Shamanism, connecting the physical and the spiritual world

Shamanism is a set of religious beliefs that consider the connection between the physical and the spiritual world. With practices that date back to 10,000 years ago, the religious and cultural tradition of Shamanism is one of the oldest forms of healing. Shamanism is widely practiced in the Hills and the Terai region of Nepal.

A person who practices Shamanism is called a Shaman. In Nepali, the general words for shaman are Jhañkri and Dhāmī, although each ethnic group has its own term as well. Variously described as medicine men, witch doctors or oracles, Shamans perform mystical rituals to mediate between the physical and spiritual realms. Taken from the Tungus of Siberia, the term ‘shaman’ translates to ‘he who knows.’ So basically, a shaman knows how to interact with spirits from beyond the physical world. This interaction is valuable for the Shamans to cure illnesses.

The Shaman’s main job is to maintain spiritual and physical balance, and to restore it when it is imbalanced. As a healer, a Shaman examines the patient for signs, gathers medicinal plants from the forest, performs sacrifices and chants magical incantations to cure the disease. As an oracle, he falls into a trance and acts as a harbinger of the God’s messages, thus advising and warning listeners. As the spiritual sentry of his community, he wards off ghosts, evil spirits and angry ancestors- sometimes by superior strength, often by trickery.

All this and much more put the Shamans at the heart of religious and social life in the hills. No wonder that the Nepalese life has been so influenced by these Shamanistic traditions.