Door to the Beyond: Mental Health and Paganism

Thank you for welcoming me back for another walk through the Door.

Our next question is, what is the relationship between "madness" and Paganism? Quite simply, the answer appears to be that the special gifts which others view as "madness" and those which others view as "psychic abilities" appear to come from the same place – our Inner Child. Do you hear "voices"? They could be your spirit guides, or bad experiences with your family "environment" repeating themselves as though the person who first said those things was saying it right now.

The following is an extract from website information on "The Icarus Project" (The Icarus Project – HIGHLY recommended):

Dangerous Gifts

Despite the risks, we recognize the intertwined threads of madness and creativity as potential tools of inspiration and hope in this repressed and damaged society.

What if madness in society is an ecological response to the monocropping of our minds, and it has the potential to push the sensitive, creative, spiritual people at the fringes to become healers and leaders and turn the whole system upside down? At the very least, history bears witness to the fact that “mental illness” is far more common in populations of artists, writers, and musicians than it is in society at large. The Icarus Project is home to a truly talented and unique bunch of creators and visionaries whose sensitivities allow them access to all kinds of worlds; this section is designed to house art and writing that reflect and explore the brilliance we hold inside.

Visions & Super-Powers

Mystics & Shamans

It’s striking how much overlap there is between the tendencies and behaviors our society attributes to the "seriously mentally ill" and the tendencies and behaviors that shamanic and mystical cultures view as prerequisite for someone to take on visionary roles. This section explores the ways that sensitivity and altered states of consciousness can grant us access to radically different understandings of reality, sometimes putting us in touch tremendous powers of healing and connecting us to a sense of the mysteries much greater than ourselves.


Dreams are full of clues if we allow ourselves to see them. All masked in layers of metaphor and symbol. They can be a whole other set of maps, maps to the underground unconscious each of us carries around with us. Sometimes dreams can even let us know where we are and where we might be going… If you’d like to contribute to this section or help get it off the ground, e-mail [email protected].

X-Ray Visions

It is a common experience among people struggling with "mental disorders" to see things that the people around them don’t see. While medical authorities usually write off people’s visions as mere delusions and recommend higher levels of medication, quite often the things we see and hear are evidence of a heightened sensitivity and of the thin skin that comes with madness. Our porous nature allows us to have an intimate relationship with parts of the world other people will only ever read about. Like all the classic superheroes, our superpowers are dangerous gifts that intensify the struggle of our lives. But they are superpowers, and we can learn to use them." (end of quote)

Does anything sound familiar here? Icarus Project has taken the lead in demystifying "mental illness", changing the terminology from "sick", "brain disorder", etc., to "Dangerous Gifts".

We all have dangerous gifts. Even the most benign healing powers may do harm, or you may need to do harm in order to heal (i.e., killing cancer cells, psychically "cutting tissue", etc.).

It is these same gifts which made us feel "outcasts" in our parents’ religion, uncomfortable no matter which church we attended, and caused us to keep searching until either we found Goddess or She found us. It is these same gifts that our religion (with a good teacher or lots of good books) trains us to use, "always harming none." It is these same gifts that are written about in all the Pagan literature, and "The Old Laws" are full of references.

It would be easy to write all Pagans off as "mentally ill". The truth of the matter is that, under current psychiatric definitions, every man, woman and child in the U.S. could fall under some psychiatric diagnosis – or several, or different ones depending on the diagnosing physician. This is not to say that Pagans are "crazy", or any crazier than the rest of the country (or the doctors themselves). Our difference is our strength, the welcome the Lady extends to us, the acceptance (however slowly) of those gifts and the desire to do good with them, the desire to grow those gifts and powers.

It would not do anyone any good to recite the stories of the people who have come to me about going to a "Pagan teacher" and being told that s/he refused to teach them because of their "illness". What will do good is to recognize all our potentials, the safe and the dangerous, and be willing to teach what we know or have experienced.

I hope you remember my earlier belief statement: "God/dess is Love. Love unites; Judgment divides." Turning a potential student away because you are uncomfortable with them, or afraid of them or their "illness", or because of something in their past (especially if they have worked hard to get beyond it) is an admission of your weakness, not that of your potential student. Embrace your Dangerous Gifts as your Lady embraces you.

