Thai Vang, a young shaman Christian cross with Hmong language banners in the church Food laid upon a shaman's altar A bridge for spirit's in a shaman's home Shaman's tools A shaman's altar

Location | Themes | Reflections | How We Did It

Introduction: Everything is Spiritual

Jeremy | Maggie | Martha

The Hmong have a very unique religion. They usually are either Christian Hmong or they are traditional Hmong. They have many spiritual beliefs including shamanism, and many other practices.

Shamanism is a way to heal the Hmong by going into the spirit world, to battle the body spirits that ran away and to bring them back. To keep them staying there by tying them by a string to the body.
–Jeremy

Shamans are special people who are actually chosen by the spirits to be one of the people who is able to talk with the spirits and help to heal people and give blessings. Many people believe this is true, but there are those who refuse to believe it. I, personally, believe that it really happens, and that shamans do go to the spirit world and talk and argue and call the spirits.

You can tell where a shaman is, because usually there’ll be corn hanging, by the door and inside there’ll be a shaman’s alter. On the alter, some of the things on it are two small bowls for rice to feed the spirits, eggs to feed the spirits, water to feed the spirits, incense to burn to call the spirits, a gong to send the shaman into a trance, buffalo horns to ask spirits questions and get the answers, a blindfold to help in the trance, and more.

Shamanism, to me, is one of the most distinctive things about Hmong culture. It amazes me that a person, a regular human, can go into a real trance and actually talk and argue with real spirits. There is a saying that if a shaman falls during his/her performance, he/she’ll die. That’s why a child of the shaman keeps its hand around the waist of the shaman, to stop the shaman from falling.

A good example of a traditional shaman is Thai Vang, a 16-year-old shaman and qeej player. He thinks that Hmong traditional culture is very important, and I agree. Thai is a special shaman – most shamans are 60 or older – Thai is only 16, and already a shaman!

Shamans don’t choose themselves to be shamans. They say that a spirit comes to them and tells them they’re a shaman. So, they get an altar, and start acting like a shaman!

Shamans are excellent people and are very interesting. I’m glad to study them.
–Maggie

The practice of shamanism is and was used in many different cultures. One of those cultures just happened to be Hmong culture which my class also happened to by studying this year.

People can start to be shamans at any point in their live but you have to born a shaman. We had a visitor in our class who was named Thai Vang. Thai is only in high school and he is a successful shaman. He uses all the traditional tools and chants that were used back in Laos. One of the places a shaman might be working is a Hmong funeral because at Hmong funerals animals are sacrificed to guide the spirit back to the place it was born to get the placenta. The need the placenta to get through the gat that takes you in to your next life (reincarnation).
–Martha