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Hmong Shamans


  • pg 1
									Hmong Shamanism

  August 30, 2000
   Right now you are receiving:
• Reading guide for “Hmong Cultural Values,
  Biomedicine, and Liver Disease”. Please
  use this to help guide your preparation for
  next week’s section meetings
• Topic list to choose from for your first
  segment paper, due September 25th
• Announcement on Wed 12:50 sections
 Make-up sections next week for
 Monday (Labor Day) sections
• 9:35 am Monday section (with Sam) will
  meet at 7pm on Wednesday in Hines 104
• 11:45 am Monday section (with Sam)will
  meet at 8pm on Wednesday in Hines 104
• 1:55 pm Monday section (with Sefla) will
  meet at 7pm Thursday in Maxwell 110
• 4pm Monday section (with Steve) will meet
  at 7pm on Tuesday in Maxwell 108
    Defining “shamanism”

• “Shaman” is not a Hmong word; it
  is a Tungus word. The shaman in
  Hmong is known as Txiv Neeb
  (“master of spirits”)
         Defining “shamanism”
• Shamanism is a belief system found throughout the world
  in which
   – an individual is chosen by the spirits to heal the
     afflictions of others, and does so by
   – achieving an altered state of consciousness (ASC),
   – thereby enabling his soul to cross over to the spirit
   – in order to dialogue with the spirits, either to
   – tap their power or to persuade them to cease and desist
   – and then to cross back over to the world of the living
   – key point: shamanism is not spirit possession
            Dale’s affliction
• Dale is young Hmong man who lives in
• About a year ago, began to lose weight,
  energy, desire to interact
• Went to a doctor, who diagnosed
  “depression”; prescribed counseling and
  visit to neurologist for possible chemical
• Family dissatisfied
 Hmong: A People from the hills
      of Southeast Asia
• Small rice and maize
  villages in the hills of
  south China, Thailand,
  Laos, Vietnam
• Strong value of
• Hmong: “free people”
Where the Hmong now live
            • In China: 3 million
            • In Vietnam: 200,000
            • In Thailand: 200,000
            • In Laos (“the
              homeland”): 100,000
            • In the U.S.: 100,000
A devil’s bargain: becoming
guerrilla fighters for the CIA
               • 1960s: recruited by
                 CIA to fight Viet
               • Experts in mountain
                 and forest habitats
               • In proportion to
                 population, lost 10
                 times as many soldiers
                 as did the Americans
           Becoming refugees
• Reprisals against
  Hmong after 1975
• 10s of 1000s fled to
  refugee camps in
• Horrible exodus
Hmong refugees in the United
              • About 100,000
              • Seattle, Minneapolis,
                southern California
              • about 600 in Syracuse
              • Syracuse community
                small and traditional
 Dale’s diagnosis by the shaman
• Dale’s mother went to cousin who is a “txiv
• the cousin threw divination “horns”
• diagnosed Dale’s illness as loss of soul: it
  had wandered in search of girl, captured by
  evil spirits
• Agreed to go to Otherworld and negotiate
    The Hmong View of Souls
• The body houses between five and thirty
  different souls or life-forces
• These occupy the body loosely, especially
  the younger one is
• Can wander off at night, or when visiting
  unfamiliar places
   Health, Illness and Soul-Loss
• For Hmong, the body is healthy when all
  souls remain in the body, cooperating
• Illness is due to prolonged separation of one
  of the souls from the body: getting “caught”
  in the Otherworld
• Soul-loss due to longing for a loved one,
  sudden frights, spiritual kidnapping,
  wandering into the otherworld
   Soul-loss fear as reflection of
      Hmong social values
• The body sometimes called the soul’s “house” or
• The idea of a solitary soul that has strayed from
  the body is frightening and dangerous
• reflects Hmong value that a person should not
  want to be independent of the group; one who has
  strayed from the group is dangerously vulnerable
  and alone
• Physical health is achieved by return of soul to
  body; social health achieved by return of person to
 The shaman’s journey for Dale
• Family built altar and “horse”
• Extended family filled house
• Shaman entered trance (opium, sonic
• Traveled with his spirit-helpers on a horse
  to the Otherworld to find lost soul
• Pig sacrificed, blood daubed on Dale
• Negotiated with evil spirit for soul’s release
• Returned and bound the soul to Dale’s body
• Feast
          Why did it work?
• The Hmong view
• The non-Hmong view --- next time!
       How shamanism looks
• Watch how the shaman gallops into the
• The sacrifice of the pig

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