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Minn Med. 2002 Jun;85(6):29-34.

Hmong shamanism. Animist spiritual healing in Minnesota.

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Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota, USA.


Hmong cultural attitudes, values, and behaviors influence when, where, why, and with whom a Hmong person will use Western medicine. Understanding the practices and importance of Hmong healing traditions will help majority-culture physicians provide respectful and effective health care to Hmong patients. The foremost Hmong traditional healer is the shaman (tu txiv neeb, pronounced "too tse neng"). There is no equivalent health professional in Western biomedicine, and the scope of the shaman as a healer extends beyond the capacities and expertise of physicians. Despite 25 years of Hmong acculturation in the United States and conversion to Christianity, Hmong shamanism maintains its traditional role in health and healing. Many Hmong who see physicians also rely on shamans for restoring health and balance to their body and soul. Thus, the Hmong shaman can be considered a powerful complement to Western health care professionals. This article presents the results of semistructured interviews with 11 Hmong shamans (5 males, 6 females, ranging in age from 35 to 85) and 32 nonrandomly selected Hmong patients (14 males, 18 females ranging in age from 21 to 85). The shamans described their spiritual perspectives, training and skills, and professional activities. Patients described their beliefs about spiritual healing and health care. These interviews suggest that Shamanism is considered effective care by many Hmong, irrespective of age, gender, or degree of acculturation. The article also includes summary charts of Hmong healing practices and concludes with a set of questions designed to help practicing physicians access the assumptions and beliefs of their Hmong patients so that they can provide efficient, effective, and satisfactory care.

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