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更新時間:2019/10/12 20:22:46 來源:紐約時報中文網 作者:佚名

A 60,000-year-old cure for depression

There I was, on a cold but bright day in late autumn, wearing nothing but my bathing suit, lying on a pile of kangaroo skins and engulfed in plumes of smouldering leaves from a peppermint tree by the banks of a sacred river.


Kwoorabup has been a place of ceremony for thousands of years. The river, located near the small town of Denmark, 360km south-east of Western Australia’s capital, Perth, was given its name by the local Noongar people, who believe it was formed by the Wagyl, a giant serpent from the creation period known as the Dreaming.


Most people journey to this wild coastal stretch of Western Australia’s Great Southern region to visit vineyards, sample delicious produce and holiday by its strip of stunning beaches, but I was there to have my spirit rebalanced by the local medicine man, Joey Williams.

大多數人前往西澳大利亞南部這片偏遠的沿海地區,是為了參觀葡萄園,品嘗美味的農產品,并在迷人的海灘邊度假。但我去那里,是為了讓我的精神在當地傳統治療師威廉姆斯(Joey Williams)的幫助下恢復平靜。

Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal people have the oldest living culture on Earth. For around 60,000 years, their intricate understanding of ecology ensured survival, and their physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being was achieved by maintaining healthy, balanced relationships with all living and non-living things.


At the heart of their communities were traditional healers. They have been respected and entrusted with the well-being of Aboriginal communities for as long as the culture has been alive, yet still today surprisingly little is known of them. The few healers who remain, of which Williams is one, have extensive knowledge of Aboriginal culture and are believed to possess supernatural abilities. Their role is to treat physical, mental and spiritual ailments using bush medicine, smoking ceremonies and spirit realignment – the latter being a common remedy for depression, or what indigenous Australians call “sickness of the spirit”.


In 2017, the World Health Organization published a study stating the total number of people living with depression in 2015 was estimated to exceed 300 million – an increase of more than 18.4% since 2005.


More recently, the Australian Medical Association announced their agreement with other leading global health organisations, declaring climate change a “health emergency” that will cause a higher incidence of mental ill-health, among other health-related issues. With modern living an apparent threat to both mental well-being and the planet ­– and having personally battled with depression myself – I had wondered whether answers could be found by looking back to the wisdom of the world’s oldest continuous civilisation.

最近,澳大利亞醫學協會(Australian Medical Association)與全球主要衛生組織達成協議,宣布氣候變化為“健康緊急情況”,將導致更高的精神疾病發病率,以及其他與健康相關的問題。現代生活顯然對人類的精神健康和地球構成了威脅,而且我本人也曾與抑郁癥作過斗爭,我曾想,能否從回顧世界上最古老的智慧和延續至今的文明中找到答案。

An Aboriginal elder and mubarrn, meaning “medicine” or “lore” man in the local Noongar language, Williams told me his healing ability has been passed down through his ancestral lineage. For him, and other Aboriginal healers, the most important first step in relation to healing is the ability to reconnect to the land, since for indigenous Australians, connection to country represents connection to their culture. For this reason, we’d started the healing ceremony the previous day in the Stirling Range National Park, a 90-minute drive north of Kwoorabup, to experience a reconnection ceremony at an ancient sacred site on the traditional lands of the Koreng tribe to which he belongs.

一位土著長者的穆巴林(mubarrn),在當地諾加語中意思是“醫術”或“傳說”。威廉姆斯告訴我,他的治愈能力是從他的祖先那傳承下來的。對他和其他土著治療師來說,治愈過程中最重要的第一步是恢復與土地聯系的能力,對土著澳大利亞人來說,與土地的聯系代表著與他們文化的聯系。出于這個原因,我們在前一天就在斯特林嶺國家公園(Stirling Range National Park),位于庫拉布以北90分鐘車程的地方開始了治療儀式,在他所屬的科倫(Koreng)部落傳統土地上的一個古老圣地,我們體驗了重新連接的儀式。

Western Australia’s only southern mountain range is an area of extraordinary beauty. It’s one of the few places in the state that gets snow, and spring sees it dotted with an array of brightly coloured wildflowers. Home to 1,500 species, many growing nowhere else, it’s one of the world’s most important areas for flora.


