The healing power of art and music has been known throughout history. In fact the first healing was music and dance in hunter gatherer cultures freeing what the Kalahari Bushman called healing “boiling energy”. Each night people of the tribe would dance wildly and go into a trance or meditative state. The people believed that the dance itself freed the person’s own healing energy. Eventually, music and dance were combined with costumes and storytelling and with objects and paintings in the creation of a ritual that we would now call theater or performance art. But in ancient times this ritual was sacred and it was part of the culture’s medicine.
In a very real way the first artist and the first healer were one figure in society, one person, the shaman. This figure became a specialist in going inward to the place of creativity and healing. They became the person who embodied the original rituals that previously were spontaneous and made them intentional. All tribal peoples believed that there was a healing spirit that could be freed from within a person by going into the space of music or art and fully participating in the experience. If you would like to increase your ability to be an artist healer, one way is to increase your understanding of being a contemporary shaman. The path of the feather is our way of doing that. It is a way of seeing the earth as sacred and listening to the voices of ancient spirits and spirit animals.
Christian and Buddhist art also works on the principle that meditating on images or listening to certain sounds puts a person in a sacred state and heals. In Navaho sandpainting the patient was put on the ground and the sandpainting was made by a medicine man around them. The sandpainting’s imagery told a traditional Navaho healing story and the healer told the story of the painting to the tribe as it was made. It is believed that the story, and the shapes and colors directly effect the spirits and heal the patient. Researchers find that Navahos using sandpainting are healed from some conditions that Western medicine cannot cure.
Furthermore in traditional cultures it was believed that art healed the world, not just the individual. It was believed that art and music changed the hunt, fertility, the crops, the weather, the life of the tribe, and the earth. Today many healing artists also believe that their art helps heal the earth. They are making environmental or eco-art to heal neighborhoods, rivers or to create world peace.