Shamans in the steppes of Mongolia

The Horse Boy is a film that follows a family on a journey from their home in Texas to the steppes of Mongolia in an attempt to seek the healing powers of shaman for their autistic son, Rowan.  The father is very open to alternative treatments whereas the mother is slightly more skeptical.  Before the trip really gets going, their guides son (or a random boy…I’m not sure) joins them and Rowan and him get along very well, although most of the time when they are “playing” the camera shows Rowan pinning the boy down or chasing him.  Regardless of roughhousing the parents are ecstatic by Rowan’s newfound ability to play with a peer, although it probably helps that they are in the middle of Mongolia instead of a loud, over stimulating playground.  They visit multiple shamen, but their ultimate goal is finding one from a tribe that rides reindeer.  They find a member of this tribe and he performs a ritual on Rowan.  He tells the family that his autism will never go away, but some of the negative behaviors due to it will cease instantly.    This was evidenced by Rowan suddenly being able to control his bowels.  Most importantly, the shaman also told them that they need to provide Rowan his own “drum and feathers” (alluding to becoming a shaman) meaning that they need to find a place for him in society.

The shaman healers are apparently people who had similar mental disorders and who were ushered in their position.  They don’t seem to have the power of a leader, but are respected by the tribal societies.  Their treatments rely on different rituals, such as symbolic washings, dance and finding connections to trouble in the patient’s family lines.  Shamen consider the mind and spirit more so in their treatments then they do the body itself.  The movie doesn’t say how often shamanistic healing is used, or what other types of treatment are sought out in Mongolia.

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  1. Tyler Kavanagh says:

    First off after reading your summary I got a lot from it and was very well written. Second I found it interesting and a completely different view point of healing and treating illnesses as one taken from doctors here in the U.S. As you said the Shamans perform rituals like dancing, symbolic washings, and finding connections to trouble in the family lines, where as here licensed doctors would just take a direct approach (at least one that seems more direct from our stand point) and would most likely just go off and prescribe medications or surgeries. The Shamans are taking a completely different more holistic approach, and while it may seem completely foolish from a Western medicine stand point, it seems like thats the most widely accepted treatment in Mongolia, just like going to a licensed practicing doctor here in the U.S. is the most accepted thing to do here. So from that point of view I would definitely say that these Shaman are creditable as long as they have “patients” coming their way and as long as they are seeing positive results in relieving what ever symptoms are apparent. To me it’s all a matter of finding out what works for you as a patient and though that maybe tough sometimes, it sounds like the Shaman treatments and practices are widely accepted in Mongolia.

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