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Shamanism"Shamans"

The shaman sometimes uses herbal remedies in his healing ceremonies, and they are believed to be more potent in such ceremonies because of the words of the shaman which accompany their use. Usually a shaman is called in if herbal remedies fail.

The Washo believe that a disease is caused by some object trapped in the body, such as a stone, arrowhead, hair or even a lizard (Siskin, 1983). A shaman is needed to remove these objects which have been put there through sorcery, violation of rituals, dreams, ghosts, contacts with the dead, or loss of the soul. In the Washo language, there is no distinction between shaman and sorcerer, so shamans can cause disease as well as cure it. To prepare to make someone ill, the shaman goes through a four-day ritual preparation, during which he abstains from salt, meat, hot foods, and sexual intercourse, to restore his powers. Thoughts are concentrated on the intended victim. If a very powerful spell is needed, then the preparation period may be doubled. Such sorcery can cause serious illness, and only a very powerful shaman can cure it. The shaman must remove the object which is causing the disease and dispose of it. He does this by mixing it with dirt and throwing it away. However, if revenge is desired, he will burn it, which will then make the sorcerer who cast the spell in the first place ill, and maybe even cause him to die.

Hunting is thought by the Washo to bring on many diseases (Siskin, 1983). There are many rituals associated with hunting, and if any are broken, then illness may result. If a deer is not killed in the right way, the deer will enter the hunterĂs body and make him sick. Mishandling paraphernalia associated with fishing equipment, hunting gear, basketry etc. can cause illness. Contact with the dead, such as dreaming about them or walking in an abandoned camp, is a major source of illness. It is cured by following the demands of the dead made in the dream -...

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