Many of these native plants have medicinal properties, and because Williams spent his early childhood living off the land with family, it’s no wonder that he, now in his late 50s, refers to the area as his “supermarket” and “pharmacy”.


Wading through knee-high grass, Williams showed me how to dig for bloodroot (good for numbing toothache) and gather resin formed from the oozing red antiseptic sap of a marri tree, which strangely resembled the very thing it is known for healing – an open wound. “It cures stomach ache too,” he said.


As we walked, Williams demonstrated that to him and other indigenous Australians, the land is very much alive, with songlines (cultural memory codes that hold knowledge of a place and define the responsibilities attached to kinship and lore) scattered across its skin. After singing the specific songline attached to the spot we were standing, Williams “read” the land to me, pointing out peaks like chapters. “There’s Bulla Meile, the hill of eyes,” he said. More commonly known as Bluff Knoll, southern Western Australia‘s highest peak is where the Koreng people believe they return after death. “And straight out in front of us is Talyuberlup. See her face, breast and stomach?” he asked, tracing curves in the air. “Meaning beautiful woman sleeping. She’s the protector of this range.”

我們在行走時,威廉姆斯用歌聲向我們和其他澳大利土著人證明,這片土地充滿了生機,在它的肌膚上到處散落著歌曲(歌曲是文化記憶的代碼,承載著一個地方的知識,也定義了親屬關系和學識相關的責任)。威廉姆斯唱完與我們所站地點相關的歌后,又帶我“讀”了這片土地,像章節一樣指出山峰。他說:“這就是布拉·邁爾峰(Bulla Meile),為瞭望之峰。”更廣為人知的名字是布拉夫·諾爾峰(Bluff Knoll),西澳大利亞南部的最高峰,科倫人認為他們死后返回的地方。“就在我們前面的是塔盧伯魯普山(Talyuberlup)。看到她的臉、胸和肚子了嗎?”他一邊在空中畫著曲線,一邊問道。“意思是美麗的女人在睡覺。她是這一帶的保護者。”

Following his gaze, the undulating countryside did indeed look like an expecting mother resting, and served as a reminder that Aboriginal people see the land as a “mother” and a guide for reciprocal wellness.


Back in the car, we continued on to Wickelenup, a semi-dry salt lake that is a “power ground”, a place where the Koreng people have performed ceremonial reconnection rites for thousands of years. Wickelenup means “lake of many colours” and it’s named for the ochre pits resting beside it. These large deposits of clay earth produce pigments ranging from pale yellows to deep reds, which, when painted on the body during a ceremony, represent the important connection that indigenous Australians have with the land.


Entering Wickelenup, Williams used clapsticks and what he called a “protection song” to summon his ancestors for the protection and blessing of our steps upon the Earth. After crossing a bed of clay that looked as if giant tins of red and yellow paint had been dropped from the sky, he led me to an oddly shaped chunk of volcanic rock that he used as a platform for grinding ochre. Williams stood with his eyes closed and sang the songline belonging to his family, the Kaarl Poorlanger, meaning “people of fire”, before mixing ochre on the stone and painting a russet-coloured pigment onto my skin in a technique known as “smudging”.

進入韋克倫普,威廉姆斯用拍手棒和他所謂的“保護之歌”召喚他的祖先來保護和祝福我們在地球上的活動。穿過一層看起來像是從天上掉下的巨大的紅色和黃色黏土后,他帶我找到一塊形狀奇特的火山巖,把它當做研磨赭石的平臺。威廉姆斯閉著眼睛站在那里,唱著屬于他那個家族的歌《卡維爾·普爾朗格》(Kaarl Poorlanger),意思是“火之人”,然后在石頭上混合赭石,用一種被稱為“污跡”的技術在我的皮膚上涂上一種黃褐色顏料。

“This is your mark, your connection to this land. You might wash it off later but I know it’s there… and so will you,” he said.


