In the film “Horse Boy” a married couple takes their autistic son, Rowan to Mongolia. Both husband and wife traveled the world with their jobs before having their son and since then their lives have changed dramatically. The husband, Rupert is a journalist and had reported on shamans for many years. After discovering that horses (and other animals) were the only things that calmed their son and prevented tantrums, they decided it might be helpful to visit the shamans where horse riding originated, Mongolia.
The shamans they saw seemed to be highly respected members of their isolated horse or reindeer communities. Some of them dressed in elaborate decorations and danced while playing drums in a ritual that lasted four hours. Another more simply interacted with Rowan and made a motion over the boy’s head as if he were pulling “bad spirits” out. Also, the shamans at times discussed the illness together and with the parents. They decided it was being caused by a troubled spirit on the mother’s side that was holding onto Rowan. Another similarity between the various shamans was that they included the parents in the rituals, as if they were healing the family and not just alleviating symptoms of the boy’s autism. I thought this was an important point because the trip was not just for the son – the family as a whole seemed to need a sort of spiritual healing.
I think that the shamans showed in the film were somewhere in between the popular and folk sectors. Though I don’t think they were included in an organized national healthcare system, they were welcoming to these visitors from America who sought them out. Like I said, they definitely took a holistic rather than a physiologic approach to healing and shared the cultural beliefs and practices of those herding societies. In the end, Rowan’s tantrums lessened, he became more independent of his parents and began learning important skills. The parents were divided on how to explain this definite improvement, though they agreed it doesn’t matter exactly what caused it.