The Hmong religion is Shamanism.  Shamanism is the practice of using a shaman to communicate between the human and spirit world.  It is a sub-religion of Animism.  Animism is the belief that all living things (earth, sky, plants, animals, humans, etc) have souls.  A shaman is someone who has the gift to communicate with the spirit world.  Practitioners of Shamanism believe in spirits and rely on their shamans to mediate and heal.

Like many cultures around the world, religion plays a major part in the Hmong culture.  It’s a blurred area as to what is culture and what is religion because they are tightly intertwined.  When a baby is born, a shaman is called upon to announce to the ancestors that there is a new addition to the family.  When someone is sick, and doctors and medication cannot cure the ailment, a shaman searches for the lost soul of the person who is sick.  When someone dies, rituals are performed to send the spirit of the deceased on its way to the final resting place.

Those who don’t know the premise of these rituals may come to think of it as savage, heathen, or pagan.  Those who are Hmong and are ignorant to the ways of their forefathers will go as far as calling their fellow Hmong people who still practice Shamanism as devil or demon worshipers.

I have a cousin who converted to a Jehovah’s Witness a few years ago.  She told her brother that we are “devil worshipers.”  A Hmong acquaintance recently posted on her Facebook that she’s glad she changed her life around by converting to Christianity because shamanic Hmong funerals are scary and people who still send their deceased “worship the demons.”

Too many times in the past have I heard ignorant people call me pagan, heathen, devil worshiper, and witch.  Are Hmong people really witches who call upon the devil when they sacrifice a cow, pig, or chicken to either pay respect or appease the wrath of their ancestors?  Are Hmong people really savages who need to convert to the modern ways of life?  What makes others think we worship the devil?

There really is no point to this blog.  I was just offended by someone’s post on Facebook.  I had to write out my thoughts.  Yes, I did educate that person on Hmong funerals and that we do not worship the demons (I wrote an essay).

Ignorance really does lead to animosity and prejudice.  I don’t judge you, your religion, or the way you live your life, so don’t judge mine.

12 thoughts on “Worshiping demons

  1. Thank you for posting about this. As a First Nations person, and a person trained by shamans, I deal with this all too often. I think it is very challenging for my birth family, who tend to want more distance from Traditional culture, and who are more focused on Christianity. I am aware of the pressures we all face to assimilate in order to survive, and also the need to stay connected to the ancestors and spirit beings. Difficult choices.

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    1. Thank you for you comment. It is difficult when others don’t understand you or what you believe, and because of that it makes you “different.”

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  2. Very interesting piece! I found this website a while back, http://www.miaoupg.com/hmong.htm and I quote, “Some people say Christianity has scarred the Hmong forever and others say it has saved us forever. Whether we acknowledge it or not, conflict has arisen in the culture with the introduction and growth of Christianity. Tensions run and continue to build between the animists and the Christians on practicing and viewing traditional animist rituaal.”

    From what I witness with my husband’s family, some people that has convert to Christianity think they’re more superior and act like they’re betten than anybody. I think regardless what your believe is, you should treat others with respect.

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    1. I agree. Regardless of your religion (and race, economic status, etc), you should treat others with respect. Don’t judge another person or think you’re better than them.

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  3. I think that many people confuse cultural practice with religion. I personally think that shamanism falls more under the category of a cultural practice… it is like going to the doctor when we are sick, or how we cope with mental anguish. We DO have a religion of our own that ties in with the cultural practice, but also has it’s own rules and doctrines. It has a Yawm Saub, a beginning flood story and an ending story, just like the majority of religions out there. We don’t pray to our ancestors because we believe that our ancestors created the universe and they have the ability to change the courses of human activity… We pray to our ancestors for guidance because they are our family… Our views of life and death are not so separate as in many other cultural and religious practices. Life and death are in the same.

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    1. In a similar way to Animism, I practice Plant Spirit Medicine. I agree with Kang that all religions are very similar and based on almost the same concepts, just different names. I like to point that out when there is a conflict between religions. I trust the Spirits will guide them, too.

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  4. I could never understand why or how people can debate about which religion is right or wrong. I’ve grew up in a shamanism family, my parents had always taught me the rules and ritual of the religion but they had never once taught me about the flaws of other religions or that for me to never accept other religions. I think this world would be a better place if we all just learn to accept each other’s religion. I am like you, I get offended when people start to call me the devil worshipper, but if they were to actually study the religion and get to know the religion it’s nothing as bad as they had all believe it to be. I’ve always believe there is no right or wrong but simply it’s who you are and what you learn. It’s sad to say but as I was growing up, living in a state with mainly Hmong Christians I have heard a lot of mean and hurtful, rude and inconsiderate things that had been sad to me and a few fellow non-christians (shamanist believer).

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    1. I feel how you feel with your words. I’ve grown to learned that words and the way you treat someone have the most impact on how that person thinks and knows you. With shamans and those who study the bible I see many forget that we are brothers and sisters or that we are all people. I don’t thinks it’s religion that sets us apart but the words and action we use on one another. I’m glad to read upon thinkers about this topic but I hope for a better understanding among the Hmong community.

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  5. I think I understand where everyone is coming from. First in my opinion ignorance starts with people’s attitude and then religion backs them up. I’m going through the process of questioning and searching for the reason why there are issues among people and religion. I’ve grown and I’m pretty sure everyone Hmong kid grew up with the religion or practice or shamanism. I’ve taken that into consideration and contrasted between those who study the bible and those who don’t. The arguments and judgements might fall under these few scriptures from the bible(Exodus 20:4-6). Stating we shouldn’t worship idols and “bow down to them nor induced to serve them.” That says a lot but I think the way many approach one another with this matter is unfriendly and disrespectful so things turn negative. (Deuteronomy 18:10-13) summarizes how we shouldn’t look for omens who consults with spirits, professional fortunetellers, or anyone who inquires the dead because all these offend or are detestable to Jehovah God. Those 2 scriptures seem to be a big argument or judgement I’ve seen put to test with other religion and no doubt they are guilty. Sadly I see that people are like MaiBao wrote how ignorant and prejudice it sounds. I feel we as people should just be open and respectfully learn from each other regardless of age, gender, or race. From what I see it’s going to take a while but I can’t wait to see it happen. Forgive me for the lengthy comment but this topic interests me so much I have to share. Thank you.

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  6. 🙂 sometime it’s very scary. I do believe in god and shamanism. My mom is a Shaman, and sometime it does work and not. It’s not workshiping demons, if you use shamanism for bad it’s karma and will come back and hit you. It’s Spiritual Healing.
    I was at a lake in SC for my birthday. My sister had pushed me into the lake, we laugh and i pretend to drown, knowing that i was scared i swam to get to the dock and i struggle and drowned. when i got home a week later, i was sick badly. i thought it was a fever. but 2 weeks past and i still was sick. my mom knew my spirit was gone and wanted to know where the lake was. she told me that the water dragon. (not a real dragon but a spirit who owns the lake) had my spirit. my mom said i should be glad that lake spirit was a good spirit. My mom went to the lake, and she enchanted some words came back home, killed a chicken and made hmong money boats. What she was doing was offering chicken and money to the water spirit to return my spirit back to my body.
    after all that was gone, i was happy, that i wasnt sick. i had pray to god but patient wasnt my thing, i was going to kill myself because the sickness was worsen.
    Believe in god, there’s a devil.
    but Spirits and ghosts are everywhere.

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