Shamanism and Modern Medicine Comparison

Shamanism and Modern Medicine Comparison

Our world and its cultures are very diverse, so are the beliefs and lifestyles of different nations. Anthropologists today spend a lot of time encountering and studying various societies, whose ways of interacting with the world around are very different from the traditional western ways. Anthropologists are not there to judge or evaluate. It is forbidden and unethical to label certain tribes or nations as “primitive” or “underdeveloped” in Anthropology.

These scientists’ have a mission to comprehend, to percept and understand the unfamiliar sets of beliefs and insights. The issue of different approaches to the causes of diseases and the most appropriate cures for them is one of the biggest problems in the mixed societies that try to balance between the traditional western lifestyle and the rituals and customs of their shamanistic tribes. The contradictory understandings of the diseases derived from contemporary medicine and from the religious beliefs of shamanistic societies are doomed to go into a clash and create conflicts and misunderstandings that, in many cases, result as negative outcomes for the patients.

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Shamanism and Modern Medicine Comparison
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

The main difference between shamans and modern doctors is in their ways of understanding diseases, their causes, development, and the cures for them. Doctors approach this matter from the point of view of modern science and study human bodies as consisting of multiple parts, some of which are so small that they can only be seen through the microscope. Doctors also distinguish between a large variety of viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and poisons that can create negative or positive effects on human bodies. Shamans see humans, and their environments are filled with supernatural forces such as demons, spirits, ghosts, and witchcraft.

In the opinion of shamanistic societies, diseases happen when certain spirits or demons start to interact with people’s bodies and souls. Shamans represent a link between humans and supernatural forces; they provide communication between the two sides and achieve an understanding of the parties through bargaining and sacrifices. Understanding or some kind of agreement between shamans and medical doctors is practically unachievable due to the differences in perceptions and mentalities. The diseases that doctors would treat using pills and medication, x-rays and scans, surgeries and therapies are addressed in completely different ways among shamans, who employ animals sacrifices, gifts for the spirits, chanting of the prayers, and various rituals to interact with the spirits, affect human souls and bodies.

Even though modern medical workers disagree with the practices held by shamans and consider them unscientific, highly ineffective, and in some cases even harmful or dangerous, communication between these two parties is basically impossible. It is hard to imagine how the doctors could reach an understanding with the shamans trying to explain them neurons, molecules or chemicals, and how they would inform the shamans about the active elements or body parts that are so small that no one can see them (Stein and Stein 8).

Lia Lee first entered the American medical system when she was three months old. Her doctors diagnosed her with epilepsy. Ideally, from the perspective of the doctors, the girl was supposed to be treated with anticonvulsants and stay under the observation of the doctors, and her parents were to monitor her state and cooperate with the medical professionals and follow their prescriptions carefully. The fact that changed the course of the development and treatment of Lia’s disease was her belonging to the Hmong people, who are a shamanistic society originated from Laos. Lia’s parents decided to proceed with the girl’s treatment according to the beliefs and advice of the shaman of their clan, who lived in Minnesota.

They carefully followed the instructions of the shaman and spent hundreds of dollars to purchase a variety of amulets with healing powers, they even sacrificed a cow. According to the American doctors that took Lia’s case, epilepsy happens when cerebral neurons start to misfire, and this causes seizures. The Hmong shamans called this disease “the spirit catches you, and you fall down” and chose their own methods of treating the girl. The clash between the doctors and shamans happened when the latter decided to change Lia’s name to Kou.

This was done in order to trick the spirit that was hurting the girl’s soul. The doctors kept using the girl’s real name, and this is why the trick did not work, concluded the shamans. Since Lia’s parents decided to use the help of both shamans and doctors, neither of the treatments was consistent or full. The two side’s approaches kept overlapping, clashing, and ruining each other’s effects and schedules. As a result, Lia became the one who suffered the most in this situation, the girl ended up losing most of her main brain functions.

Lia’s case was not the first and, probably, not the last interaction between the American doctors and the Hmong people. Cultural beliefs of the Hmong dictate that the medical system cannot be trusted because the modern doctors cure the body by breaking its wholeness when they cut it open, take blood from it, put their fingers and hands inside of the bodies and their cavities. Traditional treatments of the Hmong shamans forbid them to even undress the patients.

The Hmong people “did not fit the pattern they [doctors] had been trained to deal with” (Fadiman 74). Doctors do not know how to act in situations when patients and their relatives forbid taking necessary measures to treat diseases and save lives. The Hmong patients and their relatives can intrude into operations such as delivering of a baby by dictating what the length of umbilical cord should be and violating the sterile field (Fadiman 74).

Besides, when patients reject medical treatments the doctors’ hands are tied up, even though they feel responsible to stick to perform their duties (Fadiman 75). According to the law, the most crucial decisions as to medical treatment are carried out by patients and family members, but not the doctors. The Hmong patients did not agree to surgeries, anesthesia, autopsies, they limited the doctors and the options the professionals could work with to treat patients. This is why the Hmong people did not fit into the pattern doctors were used to deal with.

