Medicine Man, a religious specialist in some non-Western cultures, whose main function is to cure disease.
Medicine men base their healing methods on the assumption that most, if not all, illnesses are caused by supernatural power and that, consequently, supernatural powers are required to cure them. The individual may fall ill through having offended one of the gods, through the machinations of witchcraft or sorcery, or through the unprovoked attack of an evil spirit. The task of the healer is to diagnose the disease, usually by divination, and then to apply the spiritual remedy, such as retrieving a lost soul, removing a disease-causing object, or exorcising an evil spirit. (In conjunction with these spiritual techniques, medicine men may also at times employ physical remedies such as herbal applications or massage.)
The effectiveness of the medicine man’s treatment seems negligible in light of Western medicine. Anthropologists have, however, observed that the work of medicine men occasionally has beneficial results. These may be due to a process of psychological release and consequent physiological healing. Faith healing in Western societies may be effective, in part, through the same process.
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