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Hmong Spiritualit - SHAMANTraditional Hmong Shaman (txiv neeb)

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
Segment Index
Reflections of Escape Kev xav txog thaum khiav Transitions Kev Pauv Mus | Higher Education Kawm Ntawv Qib Siab
The Political Process Tsheej Tswj | PTSD PTSD | The Generation Gap Kev Txawv Txav uas Plam Ntawm Phaum Hluas
Courtship & Weddings Hmoob kev Nkauj kev Nraug thiab Tshoob Kos  | Domestic Violence-Kev Sib Tsim Txom Hauv Vajtse
|Music & Dance H-Music and Dance | Funerals & Repatriation
Kev PamTuag thiab Xa Ntsuj Xa Plig | Spirituality Kev cai dab qhuas
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