Mental Health
   Shamans have been characterized as psychotic, schizophrenic, epileptic, neurotic, or otherwise mentally ill by a number of authors during the 20th century and especially since Maria Czaplicka’s notion of “Arctic hysteria” (1914). Having witnessed the apparently bizarre, violent, and disturbing shamanic performances of Siberian shamans, Czaplicka argued that the harsh arctic environment (including lack of light and essential vitamins) led to shamanism as a peculiar form of institutionalized mental illness—although she does argue that shamans are accomplished in retaining control over these “fits” of hysteria. In a similar vein, an ethnographer in Melanesia in the 1930s, John Layard, identified the bwili or “flying tricksters” of Malakula (Vanuatu, Melanesia) as epileptic shamans due to their uncontrolled shaking, on the one hand, and otherwordly feats including transformation into animals, on the other. Layard concluded that the bwili’s epilepsy was a form of institutionalized shamanism. Classifying shamans as mentally ill immediately reinforces their status as Other and exotic, revealing more about our peculiar fetishes as Westerners than the reality of indigenous shamanisms. Psychoanalytic anthropologist George Devereux argued in the 1950s and 1960s that Mohave shamans were neurotic, while Andreas Lommel supposed that the mental illness of European Paleolithic shamans led to artistic creativity in the form of cave art. Western artists of the 20th century have also often been defined as shamans, with their art the result of a somewhat beneficial mental illness— Vincent van Gogh’s alleged epilepsy being one example. Parallels have been drawn by Julian Silverman in the late 1960s between shamans and schizophrenics, but while the latter are paranoid, socially distant, and unable to control their experiences, shamans are better known for their intense mental concentration (Kehoe 2000), social embeddedness/efficacy, and often a degree of control over their altered state of consciousness. Indeed, Richard Noll (1983) has convincingly outlined a “state-specific” approach to the “schizophrenia metaphor” for shamans, effectively deconstructing the idea. The inversion of shaman-as-psychotic to shaman-as-psychotherapist emerges in the 1960s with experiments on psychedelics. Psychotherapists were quick to see Carl Jung as a shaman and psychotherapy as a modern form of shamanic work, as among the work of Stanislav Grof, Stanley Krippner, and Ralph Metzner. Refreshing as this is in revising the idea that shamans are mentally ill, it has its own problems, especially as a restrictive psychological metaphor for shamanisms. Whatever the discourse, it is clear that socially effective shamanic practice must be regarded as mentally sound in its context— shamans may resist “normal” classifications, but they are not “mad.”

Historical dictionary of shamanism. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mental health — describes either a level of cognitive or emotional well being or an absence of a mental disorder.[1][2] From perspectives of the discipline of positive psychology or holism mental health may include an individual s ability to enjoy life and… …   Wikipedia

  • mental health — noun uncount the condition of your mind: Nicholson had suffered from various mental health problems. a. only before noun connected with mental health or the treatment of mental health problems: mental health services …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • mental health — UK US noun [U] ► the condition of the mind that shows whether someone is feeling happy, able to work, etc.: »Stress in the workplace takes its toll on worker productivity, morale, and mental health. ● mental health day Cf. mental health day …   Financial and business terms

  • mental health — n the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental disorder (as neurosis or psychosis) and by adequate adjustment esp. as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about… …   Medical dictionary

  • mental health — index competence (sanity), sanity Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • Mental Health — Mental Health,   seelische Gesundheit …   Universal-Lexikon

  • mental health — It is estimated that there are 66.3 million people suffering from various forms of mental disorder in China (Murray and Lopez 1996a, 1996b). The majority of patients in psychiatric hospitals have schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders.… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • mental health — UK / US noun [uncountable] a) the condition of your mind Nicholson had suffered from various mental health problems. b) [only before noun] connected with mental health or the treatment of mental health problems mental health services …   English dictionary

  • mental health — noun the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment (Freq. 1) • Ant: ↑mental illness • Hypernyms: ↑psychological state, ↑psychological condition, ↑mental state, ↑mental… …   Useful english dictionary

  • mental health — noun Mental health is used before these nouns: ↑counselling, ↑counsellor, ↑problem, ↑specialist …   Collocations dictionary

  • mental health — protinė sveikata statusas T sritis Kūno kultūra ir sportas apibrėžtis Sveikatos būsena, susijusi su kaupimu žinių, kuriomis žmogus remiasi, darydamas sprendimus, nulemiančius jo elgesį ir turinčius įtakos jo organizmui. atitikmenys: angl. mental… …   Sporto terminų žodynas

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”