Crazy or not crazy?
In this provocative article written by Stephanie Marohn, African shaman Malidoma Some offers a spiritual view of mental illness.
In Dagara culture, “mental illness signals the birth of a healer,” says Malidoma Patrice Somé. “Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.”
“What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Malidoma. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.”
Malidoma was shocked the first time he visited an mental institution in the West.
“What struck Dr. Somé was that the attention given to such symptoms was based on pathology, on the idea that the condition is something that needs to stop. This was in complete opposition to the way his culture views such a situation. As he looked around the stark ward at the patients, some in straitjackets, some zoned out on medications, others screaming, he observed to himself, ‘So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture. What a loss! What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted.'”
The Dagara view on mental illness intrigues me not only because it radically differs from the Western psychiatric model, but because I’m interested in how African healing modalities can benefit more of us in the West.
Granted, it’s no easy road but due to the increasingly popularity of African spirituality, I’m hopeful that the healing traditions of the Motherland might one day be as widely accepted (or respected) as acupuncture and other non-Western healing traditions.
In this You Tube clip, cultural and biological anthropologist, Chelsea Strayer, discusses her research into Asante healing traditions.
What are your thoughts on the Dagara perspective on mental illness? Or on the growth or challenge of integrating African healing traditions in the West? I would love to hear your comments.
And if you’re in need of a spiritual reading yourself or need to have spiritual work done, just let me know. I’m a professional Ifa diviner and my services are available.
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Producer/Across The King’s River