From "Bad" Ritual to "Good" Ritual: Transmutations of Childbearing Trauma in Holotropic Ritual

Price: $10.00
Publication Date: 
Dec 2007

In this article a tentative and provisional theory is advanced on the treatment of birth-giving trauma. ?Birth-giving-trauma? here refers to women (and men) psychologically, physically or emotionally traumatized during birth-giving. In the first part of this article I outline anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd?s argument that Western medicalized birthing can be constructed as a ?modern? rite of passage which can negatively imprint disempowering images into women?s minds, reinforce messages of inferiority, and traumatise the birth-giving mothers.


Achterberg, J. (1992). Ritual: The foundation for transpersonal medicine. Revision, 14(3), 158-166.

American Psychiatric Association (4th ed.) (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Washington, DC: Author.

Bache, C. (2000). Dark night early dawn: Steps to a deep ecology of mind. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York.

Bates, B., & Turner, A. (2003). Imagery and symbolism in the birth practices of traditional cultures. In L. Dundee (Ed.), The manner born: Birth rites in cross-cultural perspective (pp. 87-97). Walnut Creek, CA: Altimira Press.

Beck, C. (2004). Birth trauma: In the eye of the beholder. Nursing Research, 53(1), 28-35.

Biesele, M. (1997). An ideal of unassisted birth: Hunting, healing, and transformation among the Kalahari Ju/Tioansi. In R. Davis-Floyd & C. Sargent (Eds.), Childbirth and authoritative knowledge (pp. 474-492). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Bolen, J.S. (1989). Goddess remembered, [videorecording] The National Film Board of Canada, Direction Donna Read.

Davis-Floyd, R. (1992). Birth as an American rite of passage. Berkeley: California University Press.

Davis-Floyd, R. (1994). Rituals of the American hospital. In D. McCurdy, (Ed.) Conformity and conflict: Readings in cultural anthropology 8th ed (pp. 323-340). Harper/Collins.

Davis-Floyd, R., & Sargent, C. (Eds.) (1997). Childbirth and authoritative knowledge: Cross-cultural perspectives. University of California Press.

Davis-Floyd, R. (2002). Knowing: A story of two births. Unpublished manuscript.

d'Aquili, E. (1985). Human ceremonial ritual and modulation of aggression. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, 20(1), 21-30.

d'Aquili, E., Laughlin, C., & McManus, J. (Eds.) (1979). The spectrum of ritual: A biogenetic structural analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.

Elkin, E. (1977). Aboriginal men of high degree. St. Martin's Press: New York.

Ferrer, J. (2002). Revisioning transpersonal theory: A participatory vision of human spirituality. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York.

Grof, S. (1977). The implications of psychedelic research for anthropology: Observations from LSD psychotherapy. In I. M. Lewis (Ed.), Symbols and sentiment: Cross cultural studies in symbolism (pp. 140-174). London: Academic Press.

Grof, S. (1985). Beyond the brain: Birth, death and transcendence in psychotherapy. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York.

Grof, S. (1988). The adventure of self discovery. Albany, N.Y.: State University of NewYork.

Grof, S. (1998). The cosmic game: Explorations at the frontiers of human consciousness. Albany, N. Y: State University of New York.

Grof, S. & Halifax, J. (1977). The human encounter with death. London: Souvenir Press.

Heron, J. & Lahood, G. (2007). Charismatic inquiry in concert: action research in the realm of the between. Handbook of Action Research second edition, (pp. 439-449) (Eds.) P Reason and H Bradbury, London, Sage Publications).

Hollan, D. (2000). Constructivist models of mind, contemporary psychoanalysis, and the development of culture theory. American Anthropologist, 102(3), 538-550.

Kapferer, B. (1986). Performance and the structuring of meaning and experience. In V. Turner and E. Bruner (Eds.) The anthropology of experience (pp.188-203).Urbana: University of Illinois.

Katz, R. (1976). Education for transcendence: !Kia-healing with the Kalahari !Rung. In R.Lee & I. De Vore (Eds.) Kalahari hunters and gatherers (pp. 281-302). Cambridge, Mass; London: Harvard University Press.

