Saturday, 07. October 2006
The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America

Shamanism in contemporary culture often evokes stereotypical images of witch doctors, New Age gurus and Carlos Castaneda. Yet this religious and cultural tradition is one of the oldest forms of healing (some estimate that shamanism originated over 10,000 years ago) and is a part of many regions throughout the world. It has been widely practiced in South America, Oceania, China, Tibet and Korea. It is also an important part of many Eskimo, Native American and Celtic cultures.

The distinguishing characteristic of shamanism is the ecstatic trance the healer enters in order to communicate with spirits, rescue souls, battle with ogres or reconcile an offended nature spirit. Traditionally most shamans are men, though some women do become shamans.

The Calling: Becoming a shaman is not just a job; it is a vocation. Usually, a young initiate must be "called" through a visitation of the spirits. Often, the call to shamanize is directly related to a near death experience or serious illness. A common experience of the call to shamanism is a psychic or spiritual crisis accompanying a physical illness, so that a shaman can overcome the negative powers of death and disease and heal others with empathy.

After the initiatory illness, the novice shaman studies with a mentor for years to master trance states and shamanic traditions. Names and functions of spirits, the mythology and genealogy of the clan and sacred chants must also be studied by the shaman-in-training.

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Hmong Rituals

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The Split Horn is the sweeping story of a Hmong shaman and his family living in Appleton, Wisconsin. Documenting the 17-year journey of Paja Thao and his family from the mountains of Laos to the heartland of America, this poignant film shows a shaman's struggles to maintain his ancient traditions as his children embrace American culture.

The Hmong ("mung") are an Asian tribal culture. After fighting valiantly for the United States in the Vietnam War, many Hmong like the Thao family were forced to flee their homeland in Southeast Asia. Since 1975, over 200,000 Hmong refugees have resettled in the U.S.


The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America

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