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Vision Quest

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Bashir: Miles... it's working. I've had a vision, about the future. I can see it so clearly.
O'Brien: 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...
Bashir and O'Brien: Kill Worf...Kill Worf...Kill Worf...

Especially prevalent in The '90s, this is when a character goes on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. The character is forced to confront his or her subconscious or seek guidance from his or her 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, or shamans, may 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.

Can lead to Remote, Yet Vulnerable depending on where and how this is done as generally the person embarking on a Vision Quest will no longer be conscious and thus unable to respond to threats in the real world. Thus, a character looking to embark on one of these will probably try to seclude themselves very well or have their allies stay on watch.

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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the original manga for AKIRA, Tetsuo undergoes one of these after the seer Lady Miyako instructs him to abstain from his Power Limiter drugs. He realizes that he's merely an influencer of a vast universal force that can't be controlled. Rather than turning away from using his Psychic Powers selfishly however, he has an Ignored Epiphany and instead doubles down on his megalomania.
  • 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 
  • In Aquaman (1986), the climax has Arthur traversing his own mind and memories, learning to accept all of the good and the bad, as he gathers the mental energy to battle Orm.
  • 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!"
  • During Jim Starlin 1970's run on Captain Marvel has the hero Mar-Vell meeting Eon, a benevolent Eldritch Abomination, who sends him to a trippy vision quest where he has to fight his inner demons and accept to let his dead girlfriend go in order to learn Cosmic Awereness.
  • "Echo: Vision Quest", a Story Arc in Daredevil comics, which focussed on... er... a character called Echo undergoing a vision quest.
  • Planetary: In issue #21, Elijah is sent on a vision quest to gain perspective about his intentions; he visits the realm of information that underlies reality and learns something interesting about his place in the world.
  • Joshua undergoes the Sun Dance ritual after he is granted his mystical powers in Shaman's Tears.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): In the Huntress backup feature Helena has to find herself within the center of her own mind before waking up after being drugged with a very potent hallucinogenic by Professor Fether while escaping Arkham.

    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 free her from Discord's control.
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, Sunset has a short one after she accidentally terrifies Twilight: she asks Zecora for help, and Zecora suggests finding her spirit guide, which will help her see herself as others see her. She ends up seeing a ponified version of her demon form. Her maybe-hallucination of Celestia may or may not have been part of it too.
  • Just an Unorthodox Thief. Saber ingests an airborne drug that causes her to hallucinate. The hallucinations facilitate Armor-Piercing Questions and force her to address her regrets, guided by an owl posing as Mordred. She has a moment of revelation that changes her view of history and of the world around her.
  • Anna: Frozen's Princess Anna does this. The quest starts in the second chapter, and it's in order to find out why her sister Elsa has been so distant.
  • In Ages of Shadow, Trace has two vision quests in Chapter 5. First, the elemental monks give him one to explain the nature of The Multiverse and how it ties into the origins of Yade Khan and the Shadow Walkers. Later, he's given a vision by a chi construct echo of Tohru, which explains Jade's true origins and how to defeat her.
  • Chasing Dragons: Jaime has one of these when in the Summer Islands. While it happens offscreen, he apparently sees his canon counterpart's actions, which terrify him and drive him to become a better person.

  • 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 goes 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.
  • Motana goes on a vision quest in In the Land of the Head Hunters as part of his manhood ritual. He has a vision of a beautiful woman, and when he sees her in real life shortly thereafter, he takes her for a wife.
  • Going on a vision quest is how the mantle of Black Panther is officially adopted, with the king of Wakanda fed the Heart-Shaped Herb and covered in sand. He is transported to an aurora-lit scene to communicate with his ancestors. T'Challa's and Erik's vision quests demonstrate that everyone has their own experience, to boot.
  • White Wolves: Cry of the White Wolf: Quentin says his tribe likes to see white wolves for spiritual enlightenment, and his father sent him into a meadow for this reason when he was young. He waited a long time, nothing happened, and he was about to go home and make up a story when a wolf finally did materialize out of thin air right before his eyes.

