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Babaylan and Psychology | Center for Babaylan Studies

old 1970s article refers to baylan as Philippine shamans and shamans as psychologists:



page 57

…if we take the second sense, i.e., “The Shaman
In His Role or Function of Psychologist,” it seems the task may be easier.
We simply presuppose that the shman is a psychologist, and then proceed
to describe how or when he functions as such. But even this is not quite
simple. There are other questions that crop up: First of all, “What is a
Shaman? Perhaps, for many, this is the first time the word is being
bandied about. Then what do you mean by the clause the shaman plays
the role of a psychologist? A theoretical psychologist? an experimental?
a clinical? a psychiatrist? a therapeutist? etc., etc.

page 58

The Hypothesis
The hypothesis is a complex one. It has more than one parts, and
the divisions of this paper will naturally follow after them.
First, the shaman is a psychologist (a) on account of his knowledge
of the mind, and of mental states and processes; or, which amounts to
the same thing, because of his knowledge of human nature; (b) because
he is a person especially sensitive to influences and forces that are extra-
sensory, or, because he is psychic, even a “mystic in the raw,” as Eliade
would characterize him; and (c) because he was the psychiatrist in pre-
literate society, in that he practiced the healing of mental diseases.

page 64

The Initiation Proper: Departure
Shamanic initiation like any initiation on the primitive level con-
sists of at least three stages: departure, transition and incorporation.
Central to the idea of initiation is that of growth or maturity. This in
turn is based on an ancient belief which finds verification not only on the
personal but also on the collective and cosmic levels, that one must die in
order to live again. This is the law that lies at the base of all existence as
we know it in the world. The phenomenon of seizure or “an overpower-
ing mental crisis” which is characteristic of shamanic call documented all
over the world, is actually the beginning of the initiation, and can be
likened to the stage of departure from one’s wonted and accustomed
way of life. It matters not whether this seizure comes spontaneously or
has been deliberately brought about. What is important is that it happens
at all. And still more important, that the shaman candidate is cured
of this mental illness, generally through his own efforts and that of the
spirits. The very name of the shaman in many Philippine tribes, namely,
baylan, balian, ballyan, which is rooted on the Sanskrit word ba-di mean-
ing “a fit of sudden and inexplicable trembling attributed by the peoples
of the Malay peninsula to supernatural agency” (Christie, Subanuns,
p. 2 n. 1) serves notice of this mental seizure as typical of this stage of
shamanic consecration.

page 63

The Call to Shamanism
The call to shamanism by the spirits could come in many ways:
directly, through a sudden fit of trembling and insanity or near insanity,
as in the case of the shamans among the early Bisayans (Eliade, Shaman-
ism, 33 ff ; Alzinas, Historia 122-23 ; 2 16-2 17) ; or during a long period
of sickness or depression, when, they claim, a diwata or anito or spirit
calls on them to become his friend, promising himself to be his familiar
spirit; or by a vision, as in the case of the Goldis and their ayamis, or
of a Subanun who, having been in the forest for a number of days, and
finding himself short of food, suddenly “saw” a diwata riding a boat,
who promised to become his guardian spirit. (Christie, Subanuns, p. 4).
Or through dreams, waking visions, or harrowing experiences like being
hit by lightning and coming through unscathed, or drowning and being
revived; or dying and eventually resuscitating; or physically disappearing
for three or more days and eventually being found either on top of a
tree, usually, a balete, or he is found sitting beneath it, or on tlie rafters
of a house, or in the basement or the cellar, with a stranger and far away
look, usually oblivious of the persons and things around him, and, in
many case with a strength beyond the normal.
The shaman candidate generally gets over this initial onslaught of
madness or psychosis. He gets cured, and then his initiation into the
ranks of shamans begins. (Note well: it is possibie, as in the case of
Eskimos & American Indians, for a man to voluntarily go off into the
desert or woods in search of a vision, and to experiense a call to shaman-
ism which is signalled often by the appearance of a spirit either in human
form or in animal form.)

You can find the full text here:

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