Shamans in Mongolia

I chose to reflect on the film “The Horse Boy”, mainly because of how interesting I found it. The film opens up with the story of a couple meeting over seas and their story up until the birth of their son Rowan who is diagnosed with Autism. Rowan’s Autism was fairly severe, greatly crippling the family. They struggled mainly with his demand of their attention, inability to warm up to strangers, lack of communication and refusal to be potty trained. The film also discusses Rowans incredible connection with animals, horses in particular. Rowan loves loves the neighbors horse Betsy, and is almost free from many of his tendencies when around her. The father, who is familiar with the work of Shaman because of his line of work, decides to do some research on the relationship between illness and horses. He finds that not only does Mongolia have a large history with horses, but that some of the most powerful Shaman reside there.

Shaman’s are known to heal people through their connection with the spiritual world. They have quite high social status, because they share the same cultural values as people they serve . They treat according to those cultures beliefs, which helps to keep those beliefs so strong. They could be compared to doctors of western culture because their people value and trust them as much as westerners trust their medical doctors. However, they do not live like western doctors. They appear to live very simple lives free of many monetary desires found in most westerners. They use rituals to preform their duties, most rituals are specific to their patient. Treatment is done during rituals and can include, talking, singing, whipping, dancing, and cleansing. Though some of their activities can seem brutal, they always interact very peacefully with their patients.

Shaman tend to preform in the folk sector. There is not much proof of what they do, and they focus on healing naturally instead of through medication or surgery. Instead the patients body and symptoms are often related to the spirits. An example of this might be a spirit pulling the patients soul from their body. This is how most of the healthcare is provided in cultures that have Shaman.

Because other cultures believe so strongly in the Shamans power, the family decides to make the trip in hope that they may find a cure to their sons Autism. Much of the film focuses on their trips to various destinations in Mongolia. It is a very grueling trip for everyone involved, but probably the worse for Rowan. After seeing the first Shaman, Rowan shows affection for a little boy his age; something he had never done before. In the end of the film they make it to the last Shaman, who is believed to be the most powerful. He says that he believes Rowan could one day become a Shaman, and does a ritual for him. Following the ritual, he explains to the family that Rowans autism will not be cured, however the worst symptoms that have been effecting their lives should cease in the next few days.

Rowan makes his first accomplishment the following day, when during playing he pulled down his pants to go the bathroom instead of going in them like he had his whole life. On their trip back to the airport, the family stopped in a town. Rowan started playing with some of the local children, almost completely forgetting about his parents, another incredible step for him. The film ends with the parents going on their first date in four years, leaving Rowan at home with his baby-sitters.

I had no knowledge of Shaman previous to this weeks lectures, and I have to admit I was pretty skeptical of most spiritual healing techniques until now. I’m not sure my opinion has completely changed, but I am definitely more accepting to the idea now.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jacqueline Godin says:

    I also found the idea of shamans to be very interesting and I really did not know anything about them until this week. Shamans are very different to biomedical doctors in the U.S., as you already know. Healthcare is not delivered in a formal setting, like hospitals or doctor’s offices in the U.S. Like you noted above, they also tend to be higher class, like biomedical doctors, but this is not represented by the amount of money or nice things they own. Shamans are much more sympathetic to patients and treat each person as an individual, rather than another sick being. This is very different than in American culture, since here doctors see cases, not people many times. Their goal is to treat symptoms, not help the individual like shamans do. These treatments seem to be effective in many cultures, but I too am still a bit skeptical as to whether or not they are legitimate. My viewpoint may just be a result of how American culture is somewhat closed minded to other ways of healing, though. At the same time, many other cultures are a lot healthier than we are, even countries that are much less poor with less advanced medicine available. This makes me believe that there is some part of medicine and healing we, as United States citizens, are missing.

  2. Danielle Gittleman says:

    I actually have never looked into Shamons but I always had an idea of who they are. For a country that is so focused on allopathic medicine, many people in the US find it hard to believe that such a healing process could ever exist. However, Shamons are considered to have powers beyond what many modern doctors can cure. I have always believed that there is more to human healing than medicines and surgeries and that the body has a way of making itself better. Maybe Shamons just make people aware of the actual powers we may have over our own wellness. Shamons have been connected to “miracles” and have often been called into situations where families have been told that their loved one have no chances of survival. Shamons heal the mind, body, and soul while many allopathic and osteopathic doctors focus on healing the disease or the illness. Because healthcare is provided in many different ways throughout the world, Mongolia is one of those places where cures aren’t found in a hospital setting or a clinical backdrop. Instead, people find healing in the comfort of their own homes and spirit. Although Shamons may not help every one they see, they are looked upon as intellectuals just as doctors in the US are looked at by many others.

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