There is a connection between surviving PTSD and Western Hemisphere Shamanism. Shaman’s receive a portion of their spiritual formation through interpreting and surviving trauma. The PTSD afflicted person has survived trauma and then needs to interpret their experience of trauma and its meaning. This chain of experience and interpretation allows one to serve in one of the shaman’s important roles: the role of healer and mediator of the community’s trauma.
It is not a given that trauma experience will lead to individual shamanic functions and roles. It is neither automatic nor a necessary relationship. Shamanic formation can be associated with PTSD, but it does not happen to everyone afflicted by PTSD-inducing trauma.
A few years ago I conducted research on Western Hemisphere Shamanism as part of my Gospel of Mark research. At the same time that I did my academic study, the research also enabled me to better understand my own PTSD and use it for the common good. Part of that research was applied in a talk I delivered at a PTSD Healing Retreat a couple of years ago on Christian Shamanism and how PTSD plays a role in shamanism and healing. I had hoped to put that work together further as an article or book, but my physical health precluded me from continuing that project. Now, after a couple years of reflection I wish to come back to the PTSD Shaman.
I do not claim to be an expert on Western Hemisphere Shamanism, my doctorate is not in anthropology. Yet, I have studied it as well as the interpretations of Mircea Eliade (who is controversial for some) and others anthropologists. I have been able to apply what I have learned from cultural anthropology and the anthropology of religion to the task of healing one’s soul from the wounds of PTSD. I do not claim that surviving and interpreting PTSD will transform one into a shaman. Rather, the model of Western Hemisphere Shamanism provides useful ways to understand the PTSD experience. [Some of this may overlap Southern Hemisphere Shamanism, but I have not made a study of it to be able to say one way or another.]
In future PTSD Spirituality Blog posts I will examine the connection between Shamanism and PTSD.