The Hmong Shaman & Herb Center
2021 EFA Recipients

The Hmong are predominately animistic people who share values with the Han Chinese and other minorities in China. Like many others, the Hmong are rooted in the major spiritual and philosophical traditions of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism based. One special spiritual tradition, however, remains uniquely the Hmong’s, and that is their healing practices of shamanism.

In the Hmong tradition, there are two major types of shamanic practices—the black and the red veil practices. In modern day there has been an addition of the white veil and robe shamanic practice. However, all three hail to the same original founder of Shamanism, Siv Yis (Shee Yee).

All three forms use nearly the same shamanic altar and tools such as the purified water jar, incense burning rice bowl, shamanic gong, split horns, shamanic rattler, shamanic sword, shamanic bells, shamanic bench and the shamanic veil with various modifications. All three also use two major steps in the process of healing: diagnose the illness (Ua Neeb Saib), and treat the illness (Ua Neeb Kho).

The shamanic ritual to treat the illness requires that the shamanic practitioner travel into the spiritual realm. Such a step is necessary because the animistic Hmong believe that one of the causes of non-physical illness may be that one’s soul has wandered off or been taken by a spirit into the spiritual realm. This process of treating the illness usually involves soul switching. In soul switching, the shamanic practitioner heals the physical being of the patient by bargaining with the spirit to exchange one soul for the other. The soul of a physical being, often in the form of a pig, is exchanged for the soul of the individual that fell ill.

Whenever an herbalist is summoned to use herbs to cure certain illness, he or she also consulted the erected her or his herbal altar to ask for the guides of the herbal spirits. There, the herbalist burns incense sticks and summons herbal spirits to guide the process of assessing the illness so that the proper herbs can be prescribed to treat the illness.

Traditionally, one has to know how to properly request the practitioner for the intended services and when it’s completed, one also has to know how to send off the practitioner with the proper and honored materials and/or supplies so that the practitioner can return home to thank her or his spiritual guides at the altar that has been erected to house the shamanic and herbal spirits.

The younger generation no longer has the household spiritual understanding of what to do when it’s time to call a traditional practitioner or of what to do to honor the services after the ceremony or process is completed.

In treating more serious illness the shaman has to be summoned through a process of selection through a ritual that only a few traditionalists can still perform. HSHC will serve as a bridge to either act as the liaison between the practitioner and the patient or, at least, to help educate the patient as to how best prepare to summon a healer and how to properly send the practitioner back to her or his home once the spiritual healing process is completed.