Shamanism (Lhapa or Lhamo)
A Lhapa is a spiritual healer. One becomes a lhapa by getting possessed by a spirit of a good monk who escapes from the judgment of the Lord of the deads. Usually the time of getting possessed is remembered by the lhapa by feeling like mad for a moment. The one acting as lhapa is not conscious of the executed processes and rituals. The lhapa always speaks Tibetan, which is close to Ladakhi language but not equal. It happens that the lhapa cannot understand himself while speaking Tibetan, a language he didn’t learn before.
He is equipped with a drum, beat stick, special dress and a weapon to fight the bad spirit. According to the villagers and the lhapa himself, he can solve all the problems and cures illness quickly. The community largely solicits Lhapa, usually after allopathic and amchi treatment failed. He is seen as the last and best solution and cares for diseases which came suddenly, for “bad evil” disease but mostly for “natural” disease. He also is solicited for good advice. The lhapa would be even able to suck out gallstones with a pipe.
The interviewed lhapa sees up to 13 patients per day. There are three lhapas acting at present in Zanskar. Sometimes the lhapa refers to the amchi or allopathic staff. Allopathic staff never refers patients to the lhapa, amchis do sometimes. The interviewed lhapa was also an amchi before becoming an lhapa.