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Reissue: On Trauma and Vegetation Gods

Modern discussions on healing individual minds, cultural wounds, and painful societal histories now revolve around the word ‘trauma.’ Yet addressing trauma is nothing new — traditional cultures across the globe have historically had their own forms of trauma work, without ever labeling it trauma work. For many cultures for many years, a cathartic ritual practice that bypasses the conditioned mind has served multiple purposes as it regrows and re-patterns brains and bodies, and communities. These ritual enactments, communal ecstasies, and group catharses — these weepings over the bodies of lost gods — are traditionally tied to something very specific… vegetation. There is a profound link between the myths and rituals of the old vegetation gods and what we might now term trauma work — because the cycle of vegetative birth, growth, decay, and death mirrors our own cycle. This episode explores the deep link between the repatterning of the nervous system — which itself is described in a language of trees — and vegetation, from the numerous studies that show the healing power of the presence of plants, to the plant medicines that are literally regrowing nerve tissues, to the old vegetation deities whose theatrical ritual enactments, repetitive singing and dancing, and relationship to altered states of consciousness are deeply tied to trauma repatterning. The stories and rituals of the vegetation gods reveal a language around trauma that does not vilify or sanctify trauma, or isolate it, or see it solely as something to be extracted or released, but rather addresses it as part of a larger network of patterning and repatterning, regrowth and assimilation, a greater cycle of nature. If we start looking through this ritual lens, we see ritualized trauma work everywhere in cultures around the world. And it doesn’t always look like we think it would. Sometimes it even looks fairly… traumatic.