Kitzinger, S. (1978). Women as mothers. How they see themselves in different cultures. New York: Random House.

Kitzinger, S. (1982). The social context of birth: Some comparisons between Jamaica and Britain. In C. MacCormack (Ed.) Ethnography of fertility and birth (pp.181- 203). London: Academic Press.

Klassen, P. (2001). Blessed events: religion and the home birth movement in America. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Kremer, J. (1996). The shadow of evolutionary thinking. ReVision: A journal of consciousness and transformation, 19(1), 41-48.

Laderman, C. (1983). Wives and midwives: Childbirth and nutrition in rural Malaysia. Berkeley: California University Press.

Laderman, C, (1987). The ambiguity of symbols in the structure of healing. Social Science and Medicine, 24(4), 293-301.

Lahood, G. (2006a) An anthropological perspective on near-death-like experiences in three men's pregnancy-related spiritual crises. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 24(4), 211-36.

Lahood, G. (2006b) Skulls at the Banquet: Near birth as nearing death. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 38(1), 1-24.

Lahood, G. (2006c) Rumour of angels and heavenly midwives: Anthropology of transpersonal events and childbirth, Women and Birth: Journal of the Australian College of Midwives, 20(1), 3-10.

Laughlin, C. (1988). Transpersonal anthropology: Some methodological issues. Western Canadian Anthropology, 5, 29-60.

Laughlin, C. (1994). Psychic energy & transpersonal experience: A biogenetic structural account of the Tibetan Dumo Yoga practice. In D. Young & J. Goulet (Eds.) Being changed by cross-cultural encounters: The anthropology of extraordinary experience (pp. 99-135). Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.

Levi-Strauss, C. (1963). Structural anthropology. New York: Basic Books.

MacCormack, C. (1982). Ethnography of fertility and birth. London, New York: Academic Press.

Maslow, A. (1969). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 1(1) 1-9.

McClain, C. (1989). Reinterpreting women in healing roles. In C. McClain (Ed.), Women as healers: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 1-20). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

McClenon, J. (2002). Wondrous healing: Shamanism, human evolution, and the origin of religion. Dekalb, Illinois: Northern University Press.

McDermott, R. (1993). Transpersonal worldviews: Historical and philosophical reflections. In R. Walsh & F Vaughn (Eds.), Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision (pp.206- 211). Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Books.

Paul, L. Paul, B. (1975). The Maya midwife as ritual specialist: A Guatemalan case. American Ethnologist, 2(4), 707-726.

Peters, L. (1996). The contribution of anthropology to transpersonal psychiatry. In B. Scotton, A. Chinen & J. Battista (Eds.), The textbook of transpersonal psychiatry and psychology (pp. 207-216). New York: Basic Books.

Potter, J. (1974). Cantonese shamanism. In A. Wolf (Ed.), Religion and ritual in Chinese society (pp. 207-231). Stanford: Standford University Press.

Sered, S. (1991). Childbirth as a religious experience?: Voices from an Israeli hospital. Journal for the Feminist Study of Religion, 7(2), 15.

Simkin, P & Klaus, P. (2004). When survivors give birth: Understanding and healing the effects of early sexual abuse on childbearing women. Seattle, Wash: Classic Day Publishing.

Tarnas, R. (1991). The passion of the Western mind: Understanding the ideas that have shaped our worldview. New York: Harmony Books.

Turner, V. (1969). The ritual process. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

Turner, V. (1979). Process, performance and pilgrimage. New Delhi: Concept Publishing House.

Turner, E. (1992). Experiencing ritual: A new interpretation of African healing. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Van Gennep, A. (1960). The rites of passage. London: Routledge & Keagan Paul.

Walden, N. (1993). Contributors of transpersonal perspectives to understanding sexual abuse, Re Vision: Ajournai of consciousness and transformation, 15(4), 169.

White, H. (1980). The value of narrative in the representation of reality. In On narrative, W. J.T. Mitchell (Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Whitmont, E. (1983). Return of the goddess. London: Routledge & Keagan Paul.