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Deep in the Romanian forest, at the darkest time of night, a Chovihano (Gypsy Shaman) squats over a wooden floor as he engages in an ancient healing ritual. The ones that gather for healing do not see what the Chovihano is doing for he is bathed in the blackness of the night. All they can hear is his low conversations with the Trees and with the Spirits of the Sun, Moon, Air, Earth, Wind and Fire asking for their aid. With his Bakterismasko (magic wand) he drums up the energy around him which by now is starting to flow freely, but powerfully around him.The Chovihano jingles the Bakterismasko’s bells to ward off any lower unsavory spirits from joining in on the healing ritual. He mummers commands in the Romani tongue as he sprinkles salt for protection around those who have come for healing. He can feel the spirits have gathered to join him in his healing quest and he is in complete control of the Otherworld’s activity.The Chovihano smiles and talks to all the spirits. It would appear to an outsider that he is talking to himself, but the gypsies that gather know that their Chovihano is in deep conversation with his Guardian Spirits. The gypsies watch him, as they are gathered around a fire with the clan’s Patrinyengri (an herbalist and usually the Chovihano’s wife), as she burns the sacred herbs of rosemary and mugwort for protection and for visions, while she too utters sacred words in the Romani language.Now it is time for the healing to begin. The Chovihano walks about and jingles, as he is ladened with charms, amulets, talismans, coins and bells for protection. The Chovihano, with the aid of his tambourine, lucky charms and Spirit Guardians, rocks back and forth, moans and makes odd noises as he works himself into a healing trance. He is making contact with his Spirit Guides who will help keep everyone safe during the ritual.His goal in this healing ritual is to be able to stand in the shoes of those in the group who are sick and/or troubled or bothered by a malevolent spirit so that the problems can pass through him and he can place those problems into one of the three levels of the Otherworld where they belong. If need be he can also travel to the three levels of the Otherworld for soul retrieval, which occurs when someone loses a part of their soul in a past or present life.To be a Chovihano one is normally the son of the current Chovihano and begins his training in childhood. If no son is born to the Chovihano, then he hand picks his successor - with the help of his Spirit Guides - from the young males. The current Chovihano stays the Chovihano until he dies or is too sick to help. This is when the new Chovihano takes his place in the gypsy hierarchy.The lifelong commitment of the Chovihano is an honor given to the chosen few, but his influence is felt by all the gypsies and throughout the generations.Excerpt from: Gypsy Magic for the Dreamer's Soul © 2007 by Allie Theiss. All rights reserved.