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Shamanism - Essay Example

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Q1. In the psychosocial model of shamanic trance, the shaman plays the role of mediator between spirit worlds. The Hmong, for example, recognize the propensity for everyone's spirit to migrate, but the shaman or txiv neeb has the ability to intentionally send his spirit outward during his lifetime…
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Shamanism Essay
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The shamanic experience fits into the culture's mundis imaginalis, the way the members of a certain culture perceive the world. The shaman's role as healer requires communal recognition and acceptance. When a shaman is in training, there are often spirit helpers and human assistants who facilitate the process of the shamanic journey. The shaman's assistant will help to increase the vividness of the visions summoned in the shamanic trance by encouraging recollection of some things and avoiding others. In a trance state, mental imagery resulting from temporal and occipital lobe activity is perceived as real. The more perceptually real and detailed a vision is, the greater its cognitive and psychological effect will be. Just as keeping a dream diary will tend to sharpen the recall and intensify a person's dreams, the shaman's training has a similar effect. One essential aspect of training is the ability to control visions. The trainee learns to start and stop visions at will. The processes are kindled and tuned by the trainer. A shaman who is unable to control the vision process will be perceived as a bad shaman, as lack of control indicates that the spirits are in charge. In societies where oral traditions are observed as the main method of transferring information from one generation to the next, the shaman helps the community to remember the sacral world by recalling and interpreting and re-enacting it. The shaman is active in different arenas, including the role of diagnostician and healer. But the role in preserving the tradition of the culture also constitutes a vital contribution to society.
Q2. The therapeutic triangle is described by Jane Atkinson in her investigations on the Wana people in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Contrary to Western medicine, where the pathological process and the healing rituals are confined to the patient suffering the symptoms, the shamanistic healing traditions extend treatment to involve the entire community. The triangle consists of patient, shaman and community and the relationship between each dyad is affected by the relationship to the third party. In show of solidarity (kasintuwu) the entire community may contribute to or participate in the healing in some way. The shamanic leader becomes the focus of attention during the sance and may fall into unconsciousness until the hungry spirit is revived with food or drink. The patient may in some cases be replaced by a surrogate and not take part in the actual ceremony at all. As the relationship between shaman and community are elaborated, the role of the patient in this therapeutic triangle is decreased. In contrast, Western understanding of healing remains myopically focused on the patient alone, or at best the patient healer dyad. Therefore Atkinson stresses the need for ethnologists to use descriptive models which reflect the complex, culturally differentiated negotiation that takes place between healer, patient and community. Many other shamanic traditions parallel the perhaps seemingly extreme Wana healer-community-patient triad. Although one particular individual may be suffering from somatic or psychological complaints, the person's family and community will also be aware of and feel the changes resulting from that person's illness. The other parties will perceive and react to the disruption that the suffering and changed behaviors of the patient ... Read More
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