Shamanic journey of a wounded soul: an auto ethnographic study of bereavement from an indigenous standpoint

Weller, Andrew (2018) Shamanic journey of a wounded soul: an auto ethnographic study of bereavement from an indigenous standpoint. Masters dissertation, University of Cumbria. Item availability may be restricted.

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Whilst listening to the rapid repeating beats of a drum in a small room in Settle, North Yorkshire, the author travels through a series of vivid shamanic journeys to Africa, North America and to the tragic events at Wounded Knee in Dakota. Starting from a place of personal tragedy, the dissertation explores themes of life, death and hope, uncovering a darker side to humanism, shamanism and the misappropriation of indigenous ideas. This auto-ethnography, supported by a semi-structured interview with Rosie Johnson, a local shamanic practitioner, examines questions of ethical practice, cultural misappropriation as well as attitudes to the environment, mental illness and traumatic growth. In writing this dissertation the author comes to terms with his own grief and his relationship to “Nature” which he initially blames for his wife’s death. Also explored are issues of trust, power and powerlessness in the face of overwhelming destruction. Recently there has been interest in outdoor approaches to mental health as well as indigenous forms of psychological intervention such as Shamanism. Some Shamanic practices such as journeying, vision quests, labyrinths and sweat lodges are becoming of increasing interest to practitioners who wish to work therapeutically outdoors. The question addressed by this paper is whether Shamanism might offer a useful perspective for practitioners wishing to take an outdoor therapeutic approach to mental health. To help answer this question the author worked as a client for a period of three months with a local Shamanic practitioner, Rosie Johnson. Taking an indigenous standpoint the dissertation argues that Shamanism in particular shamanic journeying, when facilitated by an experienced practitioner, can provide a useful alternative to a more orthodox staged or task model of bereavement. However there are important issues such as the level of experience and expertise of the practitioner, the importance of ethical boundaries and the responsible use of power which both clients and outdoor facilitators need to be aware of. The author argues that outdoor professionals could do more to use creative and imaginative approaches such as environmental art and storytelling and to integrate the spiritual beliefs and practices of First Nation peoples into their therapeutic work. But this needs to be done with care and respect for the First Nation peoples from where these ideas have originated from. The main finding is that issues of cultural misappropriation need to be taken seriously if outdoor professionals are not to merely replicate abusive practices of the past.

Item Type: Thesis/Dissertation (Masters)
Departments: Academic Departments > Science, Natural Resources & Outdoor Studies (SNROS) > Outdoor Studies
Additional Information: Dissertation presented in part fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Master of Arts in Outdoor and Experiential Learning, University of Cumbria, 2018.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2019 10:14
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 20:15
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