
  • A fourth Bioware example is the Sith Inquistor line of Star Wars: The Old Republic, who learn to channel and possess ghosts as a power boost.
  • In the flash RPG MARDEK, Mardek shares a consciousness with an extraterrestrial being named Rohoph.
  • Mages in the universe of Fire Emblem Tellius can greatly enhance their powers by becoming a Spirit Charmer, someone who lets spirits into his body in exchange for their power. The side-effect of this is receiving a mark that often makes them the victim of Fantastic Racism (though due to a misunderstanding) and the fact that it slowly erodes their very being, though that doesn't seem to be such a big deal, given what we saw from the only playable Spirit Charmer.
  • Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft qualifies as this when he uses the heart of Eldritch Abomination Y'shaarj. The heart is the strongest part of the monster, and even weak offshoots of the creature have been shown to totally overtake others, but Garrosh willingly uses the power, and the monster doesn't even seem to mind.
    • Paladins/Priests and the Light, in a way. The things they're channeling are basically angels, so there is no chance of possession going wrong, but sometimes the Light does seem to take action when they can't (Breaking Tirion out of the Lich King's iceblock and shatter Frostmourne, since it doesn't seem Tirion was powerful enough to do that on his own, otherwise he would have earlier).
    • Shaman, channeling the elements. Specifically Thrall, channeling pure elemental power and taking Deathwing's place as Earth Warder (protector of Azeroth and the elements, basically). Being the Earth Warder comes with a lot of pain as well as happiness and closeness with the elements, so Thrall willingly channeled this power, even knowing how painful it can be.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamers Alliance, any god who wishes to possess a mortal body must be granted access by the host him/herself. If the host isn't willing, the god can't enter the body (if they try anyway, the control will be temporary, and they will get kicked out not long after).
  • In The Worldbuild Project, the Rohomajeshi fit this trope to a T. Their whole shtick is that they make deal to host and channel spirits in exchange for powers.
  • A, main character of Twitch Plays Pokémon Emerald, is commonly believed to summon the mind-controlling voices (a.k.a. the players) by herself - as opposed to previous characters, who didn't have a choice.