Kuoa Fong Lo, son of Chong Xu Lo and Myyer Joann Lo, was born and raised in Santa Ana, CA. He moved to St. Paul, MN with his family twelve years ago and after receiving his degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix, having four sons, and attaining a successful job as the current housing coordinator at Hmong American Partnership (HAP), he was shocked and completely unprepared for the turn his life would take one month after his youngest son was born.
This is the second of three articles focusing on the new wave of Hmong shamanism. Also see The next wave of Hmong shamans: Sandy’Ci Moua’s story and New Generation of Hmong Shamans to hold a panel at Hmong National Development Conference
“I had seen my wife nearly die during an episode of crossing into the spirit world,” he said. “She told me she had dreams and [the spirits] would tell her that they were going to come for her one month after she gave birth to our youngest son.” When the spirits came for her, Kuoa said she had predicted it. “She was freaking out because the spirits took her to the skies. She freaked out, I freaked out, and my mother (who was there) did, too.”
When Kuoa took his wife to the doctor, he was afraid she would be judged as crazy just because of her symptoms. “Her blood was normal, blood sugar was normal, heart rate was fine,” he said, but they must have been guided to the right place because their doctor, who was Hmong, suggested emerging into a shaman as a possibility. “The doctor said there were no other signs why she should be this way,” Kuoa said. “Growing up Christian, I was baffled because I hadn’t ever been to shaman events. I didn’t know anything about it.” He said that his wife often said her arms were hurting in pain, like they had died, and that her legs were in pain. “She could smell spirits of the ones who have passed. She could make out the ones that need help crossing over, smell spirits who were decomposing, ones that have passed. For my wife, they come ask for help [in] passing on messages, [to] say hi to someone, or to tell something happened to them and to ask for help,” he said. Kuoa’s wife has only been emerged as a shaman for the past two years. “Spiritually, I know when she’s not there,” he said.
Kuoa’s experience in the world of shamanism is especially unique because of his third-party perspective—he isn’t a shaman, but his experience is derived strictly from his experience with his wife in the past two years, and how it has affected him. “[My wife’s] family thought she was crazy, that she was haunted or evil. People said a lot of really mean things that really affected my life, hers, and our children’s. I would hate for anyone to go through the same thing. There’s a big need to know why,” he said. “There are certain things that we need to know.” Kuoa wrote to HND, telling them of his experience and his need for more resources for the prevalence of this issue for himself and possibly others. Kuoa wanted to offer his experience with being a supporting role for people who have partners or other close loved ones who are shamans.
Hence Sandy and Kuoa joining together to jump start this conversation and to have something tangible to have people on a national level talking to one another and hopefully, to other communities. “Native, West African…how can we learn together?” Sandy asked. “It’s a new wave but it’s not just the young, it’s the old—it spreads across all kinds of religions. There’s an awakening happening.”
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Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.