A Shaman for the Soul

In our western biomedical world, we are accustomed to the traditional treatments our physicians use for detecting and curing a disease such as IV drips and blood glucose monitors used in cases of diabetes as the article mentioned. Many other cultures differ in their approach to medicine. Some use alternative forms of healing that might be ancient such as shamanism. Immigrants of the Hmong community who have lived in the U.S. for at least 30 years, were frequently being seen and treated for conditions such as diabetes, ruptured appendixes and cancer, and were not getting proper treatment. This was due to the differences in biomedicine that caused fear in patients and therefore delayed treatment. The main reason for these differences is in the cultural beliefs of the Hmong community. Failure of many hospitals recognizing the deep cultural beliefs has resulted in a new policy some are starting to adopt. One example is the Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California, where they are allowing shaman healers to intervene with treatment and come in to practice the culture’s ways of healing. The Hmong culture values shamans as important people in their society and believe “the soul of an individual is the shaman’s responsibility”. This displays that shamans are ranked high among the Hmong society and are very well respected. One of the cultural beliefs in the Hmong community is that souls are capable of running off and being stolen by evil spirits and those spirits are what cause illness. This is where the shaman comes in to fight the spirits away and heal. The shaman uses different ways of healing. Some include holding ceremonies for hours where they go into trance and try to negotiate with the spirits. The shaman uses items such as gongs and finger bells during the ceremonies. Since these methods of healing are being applied in biomedical hospitals, it requires permission to perform certain rituals. Shamans are the spiritual healers and unlike western biomedicine, they do not accept payments, except maybe an animal as a gesture. By allowing these alternative methods to be incorporated, it is considering the patient’s beliefs and values when treating a condition or illness. As a result patients feel more comfortable and have the emotional support, which will help their treatment and therefore it will be more effective.

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