Sara woke up with an unpleasant feeling. She was emaciated an extremely weak. Twenty years ago she had been treated effectively for breast cancer and was healthy ever since. Several months ago cancer flared up, she lost weight and felt exhausted. Now she decided to ask her rabbi for advice. The rabbi recommend the she visit a Philippine shaman who treats cancer. In the past, the community had organized tours to visit the shaman, with mixed results.

Sara joined the next tour. The clinic was in a hut. Patients were squatting in front of the entrance waiting for their turn. When Sara was admitted she told the shaman about her cancer. 'You have come to the right place' he said:  'I shall remove the disease and you will feel better'. She lay down on a wooden table, the shaman exposed her belly and started massaging it. Slowly other patients entered the room to watch the treatment. The manipulation intensified. Her abdomen was covered with blood, and then in a stroke, the shaman removed from her abdomen a piece of red stuff and threw it into the drain. He cleaned the blood from the belly, helped Sara out of the room and told her that she was cured.

Back home, Sara started feeling better. She regained her appetite, and put on weight. After several weeks she decided to visit her friend whom she has not seen for a long time. After exchanging information about their grandchildren, and exhausting the stories about their smart children, they decided to watch television.

The screen displayed an expedition of cancer specialists who returned from the Philippines after visiting the shaman's clinic. They had been sent by the Health Department to evaluate his treatment. The group posed in front of the clinic. Sara recognized her healer. Following the news, a magician demonstrated the shaman's treatment on a model. He exposed  her belly. The manipulation intensified. Her abdomen was covered with blood, and then in a stroke, the magician removed from her abdomen a piece of red stuff and threw it into the drain.

Back home Sara was sorry for disobeying her rabbi and watching television, which is forbidden in her community. She hoped that the rabbi will forgive her wrongdoing. Next morning she felt weak and depressed.

Three months later she died.

Like Sara you may also carry a cancer. And like her, you  might be a  Cancer-Yogi . For twenty years  your WOB (Wisdom of the Body) had controlled effectively your disease. Now that you feel bad, you wish that WOB would make you feel better. But how to convey your wish to WOB?  It is useless to tell it: 'I want to be healthy again', since WOB does not understand plain language.  You have two alternatives of instructing it: By  means of  imagination and imitation  (1). Sara chose a third, and turned to  a shaman.

Shamans know how to communicate with the WOB. This is what shamanism is about. Their language, metaphors, and myths are intended to tell the WOB that you want to recover. For the shaman your disease is controlled by a spirit, and his aim is to convince the spirit to abandon your disease. WOB understands metaphors better than the scientific language of medicine.

The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (2) describes a South American shaman who assists a woman during a difficult child birth. The method is described in a song that the shaman chants during his treatment. It is a fascinating description of the spirits involved in delivery, and his means to convince them. During the treatment the shaman does not touch the woman, nor does he administer any remedy. Treatment  is purely psychological. But what do we mean by 'psychological'? Claude Levi-Strauss says: 'In our view, the song constitutes a psychological manipulation of the sick organ, and it is precisely from this manipulation that cure is expected.'

This 'psychological manipulation' is regarded here as a message to the WOB instructing it to 'manipulate the organ.'  At times a shaman will apply deception to rise the intrinsic value of the message. Westerners regard it as fraud. At best they would label it as a placebo, that is also regarded as fraud.

Shamanism is a fabulous description of an unknown reality (WOB). It is founded on three fold experience. First that of the shaman who believes in his powers. Second, that of the sick person, who feels the message, and finally, that of the public who also participates in the cure. 'These three elements  of what we might call the shamanistic complex cannot be separated' (2).

The shattering of this complex advanced Sara to her grave.

Additional reading: Shamanism- Medical explanation


1. Zajicek G First Encounter with the WOB
2. Levi-Strauss C. Structural Anthropology. Basic Books 1963 USA
USBN:  0-465-09516-X

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