The purpose of a ceremony is to cure the illness of a person. The shaman will be the one who cures the sick person. A ceremony is held to treat an illness, bless a house, to ease the anger of spirits, to call the soul for a baby three days after it is born, when a person’s spirit has wandered off, or has been taken by a malevolent spirit (Gorrilla, 14). When a malevolent spirit has taken the spirit of a person, it is called “loss spirit” or “Poob plig"(14). This is when a Hmong shaman has to perform a soul calling ceremony.
When a shaman is asked to cure a sick person, he or she has the ability to refuse or to perform a healing ceremony. A few reasons a shaman will refuse to perform a ceremony are: the shaman is tired/the shaman has other appointments with other patients/or the shaman just wants to rest. Sometimes a shaman will do a ceremony only because the patient is a close relative or close a family member. The shaman usually picks the location where the ceremony will be located, which it is always best if the healing ceremony takes place at the sick person’s home.
In order for a ceremony to take place, there has to be specific tools set up. Beside the tools, it is traditional for the shaman to wear a loose and silky outfit. This is because the shaman must be able to jump up and down while in his/her clothes. Besides the traditional outfit, the shaman covers his/her face with a piece of thin, light, fabric for concealment and protection from the evil spirits that shaman will be facing. A pig or a cow will have to be sacrificed at the ceremony in exchange for the soul of the patient (14). When all of the requirements are prepared, the ceremony can begin.
Before a shaman knows where to call the spirit back, he/she has to use the divination horns (horns of a bull) to indicate what happened to the ill person, what caused the problem, and where to go. From that, the shaman will know how and what to do next.
When a shaman goes into another world, or the spirit world, the shaman enters an ecstatic trance, and balances on a beam that represents a flying spirit horse (14). The shaman does not walk on foot in the spirit world. The shaman enters the spirit world through the bamboos and the strings, which are hung up on the ceiling. Shamans use the string as a bridge, which will lead them to where they are supposed to go. The bamboo is the supporter for the bridge.
During a ceremony, there must be at least two helpers behind the shaman’s back. One person is to make sure the shaman will not fall off the bench while performing the ceremony and is also responsible for burning the paper (spirit money) for the spirit. The assistant burns the paper whenever the time comes. The other person is responsible for hitting the gong. The purpose of the gong is to call the spirit (assistant) to help the shaman and to permit the shaman to enter a trance and again to depart from the trance. During the ceremony, no one is allowed to be in front of the shaman, the shaman must always be in front. This is so because they will interrupt the ceremony, which will cause the shaman to go back and start from where he/she had left off. The only time that they can go in front of the shaman is when the shaman drops something from his or her hand.