  • 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. His first book The Teachings of Don Juan was very popular among anthropology and hippie circles before they started to think it might have been Based on a Great Big Lie.
    • 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 examples 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.
  • The Tales of Alvin Maker: In Seventh Son, young Alvin receives a mysterious visit from the "whiskey-Red" Lolla-Wossiky. In the next book, Red Prophet, we find out that Lolla-Wossiky was on his vision quest, and Alvin was his spirit animal; the encounter transforms Lolla-Wossiky into the prophet Tenskwa-Tawa.
  • The shamans of the Forest of Skund in The Light Fantastic are apparently into this, building sweat lodges, eating weird mushrooms and communing with the spirits of the forest, and sometimes the spirits of the mushrooms themselves. The Horse Tribe ritual that sends Rincewind to Death's Domain to rescue Twoflower's spirit, and also into the Octavo to be lectured by the Great Spells, is probably something similar.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dr Franklin in Babylon 5 goes on one of these as part of his efforts to break his addiction to stims. It was actually a Walk About, something different. While it is a journey of self discovery it does not involve the hallucinations or spiritual guide/discovery that a Vision Quest does. Rather it's an aimless wandering which is meant to reveal something about oneself by leaving behind your life and by analyzing the destination you ultimately end up at. However, after being stabbed, Franklin does hallucinate a version of himself that gives him an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech, forcing/inspiring Franklin to fight for survival rather than give up and bleed out.
  • The Book of Boba Fett. The Tuskens have Boba undergo this after adopting him into their tribe. For some reason this involves making a lizard crawl up his nose into his head, which somehow guides a spice-addled Boba into the desert to find a dead tree from which he can carve his own gaderffii stick. Boba is just as confused as the audience, but goes along with it.
  • 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 more of a glimpse into the future, although it did lead to a major reveal about a character's true identity.
  • 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 (1985) episode "Trail of Tears".
  • In an episode of Roswell Michael goes on a vision quest to try and find out more about where they (the aliens) have come from. Unfortunately, it doesn't go quite as well as he planned.
  • 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.
  • On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf's backstory mentions how he once had a vision of Kahless, telling him that he would do something no Klingon had ever done. He then became the first Klingon to join Starfleet.
  • 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 Cordially 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:
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: In "Brujo", Pablo's shaman uncle helps Ash undergo one of these in order to discover the way to defeat the Deadites once and for all. And then Eligos, possessing Kelly, hijacks the visions in an attempt to kill Ash.
  • One episode of Wilfred has a special kind of weed that induces Vision Quests.
  • On the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Zari", Amaya takes an hallucinogenic tea in order to learn how to better control her rapidly intensifying powers. In the vision, she meets a woman who states that she is the manifestation of all of Amaya's ancestors, and she explains what's happening with Amaya's powers and how to regain control of them.
    • Later in the season, in the episode "No Country For Old Dads", Amaya and Zari undergo a similar vision quest in order to track down Amaya's totem, which has been stolen by the Darhks. They find that the vision plane has been corrupted by Mallus' presence, and meet the ancestor woman again, who explains how the totems were used to turn time itself into Mallus' prison, and the anachronisms his followers are creating are being used to damage time and therefore free him.
    • In the season finale "The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly", Amaya and Nate take another vision quest to see how her ancestors actually went about the process of sealing Mallus, in order to learn how to replicate the process and defeat him for good.
  • Foundation (2021): The most holy pilgrimage of Luminism is to walk the Spiral, a treacherous desert route, without food or water. Those who survive the journey reach a water-filled cavern called the Mother's Womb, where they then have a vision that is unique to them and their experience. In "The Missing Piece", Cleon XIII walks the Spiral to prove to the increasingly radicalized Luminist leadership that he does indeed have a soul, succeeding after he reaches the cave and has a vision of a sacred flower whose symbolism links the genetic dynasty with Luminism's tripartite goddesses. Except it turns out he lied about having the vision, knowing how important the flower is and the impact describing it would have.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted:
    • The Lunars 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.
    • Obtaining sorcery in that setting works in a similar way, by going on a spiritual journey of sacrifice and learning.
  • Mage: The Ascension: The player characters have to go through one to gain a level of magical power.
  • Shadowrun: It's the most efficient mean for a Shaman or Mage to improve their magical power and gain metamagical powers.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Some of the background material for the Novamarines Chapter of Adeptus Astates mentions that its members often undergo vision-quests to a shadow version of their fortress-monastery of Fortress Novum where they are able to seek advice from deceased battle-brothers about events to come and decisions they must make.

