根據最近幾年的田野調查資料來看，在臺灣童乩的成乩 (initiation) 過程中，疾病的確扮演了一個非常重要的角色，但是，並非人人都有罹病的經驗，而且，更重要的是，其所罹患的疾病，只有少部分才是精神疾病。
不過，若從社會的角度來看，童乩確實很容易被歸類為「病人」或「異常者」。他們通常被視為傷風敗俗、違法亂紀、欺惑百姓、蠹壞財物的「不良」份子，是有害之人，是某些社會弊病的源由，是臺灣邁向「現代文明」之路的一種障礙。而多數童乩在現實社會中則是生活「艱苦」。他們在成乩之前，除了疾病的折磨之外，通常還經歷過不少挫折和苦痛，身心俱疲，生活困頓。在成乩之後，童乩除了健康獲得改善之外，經濟方面大多並不寬裕，必須接受家人、親友的救助和供養。再加上他們又大多是低學歷者，因此，可以說是臺灣社會的「弱勢」族群。無論如何，就像其他社會的巫者 (shaman) 一樣，對於童乩來說，挫折、創傷或痛苦的經驗是他們成巫過程中的必經之路，而在自我醫治（或接受神療）的過程中，他們也逐漸獲得醫療他人的能力，因此，也有人稱呼他們為「受創的醫者」(wounded healer)。
巫者 臺灣 醫者 病人
or Patients: The Shamans’ Roles and Images in Taiwan
Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
Taiwanese shamans, known as dang-gi 童乩, may refer to persons of either sex who serve as intermediaries between humans and spirits. When possessed, they pray for blessings and remove misfortune for their clients. In Taiwanese society, they play the role of healers, but are also depicted as patients. This paper intends, therefore, to investigate the shamans’ engagement in medical affairs in Taiwan, analyze their conceptions of disease and healing methods, and explain the reasons why they are regarded as patients. This research relies heavily on both historical documents and materials gathered from fieldwork.
According to the description of Taiwanese customs written by authors of local gazetteers and other scholars of the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1911), from the middle of the sixteenth century to the late nineteenth century, the common people in Taiwan, when sick, would generally ask shamans to heal them by means of such methods as exorcism, prayer, and prescriptions. During the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945), we know from official documents of the colonial government and studies of Japanese scholars in Taiwan, that shamans continued to play the role of healers. After 1945, despite the fact that Taiwan broke away from Japanese rule, the roles of shamans in Taiwanese society barely changed. According to the research of anthropologists, folklorists, medical doctors, researchers in medical science, and Protestant pastors, shamans continued to treat people for diseases from the forties on.
Most Taiwanese shamans impute the cause of disease to spiritual beings or supernatural forces. Their diagnoses for a particular illness might include: punishment by spiritual beings (particularly gods of pestilence), being haunted by the souls of deceased persons (particularly the so-called malicious ghosts) , offending demons or breaking taboos, bewitchment, and the soul being frightened. However, they do not deny that people’s moral defects and mistakes in conduct may also provoke karmic retribution or demonic punishment in the form of disease. In addition, they accept several theories of traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine that explain the causes of disease at physiological and psychological levels. For treatment, they basically all rely upon the power of deities or rituals which may be called “ritual healing,” including exorcism, prayer, conversion, medicinal prescriptions offered by deities, divine massage, and turning the patient over to medical authorities on the advice of a deity.
Though the major function of shamans in Taiwanese society is healing, a few traditional literati, modern officials, psychologists, psychiatrists, Protestant pastors, anthropologists and folklorists have regarded them as a kind of patient. They believe that the strange deportment of shamans during their religious practices including the way they bring down the spirits, speak in tongues while possessed, mutilate themselves and so on, is the effect of a kind of hypnosis, or a state of hysterical dissociation. At the same time, they also believe that numerous shamans, before their initiation, have congenital mental abnormalities, paranoid personalities, or that they suffer from other mental disorders.
According to data derived from the latest fieldwork, illness undoubtedly plays a very important role in shamanistic initiation in Taiwan, but by no means has every shaman experienced fallen sick, and furthermore, only a small part of the diseases that they have suffered from relate to psychiatric problems.
Nevertheless, shamans are very easily categorized as sick or abnormal in social or cultural terms. They are often regarded as offenders of public decency, illegal troublemakers, deceivers of the people, and harmful undesirables; as detrimental individuals, the cause of social corruption; and as obstacles on Taiwan’s road towards modernity. Furthermore, most shamans indeed endure many hardships in life. Before their initiation, apart from the torments of illness, they usually have numerous traumatic experiences. They are frequently weary in body and mind, and live in poverty. After their initiation, apart from gaining some improvement in health, most shamans are economically far from being wealthy, and have to accept the help and support of family members, relatives and friends. In addition, most of them are poorly educated. Consequently, they may be called an underprivileged group in Taiwanese society.
Nevertheless, just like other shamans in other parts of the world, the experience of failure, trauma, or suffering, is inevitable in the initiation process of Taiwanese shamans. But during the process of self-healing (or receiving divine healing), they also gradually acquire the capacity of healing others. This is the reason why some people call them the “wounded healers.”
Keywords: dang-gi, shaman, Taiwan, healer, patient