By Rev. Terry Riley HP SDCW – ATC
I was at a festival in Missouri last week and a young man who was autistic kept coming up to me and asking the same question. Now at first glance this didn’t seem that important. However, here recently I have been looking into mental illness and how it has been misunderstood by modern western medicine. Since our Church, Southern Delta Church of Wicca – ATC, as part of our community service has applied and going to be accepted as the local Chapter in NE Arkansas for NAMI, (National Association of Mental Illness) we have been looking at Mental Illness from a spiritual point of view.
In the olden days in most tribal cultures a mentally ill person was considered gifted or a Shaman not yet fully born. In our society they are looked upon differently as “Not Normal” so to speak. So they are shunned and carted off to be medicated because they are a burden on society and more often than not treated as someone to be pitied.
There is a great article by Doctor Madidoma Patrice Some’, a shaman of the Dagar people of Africa. He says that a person with mental illness signals “Good news from the other world” because a person with mental illness is a “Healer trying to be born” for the betterment of the community. For further reading here’s the link to the article: http://earthweareone.com/what-a-shaman-sees-in-a-mental-hospital/
I’ve always believed this and believe it even more now after having a special message given to me by one of these powerful individuals. During the festival he kept asking a question I did not know anything about. And he kept calling me, “Mr. Old Druid.” I was teaching at the Festival on how Wicca is moving into a new era and how our clergy needed to be trained not only in coven structure; but Church structure as well. I was also pointing out how we as Wiccans needed to be more proactive publicly, politically and promote the Faith as a religion of honor, integrity and dignity equal to other major faiths of the World. Now admittedly, I have caught flack over the years from some Wiccans who don’t see my point of view, probably even some who attended the festival. But I always end these talks with an analogy: “The religion of Wicca is the fastest growing religion in the United States, because it’s changing and growing. It’s like a Caravan that’s moving on. In the old days when caravans began to move there were always dogs running alongside the wagons barking. These dogs will continue to bark, not realizing they have a choice. They can jump on the caravan and ride it with us or stand there and bark, but the caravan is going to move on. What we have to explain to them is the fact that we are not leaving them behind. The fact is they’re choosing not to go with us.”