The Shaman and the Psychiatrist: what is real magic?

The Shaman and the Psychiatrist: what is real magic?
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Female shaman in Tuva, Siberia.  Photo by Cherry Gilchrist

This true story comes from an academic friend who specialises in shamanism.  During the harshest Soviet years there was a push to exterminate shamanism in Siberia.  Shamans were imprisoned or executed.  Their ‘bundles’ of head-dress, robe and drums were destroyed, to stop them passing on their power to their descendants.  One such descendant was a woman in her fifties who had become a psychiatrist and worked in a hospital.  Her father had been wiped out in the bad old days.

One day two men came to her door and passed over to her a bulky package.  They told her that her father had made a second ‘bundle’ before he was arrested and asked them to hide it until conditions improved.  Then they were to pass it on to her.

She unwrapped the bundle, put on the robes and head-dress, took up the drum – and danced and sang the song of power.  Her father’s knowledge flowed into her and she became a shaman too.  I have seen a video of her dancing.  I know, such things can be faked, but this was moving and convincing to me,

It’s a resonant story about how valuable traditions can be saved and passed on and it is one the main inspirations behind The Dancing Floor film.  I wondered if it could happen to a psychiatrist here in the UK, who had been brought up to practise rational science-based psychiatry.  How would her father (in this case uncle) pass on his knowledge after his death?  Would she fight against the call?  I felt this should not be presented as a simplistic science-versus-faith battle – it is something much more interesting about the battle between current orthodoxy and a much, much bigger view of the world and its possibilities, which includes magic, science, mystery, intellect and everything else; which doesn’t need or want to exclude any creative way of viewing reality.  The film would ask the question: what is ‘real’ magic?

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Young Sita (Isha Gurung)  in The Dancing Floor: childhood illumination is forgotten when she grows up

 

And that’s a question which Sally Pomme Clayton will be asking when she performs The Magician’s Apprentice at my chapel on May 21.   If you think about that question too, come along – contact me to book a place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing Floor Update

Dancing Floor Update

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 18.22.12 The pilot-teaser film has had its first previews, and so far the reception has been warm and enthusiastic. ‘Beautiful’, ‘so intriguing’, ‘fabulous music’, ‘extremely atmospheric’, ‘I can’t wait to see the long version’ are some of the comments I collected along the way. The first preview was for my Samatha Buddhist friends in Manchester. We set the screen up to one side of the big golden Buddha, and the room glowed with anticipation. I was surprised and pleased when I heard the audience make little gasps and snorts of recognition at key moments, such as when Sita, the heroine says ‘it’s the nothingness between the somethingness which holds the key’. There were many meditators there, and since meditators spend a lot of time exploring nothingness, it is not a scary thing for these guys, as it is for some people in our highly over-wrought and distracted world. The second preview was for my Welsh-speaking and learning friends, at Brechfa Chapel where I live.

Brechfa Chapel before conversion into my house.
Brechfa Chapel before conversion into my house.

It was prefaced with a talk in Welsh by me about the Mabinogion (be very impressed) and a chunk of story from the Mabinogion by Marion Oughton (be impressed again), a learner-friend. I watched my audience watching and could see that the spell of the film was working on them. Their attention was steady throughout and did not waver. They responded particularly strongly to the atmosphere and the uncanny beauty of the drone shots of my pool. The mythic resonances from the Mabinogion also appealed.  They liked the actors, and were the first audience to understand the bits in Welsh! The third preview is still to come: if you live near Brecon come to the George Hotel at 7pm on Monday May 18 where I will be giving a talk for Brecon MIND (Exploring the Edge of Reality)

Gethin (Seiriol Tomos)and Sita (Renu Brindle) meet after 20 years in Uncle Mal's house
Gethin (Seiriol Tomos)and Sita (Renu Brindle) meet after 20 years in Uncle Mal’s house
Young Sita (Isha Gurung) returns to the sacred oak
Young Sita (Isha Gurung) returns to the sacred oak

and showing the film, followed by a discussion, I hope, about creativity, meditation and mental balance. All are welcome and this is a great group of people who put on interesting talks every month. Other news is that I have found a couple of people with skills differing and matching mine who may be going to help me with the next phase: financing and producing the feature film. I won’t name them yet because I don’t want to tempt fate, but I hope very soon there will be a showing in Hay on a big screen, maybe with live music to follow. A London screening will follow soon after that one. If you can’t get to a screening, leave me a message here or on FB and I will send you a special secret link. A crowdfunding campaign will be the next stage, plus the filling in of many forms and the canvassing of more serious investors. There’s a way to go!

Gethin and Sita on the Dancing Floor
Gethin and Sita on the Dancing Floor