Shamanism

For followers of traditional Hmong spirituality, the shaman is a healing practitioner who acts as an intermediary between the spirit and material world. Treatment might include herbal remedies or offerings of joss paper money or livestock. In cases of serious illness, the shaman enters a trance and travels through the spirit world to discern the cause and remedy of the problem, usually involving the loss of a soul.

This ceremony, called “ua neeb”, consists of several parts. The first part of the process is “ua neeb Saib”: examining the spiritual aura of the situation to determine what the factors are.

If during ua neeb Saib the shaman observes something seriously wrong with the individual, such as a soul having lost its way home and got caught by some spiritual being, the shaman will end the first part of the ceremony process by negotiating with the spiritual being (“whoever that has control of this individual soul”) to release the soul; most of the time this will do. After that, the shaman would lead the soul to its home.

After a waiting period, if the sick individual becomes well, then the second part of the ceremony, referred to as ua neeb kho, will be performed, in which joss paper or livestock is used to protect the individual’s sole from future illness.

Not everyone gets to become a shaman; they spiritually inherit the skill through their family. Typically, there is strong chance for an individual to become a shaman if their family history contains shamans. [6] This is due to the belief that ancestral spirits, including the spirits of shamans, are reincarnated into the same family tree. People that inherit the skills to become a shaman often experience symptoms of unexplained physical illness, bi-polar personality, and multi-personality/ schizophrenia. In reality, these symptoms are the result of the shaman guides trying to get through to the Shaman-to-be person. For those that still practice Shamanism, they’re able to recognize these symptoms and cure their loved ones by helping them develop into full fledged Shamans. For those that don’t practice Shamanism, they often turn to Christian exorcism, western medicine, and psych wards. For the few that become Hmong Shamans, it is considered an honor to help their own.

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