Looking at the symbol on my arm, I asked why he had chosen what looked like ripples in water. “I didn’t,” he said. “You chose it in your mind.” Sensing my confusion, Williams elaborated. “I only have to listen to you for half an hour and I know you.”


Whether healers truly possess any psychic ability, it seems a key skill Aboriginal people have honed over thousands of years is an advanced way of listening.


Elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, an Aboriginal activist, educator and artist from Australia’s Northern Territory, believes “dadirri is the Aboriginal gift” the world is thirsting for.

來自澳大利亞北部地區的土著活動家、教育家和藝術家昂岡梅爾—鮑曼(Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann)認為,“達迪(dadirri)是土著人的禮物”是世界所渴望的。

Meaning “inner deep listening and quiet still awareness” in her Ngangikurungkurr language, dadirri is a form of mindfulness and reciprocal empathy we can develop with the land, each other and ourselves, according to Ungunmerr-Baumann. “We call on it and it calls to us… It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’,” she writes on her website.

在她的朗格庫爾(Ngangikurungkurr)語言中,達迪的意思是“內心深處的傾聽和寧靜的意識”,根據昂岡梅爾 鮑曼的說法,達迪是一種正念和相互同理心的形式,我們可以與土地、彼此和自己一起發展。她在自己的網站上寫道:“我們呼喚它,它也呼喚我們……這有點像我們所說的‘沉思’。”

For indigenous Australians, this spiritual listening practice provides a way to observe and act according to the natural seasons and cycles in a way the modern world seems to have forgotten. “We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly,” she told me.


While much ancient Aboriginal wisdom and culture has already been lost, elders such as Ungunmerr-Baumann are striving to keep what’s left alive, but it’s not an easy task. When the First Fleet of British settlers arrived in Australia in 1788, Australia’s indigenous population was thought to be around 750,000. Ten years later, it was estimated to have dropped by 90%, due to the introduction of new diseases and violent clashes with the European colonisers. Today, indigenous Australians make up just 3.3% of the population. The forced separation of families and removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional lands, lore and practices affected the passing of cultural knowledge and led to the intergenerational trauma that is still being experienced today.

雖然許多古老的土著人的智慧和文化已經消失,但像昂岡梅樂 鮑曼這樣的長者仍在努力讓留下的東西存活下去,但這并不是一件容易的事。當第一批英國殖民者于1788年抵達澳大利亞時,澳大利亞的土著人口大約為75萬。10年后,由于新疾病的出現,以及與歐洲殖民者的暴力沖突,人口大約下降了90%。今天,土著澳大利亞人只占總人口的3.3%。(土著居民兒童重新安置計劃)強迫家庭分離和將土著人從傳統領地、文化和習俗中趕出,影響了文化知識的傳承,并導致了今天仍在經歷的代際創傷。

But one woman advocating for greater recognition of traditional Aboriginal healing principles, practices and medicine is Dr Francesca Panzironi, a human rights academic from Rome. The CEO of Australia’s first organisation of Aboriginal traditional healers, Panzironi formed Anangu Ngangkari Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC), with Ngangkari (healers of Australia’s central desert areas) in 2012.

潘齊羅尼博士(Dr Francesca Panzironi)是一位來自羅馬的女性人權學者,她主張更多地承認土著傳統的治療原則、做法和醫學。她是澳大利亞第一個土著傳統醫學組織的首席執行官,她在2012年與澳大利亞中部沙漠地區的治療師尼崗卡利(Ngangkari)合作,組建了安南古·尼岡卡利·安塔克土著傳統醫學組織(Anangu Ngangkari Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation; ANTAC)。

“For indigenous people, it’s about reconnecting to culture and accessing healing techniques that are different from Western medicine,” Panzironi said. “Western medicine looks at the body from a mechanistic perspective, whereas healers highlight everyone has a spirit that intimately links to the body and emotions.”


