Shaman in California Hospitals

I read both an article (A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul) and a slideshow (Welcoming Shamans) about introducing a Shaman into a hospital in California in order to help heal patients. These healers are called Shamans and they are used in the hospitals and in homes to perform ceremonies for Hmong people to help heal. There was not really a specific social status noted of a Shaman but they are highly valued to Hmong people because they are healers of the soul. They use various techniques that I do not completely grasp but they use ceremonies to ward away bad spirits that could harm the souls of people who are sick or newborn babies. They use various elements in their ceremonies like animals to sacrifice to the spirits and specific pieces of paper to burn that represent the bad spirits. They interact with very directly with their patients by being right in the room with them to perform these ceremonies. The families of these people are also present for the whole thing. They do not, however, seem to actually touch the patient at all. They are interacting more with the spirits that are affecting the sick person and that person’s soul than the actual person and their body like most styles of western medicine would. The culture they operate in is the Hmong culture which is considered an Asian ethnic group that comes from China. This is being used with these people in California hospitals though because of new California laws put in place to encourage these types of things. Like I said, the symptoms and sickness are not treated by directly treating the patient’s body or mind with medication or surgery like western medicine would. The treatment is of the person’s soul and the spirits are contacted and taken care of through the ceremonies performed by the Shaman who is brought in.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Emily Tassoni says:

    Shamans and biomedical doctors are very different in their practice, however are equally important to people of certain cultures, such as the Hmong. Biomedical doctors are the primary healthcare practitioners in the U.S. These doctors use the power of science and research along with physical treatments such as surgery and pharmaceuticals to treat patients. In contrast shamans are healers of the spirit. When California began allowing shamans in to the hospitals as healers, it opened up a whole new perspective on medicine, a spiritual perspective. The shamans use a series of rituals and prayer to protect the sick spirit from being captured by evil spirits. They do not have any sort of science backing and do not do any sort of physical treatment; as you said, they don’t even physically touch the patient at all in most cases. From a scientific standpoint, these healers are not credible or legitimate at curing disease. However, when combined with modern medicine, they are effective at bringing peace of mind and soul to those who they “heal”, which in turn allows patients to feel more comfortable receiving medical treatment which results in overall more effective recovery. They also bring relief to the patient’s families, as it puts their minds at ease that their loved one’s soul is taken care of, even if their body is not.

  2. Melinda Zielinski says:

    Biomedical doctors and shamans are very diverse in their approaches on health and healing. However, comparing them, both play crucial roles in the healing of their patients. As you stated, shamans do not physically touch their patients, they just interact with the spirits around them. Whereas, biomedical doctors actually touch their patients in order to heal them. This is one huge difference between the two. Biomedical doctors assess and attempt to heal the physical attributes of their patient’s illnesses. For example if a patient had a broken bone they would attempt to fix the broken bone by putting a cast on it. The doctors try and make their patients physically comfortable to rid away their pain. The shamans on the other hand, try and heal the patient with the broken bone spiritually and mentally. The shamans would try and rid away the bad spirits or curses that the person with the broken bone may posses. The shamans might do this through magic, going unconscious to connect with the spirit world, or other shamanistic rituals. At first when I read about shamans I honestly laughed. It sounded ridiculous to me at first. However, now that I’m reading more into them I’m becoming less ethnocentric. I have a bad habit of judging right away. Reading into now, seeing all the studies done on shamanism, and the effects shamanism has on people it seems legit to me. I wouldn’t completely confirm if I totally believed in it until I had a shaman ritual done on me though. I am one of those “I have to see it/feel it to believe it” types of people. Therefore, I wouldn’t say they are credible. However, as for the people that have encountered shamans/shamanistic healing, I would say they are effective because people claim to have been healed by them. For example watching the “Horse Boy” video from class, it was evident that the little boy got better after he visited all of the shamans. When used with biomedical doctors they can be very useful in healing as well as we read in the Clown Doctors article from class. The doctors took care of the physical healing and the shamans (clowns) took care of the spiritual and mental (psychological) healing.

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