Sunday, September 13, 2009

Religious Practitioners of LISU-2

Shaman :Whereas the priest serves as the representative between the villagers and the guardian, a shaman serves as the link between the human and spirit world. The shaman belongs to his spirit, just as the priest belongs to the village guardian, but only the shaman becomes possessed.

Any male may become a shaman who shows an aptitude for contacting ancestors and spirits and passes an initiation test given by other shamans in the area. The spirit of his clan chooses a shaman. The first manifestations are that he is physically weak, wants to play in the fire, and prefers staying at home rather than going to the fields. If he eats food denied to a shaman, such as onions, garlic, or fried foods, he will become insane for a short time, and a sacrifice must be made to the household spirits to bring him to his senses. This is proof that he has been 'called' to be a shaman.

The main function of a shaman is to divine the cause of illness or misfortune, then sign away the spirit who is responsible. When called to someone's house to go into a trance and be 'ridden by the spirits', he first changes the water in the bowls on the ancestral altar, and then lights joss sticks. Bending over with his hands on his knees, he whistles for his spirit to come, and sings himself into a trance. The spirits ride him as if the were a horse, and they speak to the people assembled in the house through him. Him finally falls unconscious to the floor, which is a sign that he has sung the spirit out of the patient into himself. As the shaman sleeps in a coma the spirit returns to its abode.

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