Posts Tagged ‘Exorcism’

How traditional Africans treat clinical depression

April 15, 2014

The writer Andrew Solomon used to suffer from depression.  A friend of his who lived in Senegal said the people there had a traditional cure for depression.   In the spirit of being willing to try anything once, he traveled to Senegal and had the chance to get a Senegalese village therapy session.

It consisted of stripping to a loincloth, being rubbed with millet, listening to a tape of Chariots of Fire, holding shamanistic objects and dropping them, listening to villagers drumming, getting in bed with a ram, being covered in blankets and sheets by dancing villagers, stripping naked, being drenched with the blood of the ram and two roosters, drinking a Coke, being wrapped in the intestines of the ram, burying little bits of the ram, receiving the millet wrapped in paper with orders to give it to a beggar the next day,  saying goodbye to the spirits that infested his body, and then being cleansed of blood by village women spitting water on him.

And you know what?

Although he had no belief whatever in exorcisms or spirits, the experience left him feeling great.

Some years later he went to Rwanda, which is on the other side of Africa.  A Rwandan acquaintance told him that while Rwandan customs were different, the Senegalese ceremony made sense to him.   Then, according to Solomon, the Rwandan said something interesting:

You know, we had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide, and we had to ask some of them to leave.”

I said, “What was the problem?”

And he said, “Their practice did not involve being outside in the sun, like you’re describing, which is, after all, where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again when you’re depressed, and you’re low, and you need to have your blood flowing. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgment that the depression is something invasive and external that could actually be cast out of you again.

“Instead, they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to get them to leave the country.”

Click on http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/notes-on-an-exorcism to read Solomon’s whole article.