Saturday, June 27, 2020

Why Gurung shamans can heal in any place in the world?

Spirit possession is one of the major aspects of Gurung culture. Gurungs have three shamanic healers(Pachyu, Khlebree and Bonpo lam). I called them shamans in the sense that they can do healing work by bridging the 'spiritual world' and the 'physical world'. Among them, pachyu is the oldest one. They all have their unique division of work. At present, all involve in shamanistic healing work. In this article, I am going to explore the nature of spirit possession of Gurung shamans and their process in healing work.

What is spirit possession?

Spirit possession is the control of alien spirits on the individual. It is an altered state of consciousness which brings dramatic changes displacing human's conscious self by a powerful spirit, demon, deity etc. In this situation, the spirit is believed to enter the human body and changes a person's gesture, posture, voice etc. When a person becomes ill due to witchcraft, he/she changes voice, perception etc. The spirit of witchcraft enters into his ill body. 
Gurung shamans
Why do Gurung shamans possess the spirit?

Gurung shamans have to heal the ill person. They have to balance the world and create harmony. In general, ordinary people cannot perform this work. This demands extraordinary power. To gain such power, they have to possess the spirit of another powerful spirit.

The belief behind spirit possession 

Like all shamans in the world, Gurung shamans believe that all things what we see around us are alive and possess a spirit. They believe in a universal web of power finding its source in spirit. Plant, mountain, animal, water, wind etc all have spirit and they are alive. Gurung shamans have a unique ability of how to communicate with all these spirits and tap an infinite supply of energy which can ultimately use for healing purposes. They believe that we can communicate with the plant; we communicate with rock; we can communicate with animal etc. All the animate and inanimate things can communicate with us. They all have spirit; incredible source of energy.

How it is validated by science?

Science tells us that everything is vibration. The vibration is energy. The famous scientist Albert Einstein's famous formula(E=mc2) reveals that mass is equivalence to energy. It proves that everything is energy. This implies that rock is energy; the forest is energy; water is energy; the wind is energy. Nikola Tesla said, "If you want to find the secret of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration." We can conclude, all thing emits a certain frequency. 

How Gurung shamans possess spirit?

Gurung shamans arrange different ritual materials. They chant the Pye(text) with rhythmic drumming. They invite to their Klhe(power spirit) into their ritual world. According to Gurung shamans, Klhe lives in the power spot at their ancestral place. They believe that after certain preparation, they can welcome Klhe to fulfil their goals of curing and harmony. With specific purposes, klhe enter into the ritual world and inhabit into shaman's body. In this way, shaman possesses the spirit of Klhe and can gain incredible energy which makes them able to heal the ill person. 

Why Gurung shamans can heal in any place in the world?

Gurung shamans don't need to have a specific place for healing. They can heal everywhere. They do not need institutions like a temple, church etc. They might heal in any individual's home, forest, mountain, field etc in any place of the world. Why? Because the nature of their spirit possession is tutelary. Due to tutelary, the space is sporadic and unspecified. So, the ritual can perform in any place.

Why Gurung shamans should send back Klhe(power source)?

After the ritual, Klhe does not remain there. Gurung shamans should send back Klhe to their inhabited place. In every Gurung ritual, there are particular norms to welcome and send back klhe. While inviting, shamans also promise to send back later. So, they can not possess the spirit after the ritual is finished. It doesn't mean since once klhe do not inhabit into the body of shamans. But they can again invite for another ritual. Why? It is also because of tutelary possession. Due to tutelary, the time is periodic and specific. So, the healer can possess the power or spirit only during the time of the ritual. After the ritual, the spirit should leave the body of shaman and go back to own place.

Tutelary Possession

There are different four types of spirit possession. Rex L. Jones has made a clear distinction among peripheral, reincarnate, tutelary and oracular possession based on time and space dimension. In peripheral, time and space are both undesignated. Oracular is opposite of peripheral, both time and space are designated. In tutelary, time is designated but not space. And in reincarnate, time is undesignated and space is designated. Among the four possession, pachyu, khlebree and bonpo lam have the nature of tutelary spirit possession.


Spirit possession is very prevalent in the Gurung community. The type of possession by pachyu, khlebree and bonpo lam is tutelary. The space is sporadic and time is periodic. This possession is shaping the unique thought and behaviour of Gurung community. 

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