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Thai Vang: Shamanism

Sarah M. | Izzy L. | Mariah | Gabby | Nate | Pakou | Emma | Dylan | Mark | Martha

Thai Vang was a refugee at Ban Vanai, Thailand, for the first several years of his life. His father had two wives, and he had four sisters and seven brothers. When he was 4 or 5 the spirits started sending him messages through dreams, signaling for him to become a shaman. He had become very sick, and was reborn a shaman. A shaman is a Hmong doctor that heals people with troubles, whether it’s stress, or a car accident or anything. Basically he can just tell if he looks in the victim’s eyes what is their problem, he can also tell whether he’ll be able to help, and if the person will live or die. Even if he knows the patient will die, he still says they’ll be fine, and does his best to heal them. He helps them by going into a trance. He goes into the trance by having helpers beat drums and shake rattles because the instruments will help his body spirits fight the bad spirits. Once he is in the spirit world he makes a deal with the spirits, like “I’ll give you a chicken if so and so is well in 2 days.” And I guess the spirits agree and he comes back. If you are asked by the spirits to be a shaman you must not refuse, but it is such a great gift Thai doubts anyone would.
–Sarah M.

People think that Thai is the youngest shaman in Hmong history. He was 5 when he first became the youngest shaman ever. Usually a shaman is sick before they become a shaman. That happened to Thai. He was so sick, nothing would cure him. Then the spirits told him that if he became a shaman, he would get better. So he became a shaman. Unlike other shamans, he had no tutoring from an older shaman. One of his abilities is being able to find out what happened to the patient even if they don’t tell him. He just looks into their eyes. He can heal non-Hmong, also.
–Izzy L.

Thai Vang is proud to be a shaman, because it is a gift to be a shaman. Thai Vang was born in Thailand, and is very traditional. He has been to the spirit world many times, and I wonder what it is like? If it is a good place or a bad place? And why they go to it? His more recent shaman act was helping a woman give birth to a child.
–Mariah

You have to be a good person to be a shaman. It is a big responsibility because if that person dies it’s your fault. Not all good people become shamans. The spirits choose you and if you dDrawing of a shaman's ring by Sarah M.on’t accept you will get sick and won’t get better. When he helps someone he knows right away if they will be ok but he isn’t allowed to tell the people. Shamans bring back spirits to people’s bodies. Every person has 12 spirits and the main spirit is the body spirit. The bone spirit never goes away. Sometimes he has to tie the spirit to the body so it won’t go away. He has a net that catches the spirits. After you have it you cover it with the buffalo horns. Shamans think that sicknesses are spirit losses. Shamans work with doctors because sometimes the doctors can’t find anything physically wrong but there might be something mentally wrong.
–Gabby

To become a shaman you must be a good person with a good soul because if you have a bad soul the people you try to heal will only become much sicker. Different shamans have different powers, for instance one shaman may have a stronger soul so that would make them more powerful. The human body is made up of twelve spirits, your ears, your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your body, your arms, your hands, your legs, your feet, your head and your shadow. If you lose your shadow you die. When Thai was 4 or 5 he died and was reborn as a shaman.
–Nate

Thai’s grandma was a shaman who helped people from their sickness. Shamans can be an old person or a young one. There are men and women shamans. The shaman has 12 spirits in the house, I think. The special spirit is the body spirit because it has bones and it can break easily. Some people tie a white or a white and red thread to your hand to make you feel better and sometimes that person has to say something to make you become better.
–Pakou

About one out of one hundred Hmong People are shamans. Most Hmong shamans become shamans when they are over sixty. Every person has twelve spirits. One spirit is your shadow. The main spirit is your body spirit. That’s the one that shamans talk to when they are in a trance. If one of your spirits dies, a shaman tries to make the spirit alive again. All kinds of Hmong people are shamans. You could be a house builder and a shaman. Thai lives in two different worlds: the spirit world and the earth world.
–Emma

Thai has been a shaman since he was 4-5. The spirits came to him and taught him how to be a shaman. A lot of people were shocked to find out about such a young shaman. Thai might be the youngest Hmong shaman in America. He goes to emergencies and also goes to hospitals. He started healing when he first became a shaman. His tools to use in the spirit world are a big ring and buffalo horns. He goes into a trance to get into the spirit world. If he fights a spirit it is hard on his physical body too. He is very glad he is a shaman.
–Dylan

Thai is a shaman. There are many shamans but there are not a lot of shamans in Madison. A shaman is a healer. Thai is happy that he is a shaman. Thai has an ordinary life. Shamans use instruments to help them. They use buffalo horns. Shamans sometimes fight the spirits and the music helps them.
–Mark

I never knew shamans are never allowed to say somebody is going to die or that they are very sick. I also had no idea shamans actually communicated with spirits. It’s amazing how shamans go into the spirit world. I wonder how you feel when the spirits talk to you. I wonder what Thai felt, maybe he was very happy or nervous. I would feel excited and worried. Maybe he felt that way. I don’t know.
–Martha