August 18, 2003: Headlines: COS - Malaysia: Psychology: Shamanism: Anthropology: Personal Web Page: Malaysia RPCV Ann Drake writes about Indigenous Traditions of Healing

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Malaysia: Peace Corps Malaysia : The Peace Corps in Malaysia: August 18, 2003: Headlines: COS - Malaysia: Psychology: Shamanism: Anthropology: Personal Web Page: Malaysia RPCV Ann Drake writes about Indigenous Traditions of Healing

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Malaysia RPCV Ann Drake writes about Indigenous Traditions of Healing

Malaysia RPCV Ann Drake writes about Indigenous Traditions of Healing

Malaysia RPCV Ann Drake writes about Indigenous Traditions of Healing


Shamanism is the art of healing practiced by indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are those native to a particular land. The Huchiol of Mexico, the Sioux of America, the Aborigines of Australia the Celts of Ireland the Sami of Norway to name only a few, experienced a kinship with their land in which every natural object within it had worth, meaning,purpose and power- its spirit,energy or soul. Each natural part of our world, including the inhabitants themselves, manifested this spirit, energy or soul. Healing knowledge came from going within to seek intuitively the information needed about the patient.

Disease, problems, distress of any kind was accompanied by some imbalance within the spirit of the person experiencing it- not only the body. This was called soul loss. If another wishing you harm did something to send this harm to you, it impacted your energy or spirit creating what was called an intrusion. It recalls to mind the saying "I feel so bad I can't shake it." Healing required the spirit as well as the body be cared for.

A shaman, who is the medical person, counselor and therapist of a community, would be consulted for problems of a physical,spiritual,social or a psychological nature. The shaman aided the client by going into a trance journey via rhythmic sound (which modern science has established entrains the right and left hemispheres and creates an alpha or trance state.) This journey would be what Michael Harner, an anthropologist who has studied shamanism worldwide, labeled Non Ordinary Reality. It is akin to a trance that utilizes visualization to facilitate healing. Shamanic healing can be entered into by the healer, the client or both as the search for healing begins.

Anthropological studies find that nearly all cultures that use shamanism have a common map for this journey. It is divided into worlds: the Middle World- the day to day world we usually live in and can visualize during a journey; the Upper World-a place of greater perspective and broader vision ;and the Lower World a place of very basic aid and information. In the journey, the shaman would use his or her guides- power animals or allies to find information useful for the client in one of these worlds. This information would then be used on behalf of the client-directly or indirectly.

As culture evolved and organized religions sought to replace the indigenous belief systems, the imagination was utilized by the less political and more spiritual groups in Judaism, Christianity and Islam to facilitate contact with spirit for personal guidance and healing. The Kabbala's use of the Tree of Life, the Gnostics mystical journeys and the Sufils multiple trance inducing rituals are all historical as well as contemporary evolutions of the indigenous shamanic journey.

Journeying is a visualization prompted by the unconscious/conscious energies in a trace state for the purpose of assisting the healing of another. This is a concept which is a paradigm shift for the Westernized, scientific mind which from the 15th century sought to consider "real" only what could be perceived by the senses, weighted,and measured.

Beginning with the Reformation and continuing into the Enlightenment, philosophers/scientists carved the world into a duality shaping every concept: mind/body, spiritual/scientific,right/wrong. Dualism, the concept that body and soul are fundamentally different entities, was an evolving philosophical concept which became a political strategy to seize recognition of newly emerging sciences from powerful organized religions, especially the Catholic Church which had reigned supreme since the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. In that process, the world that science could "see", measure and weigh was the domain of science; the world of spirit belonged to the Church. Healing became medicine, and the spiritual aspect of healing became lost.

This political act to separate the world into dual spheres deprived many of us of our spiritual heritage. Psychology, which in many ways bridges the world of matter and spirit, is frequently pulled to be as scientific or measurable as possible with the intuitive or spiritual aspect of it getting lost in that process.

The shamanic journey as we explore it with you will be familiar to many. We may use other names to label it. A Jungian might call this active imagination to the collective unconscious; a Freudian might see it as the personal unconscious; an Ericksonian hypnotist might experience this as metaphorical work; a behaviorist might simply call it foolish. Traditions all over the world, within every century up to the present time honor it as the healer's journey to use their own unique inner connection to spirit to gather healing wisdom on behalf of the client.

You are invited to consider the experience for yourself.

Loretta Butehorn,Ph.D.
Ann Drake,PsyD

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Malaysia; Psychology; Shamanism; Anthropology



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