Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hmong Religion

It is amazing sometimes when a conversation about religion is started in a time and place that you didn't expect it.

While driving home from class today, a classmate was asking me the usual questions about my current research project and my future grad school plans and telling me about hers. It came up within conversation that I had found a professor that currently did research within my area of interest as well as within the area of the psychology of religion and that I was thinking about contacting him. I don’t remember just how the conversation switched to our personal beliefs,[1] rather than the general subject of religion, but I realized that I had never given a thought to what her religion might be as we began to talk about it.[2]

My classmate is Hmong. She told me that her religion is Shamanism and asked if I knew what that was. I mentioned that I knew of Shamanism in regards to Native American beliefs, but was not familiar with Hmong Shamanism. I started to ask her a few questions, trying not to look to eager. I love conversations where I am learning about other people’s religions.

She mentioned that the Hmong people worship and honor their ancestors. I asked if they had particular holidays that were observed. While the Hmong people do not have specific holidays, one particular celebration that she mentioned was around the time of the New Year, a day that was determined by the traditions of each family group.

One part of conversation really interested me – their belief in spirits. I had heard about the Hmong belief in spirits before. I had heard that Hmong families will not move into a house that someone had been murdered in or one that is located across the street from a graveyard. She said that this may be due to a possible bad spirit. Unfortunately, I can not remember all of what we talked about regarding spirits. Here is some more information regarding Hmong spirit beliefs. Also, while looking for information on Hmong religion, I came across a list of religious phrases which included many references to spirits.

Other parts of the conversation included the belief in after life, karma, shaman healers and sickness, although we didn’t get too in depth regarding these subjects. There just was not enough time on our ride home. However, I am hoping that she will be willing to discuss more about her beliefs in the future as I am definitely interested in learning more.

[1] If I remember correctly, I had mentioned Pantheism and she thought that it was somewhat similar to Hmong belief. The conversation may have started from there.

[2] I grew up with many Hmong classmates and neighbors, which is why I thought it was strange that I never had given it a thought.

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