Shamanistic perceptions and beliefs are very different from the ones employed by the modern medicine and the contemporary science. These two parties are not likely to find common language in any kind of interaction. Lia’s case showed that mixing the two approaches towards healing and diseases is dangerous for the patient because the practices clash and ruin each other’s effects and structures creating a harmful misunderstanding and miscommunication between the medical workers and shamans.

Works Cited

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. London: Macmillan, 1998. Print.

Stein, Rebecca L. and Philip L. Stein. The Anthropology of Religion, Magic and Witchcraft. 3rd ed. 2011. Upper Saddle River: Pearson. Print.

What Will You Get?

We provide professional writing services to help you score straight A’s by submitting custom written assignments that mirror your guidelines.

Premium Quality

Get result-oriented writing and never worry about grades anymore. We follow the highest quality standards to make sure that you get perfect assignments.

Experienced Writers

Our writers have experience in dealing with papers of every educational level. You can surely rely on the expertise of our qualified professionals.

On-Time Delivery

Your deadline is our threshold for success and we take it very seriously. We make sure you receive your papers before your predefined time.

24/7 Customer Support

Someone from our customer support team is always here to respond to your questions. So, hit us up if you have got any ambiguity or concern.

Complete Confidentiality

Sit back and relax while we help you out with writing your papers. We have an ultimate policy for keeping your personal and order-related details a secret.

Authentic Sources

We assure you that your document will be thoroughly checked for plagiarism and grammatical errors as we use highly authentic and licit sources.

Moneyback Guarantee

Still reluctant about placing an order? Our 100% Moneyback Guarantee backs you up on rare occasions where you aren’t satisfied with the writing.

Order Tracking

You don’t have to wait for an update for hours; you can track the progress of your order any time you want. We share the status after each step.


Areas of Expertise

Although you can leverage our expertise for any writing task, we have a knack for creating flawless papers for the following document types.

Areas of Expertise

Although you can leverage our expertise for any writing task, we have a knack for creating flawless papers for the following document types.


Trusted Partner of 9650+ Students for Writing

From brainstorming your paper's outline to perfecting its grammar, we perform every step carefully to make your paper worthy of A grade.

Preferred Writer

Hire your preferred writer anytime. Simply specify if you want your preferred expert to write your paper and we’ll make that happen.

Grammar Check Report

Get an elaborate and authentic grammar check report with your work to have the grammar goodness sealed in your document.

One Page Summary

You can purchase this feature if you want our writers to sum up your paper in the form of a concise and well-articulated summary.

Plagiarism Report

You don’t have to worry about plagiarism anymore. Get a plagiarism report to certify the uniqueness of your work.

Free Features $66FREE

  • Most Qualified Writer $10FREE
  • Plagiarism Scan Report $10FREE
  • Unlimited Revisions $08FREE
  • Paper Formatting $05FREE
  • Cover Page $05FREE
  • Referencing & Bibliography $10FREE
  • Dedicated User Area $08FREE
  • 24/7 Order Tracking $05FREE
  • Periodic Email Alerts $05FREE

Our Services

Join us for the best experience while seeking writing assistance in your college life. A good grade is all you need to boost up your academic excellence and we are all about it.

  • On-time Delivery
  • 24/7 Order Tracking
  • Access to Authentic Sources
Academic Writing

We create perfect papers according to the guidelines.

Professional Editing

We seamlessly edit out errors from your papers.

Thorough Proofreading

We thoroughly read your final draft to identify errors.


Delegate Your Challenging Writing Tasks to Experienced Professionals

Work with ultimate peace of mind because we ensure that your academic work is our responsibility and your grades are a top concern for us!

Check Out Our Sample Work

Dedication. Quality. Commitment. Punctuality

It May Not Be Much, but It’s Honest Work!

Here is what we have achieved so far. These numbers are evidence that we go the extra mile to make your college journey successful.


Happy Clients


Words Written This Week


Ongoing Orders


Customer Satisfaction Rate

Process as Fine as Brewed Coffee

We have the most intuitive and minimalistic process so that you can easily place an order. Just follow a few steps to unlock success.

See How We Helped 9000+ Students Achieve Success


We Analyze Your Problem and Offer Customized Writing

We understand your guidelines first before delivering any writing service. You can discuss your writing needs and we will have them evaluated by our dedicated team.

  • Clear elicitation of your requirements.
  • Customized writing as per your needs.

We Mirror Your Guidelines to Deliver Quality Services

We write your papers in a standardized way. We complete your work in such a way that it turns out to be a perfect description of your guidelines.

  • Proactive analysis of your writing.
  • Active communication to understand requirements.

We Handle Your Writing Tasks to Ensure Excellent Grades

We promise you excellent grades and academic excellence that you always longed for. Our writers stay in touch with you via email.

  • Thorough research and analysis for every order.
  • Deliverance of reliable writing service to improve your grades.
Place an Order Start Chat Now

Open chat
WhatsApp chat +1 563-600-3041
Dr.Nursing Papers
We will write your work from scratch and ensure it's plagiarism-free, you just submit the completed work.