Spiritualit - SHAMAN
What is a Shaman?
Hmong shaman (txiv neeb) act as spiritual mediators between the Hmong
people and the spirit world. They can find lost souls, call upon helpful
spirits to aid those in need, and grapple with demons who might wish ill
on humankind. The shaman is also a healer who travels into the spirit
world to determine spiritual causes and treatment of sickness, which
sometimes manifest outwardly by fatigue, weakness, bad dreams, and
loneliness. Sometimes Shaman can only cure the sick by retrieving their
lost or captured souls through a process known as soul calling.
How are Shaman chosen?
Traditionally one cannot choose to become a Shaman. Instead a Shaman (neeb
muag dawb) [link to glossary] is “chosen” by the spirits independent of
individual or community preference. However, families and clans are
often aware of who might become a Shaman because all potential Shaman go
through a similar process of selection. The first indication of being
“chosen” is the onset of a serious illness—one that cannot be cured by
medication or normal healing methods because the cause of the illness is
caused by spirits. Essentially, the spirits render the fated Shaman ill
until he or she acknowledges and accepts the calling. During this
illness, an existing Shaman uses the dab neeb [link “dab neeb” to
glossary] (or power of the spirits) to reveal whether or not the person
is in fact a Shaman. The ceremony involves placing the “sick” person on
the Shaman’s chair with the person’s face covered in a black piece of
cloth. The Shaman slips four bells around the fingers of the sick
person. Eventually, if the person’s hands and legs shake it is a sign
that he or she will become a Shaman. After the “chosen” one agrees to
become a shaman, the spiritual illness is cured.
(Learn about other kinds of Hmong Shaman here)
How do Shaman learn their craft?
It can take years to become familiar with the sacred ceremonies, chants,
and complex rituals that are part of the Shaman’s responsibilities. A
new Shaman must also become familiar with the names and natures of the
many good and evil spirits with whom he or she will interact in the
future. Essentially, a new Shaman must apprentice with the Shaman that
assisted in the choosing ceremony. A good apprentice must to listen to
the master’s words and emulate all he or she does. Explicit instructions
from teacher to pupil are passed on at night or in the forest.
Traditionally, the two would lie together on a sleeping platform and
discuss the mysteries of the unseen world, passing on vital knowledge
mouth to ear, one Shaman to the next. Apprentice Shaman also benefit
from teacher spirits who provide further instruction on ritual practice.
VIEW A VIDEO OF A SHAMAN CHANT