Shamans in Asia, 4.

pp. 86-96 – 4. Jean Mottin : "A Hmong Shaman’s Se’ance".

p. 86 names of the tribe

"The word "Meo" derives from Chinese "Miao" ..., ... "... wild grass" ... . ... "Meo" means "cat" in Vietnamese and may be an allusion to "wild cat." ... the ethnic group calls itself "Hmoob" (pronounced hmong, ... in the high tone)."

p. 89 nature of redincarnation

"after death one of the three souls remains at the tomb of the dead, while

the second is reincarnated into an animal and

the third into a plant."

"One day, the soul of my hand ... "falls," as the Hmong would say. By this "fall" it is understood that the soul of the ... hand escapes in order to reincarnate itself in one of [another person’s] hands." {separate souls for the various bodily limbs is a doctrine upheld by C^uan C^ou}

pp. 89-90 deities facilitating redincarnation




"The soul can reincarnate itself, but to do this it has first to receive a certificate of reincarnation from the deity of death, the terrible Ntxwj Nyoog (pronounced ndzeu nyong) who lives in a heaven that is formed out of twelve mountains arranged in order of increasing height. The path to


the cave of this deity is only a very small footpath that winds through the forests and is littered with a thousand traps." {cf. [Vaidik] Vala ‘cave’, a god of the dead ("MIB")}


"even before the advent of humans there was a deity who lived somewhere on the moon and was very good. His name is Saub (pronounced shao), or grandfather Saub. ... He presided over the creation of the world ... . ... So he chose a young man ... and called him "Siv Yis," "the healer." He gave him a winged horse ..., a troupe of auxiliary spirits to help him, and all the weapons he needed. Siv Yis began to fight Ntxwj Nyoog and even blinded him ... . He ... lives today on the same mountain as Ntxwj Nyoog. But while the deity of death lives at the foot of the mountain, Siv Yis lives right on top of it and so controls the demon. He resides in a cave that is cut into the side of a rock wall, surrounded by a multitude of auxiliary spirits fluttering back and forth; around the cave he cultivates a garden full of medicinal plants and has a pond whose waters are endowed with curative properties."

"MIB" =

pp. 91-92 praeliminary curative rite




"The shaman ..., without any delay, ... throws to the ground in front of his altar his instruments of divination (two halves of the extremity of a goat’s or buffalo’s horn) in order to consult with his auxiliary spirits, and demands their help."


"The hosts prepare a small altar, symbolizing the cave of Siv Yis, and in front of it they put a small bench that serves as a "winged horse" for the shaman. The latter sits on the bench,


covers his face with a black veil

(which is a symbol of the invisible and dark world he is about to enter),


grabs with his right hand a disc circle that is fitted with a small handle

(symbolizing his horse’s bit), and


on a finger of his left hand he puts a metal ring that has small bells

(they are the bells of his horse)."

pp. 92-95 shamanic se’ance




"the shaman enters the realm of the spirits and finds himself before the cave of his ancestor. ... The spirits ... appear in couples. ... They all have already put on their armor ... . The spirits settle on the altar, on the table, or on the benches. Spirits charged with the task of receiving the arrivals have cups of tea or pipes with opium passed around. ...


Swallow and Sparrow Hawk (names of spirits) fly ahead and land on the roof of the house or in the hand of the master of the house. The shaman knocks on the door. The domestic spirits open the door fearfully... . But, recognizing the auxiliary spirits, they throw the door wide open and the troupe burst into the house. ... But the shaman claps into his hands and reminds the troupe that ... they should search for traces of the soul gone astray ... . The lantern spirit ... takes up his lantern, followed by his mate, the phoenix, whose dots of color suggest eyes. {The "hundred eyes" of the demi-god Argos Pan-optes were placed "in the tail of a peacock" (GM 56.a).} ... Suddenly there is a cry of joy : the spirits have found a hole in the partition wall. Evidently this is the hole the soul went through to join Ntxwj Nyoog. ...


... the shaman jumps onto his bench twelve times, symbolizing by this action the twelve leaps of his horse over the twelve mountains that form the heavens. This cavalcade brings the spirits right to the entrance of Ntxwj Nyoog’s cave. ...

The fishermen spirits throw their nets on all sides, but the soul has had time to evade them. Finally, they catch up with it. ... it stumbles at the edge of a hole and falls into it. Immediately the auxiliary spirits sound the bugle. The troupe surrounds the hole. The spirits with long arms (the monkeys) ... kneels down at the rim of the hole and give a helping hand to the quivering little soul. It is pulled out from the hole. ...


Then the shaman requests the brawny spirits to throw a large stone into the hole to fill it up ... . ... (The term "stone" ... is in fact a euphemism. In reality it is a pig that is meant.) {"In memory of the pigs that were swallowed up by the earth when Hades abducted Persephone, the women sacrificed piglets, threw their bodies into a pit" for the Thesmophoria (GT, p. 59).} ...


A small female spirit is designated to carry the convalescent soul on her back, the same way all Hmong and Chinese {and North American Indian} mothers carrying their babies. The whole troupe returns to the house of the patient. ... But ... very delicately the spirits take up the little soul and place it into a small chest ... . Then they put the chest at the foot of the main pillar (the center of the house ...). They then proceed to give the house a thorough cleaning, resetting the pillars ... . ...


The drum spirits call for a final gathering while the "sergeants" check their lists to see if everybody is in attendance. ... Everybody takes off his armor. ... The quail spirits are asked to cover the paths


where the shaman has been in the spirit world by putting brushwood and leaves over the shaman’s footprints. This is done so that the evil spirits will not be able to pursue and find him. Like a good father, the shaman throws popcorn to the small spirits who cry and ask for sweets. Then he falls back into the world of the humans with a gigantic pirouette".

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

GT = Karen Armstrong : The Great Transformation. Borzoi Books, 2006.


Clark Chilson & Peter Knecht : Shamans in Asia. RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2003.