Although traditional Aboriginal medicine is not recognised as an alternative medicine in Australia (due to difficulty regulating spiritual practices and the lack of testing of bush medicines), Ngangkaris are recognised in South Australian legislation through the Mental Health Act of 2009, and ANTAC now has healers working alongside Western doctors and mental health experts in some public hospitals. They provide “complementary” treatments to medical care for indigenous Australians – something especially beneficial for people recovering from intergenerational trauma, stemming from colonisation.


Panzironi says there has been increased interest from non-indigenous people, too, who are dissatisfied with the mainstream model and are looking for alternatives. “We had a middle-aged woman who reduced her intake of antidepressants significantly over a six-month period of regular pampuni (a massage technique used for spirit realignment by the Ngangkari, particularly in the stomach, which is thought to be connected to the mind), in consultation with her GP. Both the woman and her doctor noticed improvement in her mental health,” she said.


Currently ANTAC has a mobile clinic allowing Ngangkaris to travel to patients in areas of Australia where access to their services are non-existent, but Panzironi would like to see hospital programmes similar to the one in South Australia rolled out nationwide. “The goal is to have Aboriginal traditional medicine recognised as an alternative medicine and to make healers commonplace, as a viable choice for everyone through Medicare [Australia’s universal health care system],” she told me.


Back at Kwoorabup, Williams was preparing for the final stage of my spirit realignment ceremony. After using smoke to cleanse and protect our surroundings from bad spirits, as is the traditional ceremonial practice among Aboriginal people, he placed a small stone upon my navel – a tool, he said, to absorb my vibration or spirit.


“We’re all made up of vibration,” Williams said. “It’s connected at birth through the umbilical cord. It’s the essence of who we are.” Through his water vibrational healing ceremony, something that is unique to mubarrn of the area, he explained that I’d be able hear my spirit amplified when he placed the stone in the river. “High vibration means anxiety,” Williams said. “Low vibration is depression. I’ll take your vibration and balance it by releasing it through a portal I’ll open in your back.”


I had known the water would be cold, but that still hadn’t prepared me for the shock I felt when it came time to immerse myself in the river. Floating on my back, with Williams holding me, I tried to relax and listen to my “vibration” with the stone now held against my spine, but my shuddering body wouldn’t cooperate.


Pain from the freezing water intensified and I was also experiencing discomfort because I was unused to feeling supported. An irrational fear came over me – if I didn’t break free, to move by myself in a way I was used to, I might sink. But then I felt a strange force pushing up from under me and realised it wasn’t just Williams supporting me, but the river itself.


Doing as Williams asked – to relinquish control and acknowledge pain and trust – I tipped my head back and focused on the warmth of the sun’s rays. I remembered something I’d read earlier by Ungunmerr-Baumann. “We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways,” she’d written. Moments later, much to my disbelief, my ears filled with a sound like the motor of a distant power boat, growing louder and resonating within – sounding a lot like anxiety, according to Williams’ earlier description. Letting go, I breathed out and went under.

按照威廉姆斯的要求,放棄控制,承認痛苦和信任,我仰起頭,專注于溫暖的陽光。我記起我之前讀過的昂岡梅爾 鮑曼的一篇文章。她寫道:“我們不能趕河過去。我們必須跟上潮流,了解它的方式。”片刻之后,令我難以置信的是,我的耳朵里充滿了一種聲音,像是遠處一艘動力船的馬達聲,聲音越來越大,在我的內心產生了共鳴,就像威廉姆斯之前描述的那樣,這聲音聽起來很像是焦慮。松開了,我喘了一口氣,然后就沉下去了。

From my own experience, recovering from depression is a little like resurfacing from a cold river; thoughts like colours and sounds seem brighter, louder, clearer. And even if there’s no magic fix for mental illness, it seems indigenous Australians have much to teach us about developing greater awareness and reciprocity with our planet for our physical and emotional survival – if we only take the time to listen.


“You need to ask, who you are, why you’re here, where you’re going,” Ungunmerr-Baumann told me. “We know who we are as Aboriginal people. It’s in our language, dreaming, country. We’re waiting for all people to listen and hear what we hear so that we can connect and belong together.”