Gift of the Dreamtime – S. Kelley Harrell

Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma
S. Kelley Harrell
Spilled Candy, 2004
156 pages

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, and finally had the chance to sit down and do so. I’m very glad that I did; it’s a wonderful resource that I think more people need to know about.

Harrell, a modern shamanic practitioner, offers up her story of how she used shamanic techniques to heal herself from the effects of childhood sexual abuse. She works within a first person narrative, using her words to illustrate her journeys to the Upper and Lower worlds to visit with guides and retrieve pieces of her soul. Rather than abstract descriptions of what “should” happen, she tells the story of her own experiences, both the good and the bad. A warning: while her descriptions of abuse are not incredibly graphic, they may be triggering for some people, so be prepared. There are techniques for healing in her story, but not without the price of facing the past.

I generally am not a fan of narrative shamanic texts, a common format in core shamanism/neoshamanism books. However, this one is an exception. I felt that, rather than trying to impress me with credentials and pidgin-English-speaking guides, Harrell simply wanted to offer up the solutions that helped her in the hopes of sharing healing with others. Hers is a humble story, and instead of 200 pages of ego-stroking and no meat, I got a lot of ideas for working with my own traumas; while I was never abused as a child, I’ve had my own traumas both as a child and an adult, and this book has planted a few seeds in my mind.

The book is not without its potential controversy. At one point Harrell writes about how one of her guides reveals that the reason she was raped was that she owed a debt from a previous life to her rapist. I know this made me look a bit askance, as I’ve seen New Agers take this idea to the extreme of saying that anything bad that happens to a person is caused by bad karma. However, due to the nature and quality of the book, I trust the author to be honest, and she never comes across as the least bit fanatical or off-balance.

Additionally, I would have liked to have seen more content. It seems that she mainly hit the highlights of her journey, and it’s a little unclear how long it takes her to get from one section of the story to the next. Granted, she is revealing a very personal part of herself here, so it may be that she only tells what she’s comfortable with. Still, I’d be curious as to some of the backstory, what happens inbetween the meetings with the various guides, and a timeline of when these journeys happened. The book as it is, though, progresses nicely, so even if she chooses to forever keep the rest under wraps, this is a worthy project.

Overall, I recommend this to those who have experienced trauma in their lives, as well as those who work with such people in a spiritual role, and want some good ideas for healing through shamanic techniques. It’s not a huge how-to book, though there are some basic pieces of information at the end. Rather, it’s one person’s story of how she utilized these techniques to do some pretty serious healing on herself. It gives hope for those of us who sometimes feel that maybe we’re not doing things right, or that perhaps there is no healing to be had.

Five pawprints out of five.

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