book review – shamans of the world
Hello to everyone across all 24 time zones!
January is winding down. The cold winter is still with us here in the northern part of the globe. But, the days are getting longer with the sun now a little higher in the sky.
We feel for the people in the upper plains (US) and in Canada – your high temperatures were lower than our low temperatures! We know what it is to drive a car on icy roads.
For those readers in the southern hemisphere, in such places as Australia, South Africa, Brasil and New Zealand, the days are getting a little shorter now in your summer. We in the north will get the sun back in due time. Then, later in the year, you in the south will take it away again. And, so it goes year after year. . . . seems to be a zero sum game.
As an aside, H. G. Wells wrote a fictional short story titled “The Country of The Blind”, which first appeared in The Strand Magazine (London) in May, 1904. In this work, Wells disproves the adage “that in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. But, now to our essay.
Shamans of the World
Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings, Mysteries, and Miracles, edited by Nancy Connor with Bradford Keeney, Ph.D. (2008 Ringing Rocks Foundation, Sounds True, Inc. Boulder, CO, hardback, 269 pages plus references, art credits and index.) Large public and college libraries may have this book. Used copies may be available through online sellers (Amazon or Alibris).
Each stand alone chapter contains the first person narrative of a natural healer or shaman (also known as a medicine man/woman). The healers themselves tell their stories in their own words. In the past 10 days, I read the chapters about healers in southern Africa (3 chapters), the one chapter on healing in Japan (Seiki, similar to Reiki), and the 2 chapters about Native American healers in the US. The other 4 chapters (on traditional healers in Bali (Indonesia), South America, and the Caribbean) did not grab my interest, so I did not read them.
We can learn much from other cultures, even “primitive” ones. In traditional healing, the laying on of hands enables the flow (or transmission) of healing energy from the healer to the patient. This is a common element in healing the world over. Even in Christian faith healing, the laying on of hands during prayers for healing is practiced. The traditional healers say the flow of energy they feel when touching a patient is often involuntary – it happens spontaneously, naturally, once physical contact is made.
Skeptics may dismiss natural healing and attribute the cures from it as due to the hopes of the patients, and assert that the illnesses were either minor or largely psychosomatic (i.e. in the patient’s mind). While we agree that the mental outlook of the patient plays a role in his/her healing, we believe that there must be something to natural healing as many patients are cured of serious ailments including various cancers. (Modern western medicine, even today, does not do very well with many forms of cancer.)
Another facet of traditional healing is that it tends to treat the patient as a total person, and hence the holistic approach to healing. The medicine man or medicine woman talks with and counsels the patient as to other aspects of health both mental/emotional and physical. These traditional healers understand the problems and challenges that their patients face in their daily lives in addition to the physical illnesses. Herbal preparations can be used in healing in addition to prayers and the laying on of hands. As well, there are communal healing ceremonies where all members of the village participate in prayers, singing and dancing.
An important factor to note is that most of these healers credit their healing power and the efficacy of their practices (healing ceremonies) to the power of God. They believe in God and ask Him for healing for their patients. As an exception, the healer in Japan said “Seiki, the vital life force, is the primordial energy that exists throughout the entire universe” (p. 181). These healers are making use of and keeping alive the wisdom of their ancestors.
Let’s conclude this short review with 3 insightful quotes from the book (emphasis is ours).
From Xixae Dxao, a Kalahari Bushman healer (p. 234):
“I will leave you with a prayer to pass on to others. I ask for the good way for all people. I pray that the Big God will tell all people in the world about the Bushman’s spiritual power. And I pray that everyone will be awakened to God.”
Here are 2 incisive quotes from Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, Zulu High Sanusi:
“One of the most important lessons from our ancestors is the importance of getting rid of negative thoughts and memories because they hinder spiritual progress. You can’t heal others if you have painful memories or heartbreak. We say that a rotten net cannot catch a good fish. A healer who has memory of painful experiences must forget their unpleasant past. Simply stop remembering it. You must forgive those who harmed you and forget their harm. You cannot let the past pain poison your present.” (p. 141)
“. . . . When something strange happens to you or to a friend or to the world, you want to go and find out why. But in the end, you come back filled with superstition. In searching for answers to the unknowable, human beings ended up in the pool of superstition. In the process of trying to get out of it, they only got deeper into it. From the pool of superstition, they escaped to the desert of skepticism where they died very lonely and miserable deaths without knowing anything about this amazing thing we call life. Let the power ebb through you.
“In our teachings we say that you must never question the gods. You must never doubt what they are doing. You must accept. If you are capable of healing, then go ahead and heal. Don’t look to find its mechanism. It’s not there. Simply be what you are called to be. There are things in this world that have no explanation, not because there is no explanation, but because our minds are not designed to find out.” (p. 142)
. . . . end of book review . . . .
The photo below is uncredited. But, let’s caption it: “Concern over the future of health care in the USA”.
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