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Hmong Culture: Being Taken To Spirits

Shamanism by way of animism is the belief in the existence of spirits, both human and inhuman and those possibly never alive. It possesses a spirit world or underworld, while some believe spirits coexist within this world. Shamanism conducted by shamans who communicate and control spirits, usually through a ritual trance state.

Shamanism in Western culture often evokes images of “witch doctors”, but for the traditional Hmong, they are sought out as holy, healers, leaders, and even counselors to those who seek further answers or guidance. The practice and cultural tradition is one of the oldest forms of healing and part of many regions throughout the world. Many Hmong still practice the belief (religion) today.

The Calling

Shamanism is the trance that the shaman or healer enters in order to communicate with spirits, rescue souls, battle demons or communicate with an offended spirit for reconciliation. Most shamans, traditionally are men, though women are called upon to become shamans. I personally know more Hmong women shaman, but that may be due to my own gender. Hmong women and men have diverse roles within the culture and tend to be segregated.

When one becomes a shaman, it’s not a duty or role by choice. There’s usually a calling through spirit visitations. Often leading the person to confusion or perhaps just fear of the unknown. Near death experience or a serious illness also can indicate a calling. Many believe that the illness or near-death experiences gives one the experience have the ability to learn and heal others who falls upon such sickness or unfortunate events.

  • Master shamans, also viewed as mentors will take on the role of teaching. The master shaman must agree, each person’s spirits must align and guidance can begin.
  • Training must practice and learn under a master shaman’s guidance. It’s possible to train for many years before taking on rituals of his or her own.
  • It may even take years to find a master shaman to agree to be one’s mentor. Not having guidance can lead to more illness as the transition is placed on hold.

A Role

To many, the shaman could be seen as a medical doctor, holy man, or medium. A shaman in the Hmong Community is an essential member and serve as a bridge communicator between the physical and spirit worlds. The shaman’s healing rituals provide existence with a moral interpretation and meaningfulness. There is meaning to behind each ritual practiced by him/her. Some events that take place that a shaman is invited for, called “ua neeb”, consists of several events. A process is “ua neeb saib” to seek the spirit of the situation to determine what happens next.

  • Seeking/Determining; ailments, illness, troubled spirits of the home, a scare in someone’s life that may have a soul drift or spirits lost – “poob plig”
  • Blessings; marriage, newborn child, new year, new home – “hu plig”
  • Healing; sickness, marriage, reconcile for one’s spirit or soul – “ua neeb kho”

Shamans play a major role in the Hmong Community who practice the tradition. Even with being sought of for the rituals and seen as a healing practitioner, a shaman too may need their own rituals done on him or her.

-Anna MV

Image provided by Lor Lao. Follow him on facebook at @StudioLorLao to purchase this or one-of-kind art creations.


Anna MV

A Hmong woman practicing life finding art in everything. Blogger of Family, Life, Culture, Autism, Self Awarenes

This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. Heather G.

    Thank you for this! I never really knew what a Shaman did, until now. As a person who is open to hearing stories of other forms of spiritual connection, this definitely provided an even more curiosity for The Shaman. Is this popular in the U.S by chance?

    1. Anna MV

      In my culture, in the US it is still practiced. Shamans exist all over, amanism is one of the world’s oldest religion

      1. Arrieana Vang

        Yes sit is my dad’s a shaman so I know he is Yaj Ceeb Vaj

  2. theheathenhobo

    Very interesting

  3. chartrends

    Very informative post about a different belief system thank you for sharing.

    1. Anna MV

      You’re welcome and thanks for reading.

  4. Rabin shrestha

    i just learned new thing. There is so much information on post. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Anna MV

      Thanks for reading 😊

  5. Deserted_Queen

    Whoa! However your work is good. You write really well.

  6. scotthgilliland

    I think there are next to zero shamans in Northern Ireland so this was really interesting to read! I will have to share this with my partner as I think she will love it. Thanks!

    1. Anna MV

      Now that’s interesting Scott, thanks for sharing that. Thanks for reading!

  7. Rachael Hope

    What a great read. I loved this post. Interesting topics like this really get the creative juices flowing. The artwork is beautiful too 🙂 Thanks for the share!


  8. nancy_ycnan

    Wonderful sharing! Thank you very much for this amazing article. What a good post and I love your good written I will show this to my friends. Glad that you share this


    Very interesting, I always knew a shaman was a medicinal person but never saw it as a spiritual person.

  10. Jeferson Beluso

    I love reading about spiritual world..the metaphysical … It is enlightening….. After all we are both physical and spiritual being…..

    1. Anna MV

      Thanks for reading 😊

  11. spinn477

    This was a very interesting read, I had an idea of what a shaman is but your blog gave me a lot more information!

    1. Anna MV

      Glad it was helpful, thanks for reading.

  12. Nina

    Fascinating article. Never heard of this thing and your article was definitely educational.

    1. Anna MV

      Thanks Nina! 😊

  13. Ann

    Interesting story. Heard and attended talks of different religions but my first time hearing this one.

  14. simmianbob

    i find the idea of shaman interesting. Would they also be known as a medicine man?

    1. Anna MV

      Yes, they have a connection with sometimes being referred to as medicinal.

    1. Anna MV

      Thanks for reading!

  15. Coleccion De Fotografia

    Hi Anna, I am currently living in Vietnam. I learned and read that there are Hmong’s in the north of this country. I am very interested to get to know the culture and the people. Thanks for sharing such an informative post by the way.

    1. Anna MV

      That’s amazing! Yes, Hmong reside there, keep me updated when you reach them. Thanks so much for reading 😊

  16. Neil Alvin Nicerio

    Shamans? Whew. In the Philippines these are called mangkukulam. They could curse or heal you.

    1. Anna MV

      That’s very interesting Neil, thanks for sharing that.

  17. ansh997x

    Shamans seem to be very powerful people. Your blog gave me a lot of new knowledge about them.

    1. Anna MV

      Glad it did, thanks!

  18. Ai | The Wise Budget

    This is super fascinating! I definitely learned a lot from this post. Thank you!

    1. Anna MV

      You’re welcome and thanks for reading.

  19. fibidrese

    Thank you, Really would like to know what happen to shaman

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