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September 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1988 ; 27(5): 445-50.

Healing thyself: a Korean shaman's afflictions.

Kendall L.

American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024.

Accounts of shamans' lives have typically emphasized the shaman's experience of a divine 'calling' and subsequent initiation as the key incidents around which other biographical, psychological, and cultural information may be organized and appreciated. Scholars have thus emphasized those aspects of the shaman's experience which set the shaman apart from other members of her or his society and at the same time, render the shaman comparable to other shamans in other places far removed in time and space. This paper takes a different approach, describing a series of ordinary misfortunes that befell a Korean mansin several years after her initiation, the interpretations she and her colleagues placed upon these events, the advice she received, and the healing strategies she subsequently followed. This discussion reveals those aspects of the shaman's experience that render her more, rather than less, like those she treats and suggests a process whereby the shared reality of shaman and client is realized in lived experiences, rituals, and conversations.


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