"Mental illness" is a combination of factors – abuse, poor nutrition, bad experiences, bad drugs, and lazy doctors appear to be the main ones at the time I write this. People with multiple personalities probably developed them to keep their "center" "safe" while their body was being abused by someone. I do not believe that it makes them unacceptable as a Priest or Priestess. I hope I’m not alone in this belief.

Back to the nutritional angle, I wrote last month about the lack of certain essential fats missing from the typical American diet. There are other deficiencies noted throughout the country, and I’m going to discuss a few of them here.

First, mineral deficiencies. Doctors try to tell us of the dangers of excessive mineral intake, but they rarely tell us the rest of the truth. All minerals have an essential level, a therapeutic level, and a toxic level. I don’t care if you’re discussing radium, oxygen, or calcium, the above is a true statement. For some of those minerals, the essential level may be miniscule; for others it is quite large. The typical American diet does not come close to providing essential levels of magnesium, potassium, or other minerals, while it exceeds the levels for sodium, chlorine, and a few others.

Magnesium appears to have a large role in the treatment of "mental illness", particularly stress, anxiety, and panic responses. The amount of magnesium your body needs can range to as high as 3 grams per day or higher; most diets include between 300 and 800 milligrams. The problem with supplementing magnesium is that many forms, in adequate quantities, cause periastalsis (diarrhea, which ends as soon as the excess magnesium is flushed from the system). This is both a plus and a minus, as magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) has been used for generations as a laxative.

The problem is, what form are you taking? Magnesium can be supplemented as oxide, sulfate, carbonate, or even orotate. The trick is to get the magnesium out of your bowel and into the rest of your cells. One common supplement that has been found to aid in this process is malic acid.

The other trick is to use as many of the possible sources as possible – magnesium sulfate is most likely to cause periastalsis, oxide and orotate least likely, but if you balance them you can avoid it entirely. (At least one supplement company sells a "Magnesium Complex" supplement.)

Also, supplementation of magnesium at high levels will throw your calcium level out of balance; always take additional calcium when you’re taking extra magnesium. For a variety of reasons, I do not recommend mixed calcium-magnesium supplements.

A much-overlooked mineral is lithium, except when you have been diagnosed as "bipolar" or "manic-depressive", in which case your doctor prescribes a common – but very toxic – form of lithium, lithium carbonate. In a combined medical-geological survey in the 1950s, it was noted that some areas with lower rates of "mental illness" than other areas had measurable amounts of lithium in their drinking water.

The only organ in your body which appears to need lithium is your brain. Lithium carbonate is dangerous in that it does not easily pass the elemental lithium past the "Blood/Brain Barrier" (I know it sounds silly, but look it up, they really do use this term). The solution, in the mind of medical science, is to flood your body with enough lithium carbonate to get enough lithium to your brain. The negative of this is that your other organs do not need lithium, and this causes many "side-effects" including eventual kidney failure.

The natural solution is to take lithium orotate (lithium chelated with orotic acid, a natural amino acid). Lithium orotate contains a very small amount of lithium, and the orotic acid carrier has been shown in many studies to pass essentially all the lithium through the Blood/Brain Barrier. (Years ago I was taking 1800-2100 mg of lithium carbonate daily, giving me from 756 to 882 mg/day of elemental lithium. I currently take 360 mg of lithium orotate, supplying less than 15 mg/day of elemental lithium.)

I asked my doctor about taking lithium orotate. She stated plainly, "I know nothing about it. I’m not going to talk about that." What is interesting is that she annotated my patient file with the words, "Advised pt. strongly against it." Unless you have an exceptional psychiatrist or doctor, you will likely get the same result.

Excessive lithium intake also tends to degrade or damage your thyroid gland. Lithium orotate has shown (in a few cases, all anecdotal to date) that it does not cause that harm, indeed, in one case the person’s thyroid (having been damaged by intake of lithium carbonate) improved and her doctor cut her Synthroid dosage in half.

For information on this and other natural therapies, especially for bipolar and depression, please visit my website .

That should be enough to hold you until next month. Question, read, study, talk to others. In particular, I have gotten a lot of support from the Bi-polar_pagans Yahoogroup people.