    Video Games 
  • One of the Avatar: The Last Airbender online flash games 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.)
    • Vision quests pop up occasionally after this, usually when dealing with shaman or druid quest-givers. Most often the quests involve gathering reagents to perform the ritual and reacting to the vision's contents.
  • 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.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Tifa fall into the Lifestream (a huge mass of spiritual knowledge), causing Tifa to enter Cloud's mind, where she must guide Cloud through his memories and hidden feelings. At the end, Cloud discovers his real identity and his mental problems are cured.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, Zahua's personal quest "Secrets of the Tacan" is a vision quest inspired by sharing Zahua's stash in a place that he believes has spiritual significance to him. He thinks the spirits of the place will show him the lost secrets of the Tacan that were lost when his mentor died. The "spirits" are really just his subconscious trying to tell him that he already knows that said secrets and the Tacan themselves are gone forever, and that he has to let go of the past.
  • Naturally, Star Wars games occasionally indulge in this as a Call-Forward or Call-Back to The Empire Strikes Back, more often than not involving an Enemy Without boss battle.
  • In Disco Elysium, on the fourth day of the game the protagonist has the option of going on a Vision Quest connected to each of the four Ideologies of the game (Communism, Fascism, Ultraliberalism, Moralism) in which you interact with the characters associated with said ideologies and go through some form of revelation by the end.

Riri: On my queer journey I often feel like I'm forging my own path. But sometimes I stumble upon signs that others have been on this road before me... and cross paths with fellow travelers. But it seems like the road left by those before is marked with so much suffering... I sometimes wonder how much more pain lies ahead... and if it's too late to turn back.

    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.
  • The penultimate episode of TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana has each party member embark on a solo vision quest to confront their key character dilemmas.

    Western Animation 
  • In Exo Squad, Alec DeLeon goes on a brief vision quest with the help of the Australian Aboriginal tribesmen while he and Maggie are stranded in the Outback in the episode "The Dream War".
  • 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.
    • Homer experiences another Vision Quest (of a more traditional variety) during The Movie.
  • 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. After Lois gambles and loses their car to a native-owned casino, Peter claims that he's a member of their tribe and that he's entitled to a share of the casino's profits. He is sent on a vision quest to prove his heritage, and ends up finding that his spirit advisor is The Fonz.
  • 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 Brothers episode "¡Viva los Muertos!"
  • On King of the Hill, John Redcorn takes Joseph on a Native American vision quest as a rite of passage. Joseph's father Dale tags along just for the hell of it.
    • At first, Joseph does not get any visions, but Dale does. He sees his wife having sex with a man in an elaborate Native American headdress, and then flashes forward to the day of Joseph's birth, where Joseph is wearing the exact same headdress. Joseph, of course, is a very obvious Chocolate Baby whose actual father is John Redcorn, and both the audience and characters (except for Dale and Joseph himself) are well aware of this. You'd think this would be the moment Dale finally realizes that his wife has been unfaithful to him, but instead he comes to the conclusion that he must be Native American, himself.
    • Later, Joseph gets his vision. He sees himself running with a herd of buffalo, but can't keep up with them and gets trampled. He then comes face to face with a panda. Dale interprets the vision as Joseph needing to keep up with or outpace the buffalo, a new group of "cool" delinquents Joseph fell in with. They planed to prank a panda at the zoo, so Dale suggests killing the panda to prove himself to the group. John Redcorn learns of the vision and explains to Joseph that it was warning him that trying to run with the wrong herd, the delinquents, would trample and ruin him.
    • In The Stinger, it's revealed that the events of the episode also caused Bobby to accidentally complete the rite of passage and experience a vision. He sees himself as a panda playing center square on The Hollywood Squares. He doesn't know the answers, but he's charismatic and funny about it. He likely comes away with the message that pandas are cool and he should keep doing what he's doing.
  • In the seventh episode of Samurai Jack "Jack and the Three Blind Archers," Jack has to wear a blindfold in order to learn how fight only using his sense of hearing, leading to a rather artistic sequence showing the sources of various sounds in Jack's surroundings. This is only after he meditates under a (presumably) freezing-cold waterfall and has a flashback to one of his old mentors spewing the usual ancient proverbial wisdom.
    • A Season 5 episode has Jack meditating on a clifftop in order to send his spirit on a journey to learn how to regain his inner peace and earn back the right to wield his lost sword. What complicates matters is that an entire army tries to kill him while his guard is down.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): The episode "Vision Quest" focuses on the turtles going on quest for spiritual refinement to overcome their respective shortcomings: Michelangelo to be still and calm, Donatello to be strong and immovable, Raphael to concentrate and focus his anger, and Leonardo to understand that the pain he feels is all in his mind.