Nepalese Shamanism: The Way of the Shaman

Published: 03rd June 2010
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Nepalese Shamanism: The Way of the Shaman

Nepal is called home to just about sixty distinguished ethnic and tribal groups, and at least half of those groups practice some type of shamanism. Unsurprisingly so, the shaman songs and shaman themselves reflect upon a highly diverse spectrum of influences. The influences that can easily be seen and heard in the shaman songs include Tibetan "Bon" shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism, and early forms of Hinduism. In is very likely that some, if not all, of the healing practices in Buddhism and Hinduism in this region share a common origin with Himalayan shamanism. Nepalese shamans are a part of different religious groups and therefore do not see themselves nor their shamanic tasks as "religious."

Two of the mainly significant ethnic groups of Nepal are the Newari and Kirati. The Newari shamans are known to their people as "jhankri," and they conclude that "the way of the shaman is the way of love." Newari shaman seeks to invoke love, harmony, and peace to heal those who suffer from illnesses of spiritual and natural essence. Unlike most shamans who believe in few reasons for disease, the Newari understand that disease can be caused by other physical circumstances, and they leave these kinds of situations to medical doctors. The shaman's path is recognized by the community of Newari, not vice-versa and claimed by the individual. This means that the shaman is only a shaman because the people are healed by him, not because he claims he can heal the people.

Kirati shamans have the duty of invoking spirits, revivifying his roots within nature, and taking action in the service of overall good, not necessarily just for the good of the community. The shaman is a symbol for harmony on all levels and scales, he must provide himself for any necessary task that is for the greater good of the entire universe. This is called "mundum," the way of the shaman.

Both ethnic groups believe that "the Way of the Shaman" was brought about by the god Shiva, and that those who are shaman are called to action become shaman, this is the only way. The person who is chosen for the path will fromt time to time attempt to ignore the call because they know that the shaman does not have an easy life. Most shaman have their everyday occupations like all the people, but must also make themselves available for their work of healing at "transition times" in the day. These times are at daybreak or just as the sun sets.

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