‘M*A*S*H’ Once Brought in a Real-Life Shaman for an Episode
MAS*H broke new ground when it aired in 1972. Before then, no one expected to see dark comedy in their TV lineup. At the same time, the writers blended some subversive jokes and criticism about the war into the dialogue. It was a risky step to take at the time. However, that risk paid off. Today, it is one of the most popular television series in America. The series finale is still the most-watched episode of scripted television in history.
One time, MAS*H really pushed the envelope and performed an 𝕖𝕩𝕠𝕣𝕔𝕚𝕤𝕞. The episode, titled “Exorcism” aired in 1976, according to MeTV. Three years before that episode aired, The Exorcist changed the face of 𝕙𝕠𝕣𝕣𝕠𝕣 cinema. It also brought 𝕕𝕖𝕞𝕠𝕟 possession and its only cure into America’s mainstream culture. It spawned countless imitators and remains a favorite of 𝕙𝕠𝕣𝕣𝕠𝕣 fans today. Then, the year after the exorcism in the 4077, The Exorcist II took the 𝕕𝕖𝕞𝕠𝕟𝕤 out of popular culture. To put it kindly, that movie was 𝕙𝕠𝕣𝕣𝕚𝕓𝕝𝕖 and it 𝕜𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕖𝕕 the trend its predecessor started.
The MASH 𝔼𝕩𝕠𝕣𝕔𝕚𝕤𝕞
As a refresher, The 𝔼𝕩𝕠𝕣𝕔𝕚𝕤𝕥 featured two 𝕡𝕣𝕚𝕖𝕤𝕥𝕤. One was older and steadfast in his faith. The younger was battling a crisis of faith, the loss of his mother, and an ancient demon. They were serious and garbed in black vestments. In the MASH episode, things played out differently. A 𝕤𝕙𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟 in brightly colored robes and a jingling feathered hat dances into the camp. She’s a flurry of prayers, bells, and bright colors.
Interestingly, they did not add the 𝕤𝕙𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟’𝕤 name to the credits on the show. Even now, she doesn’t show up on the IMDb entry for the episode. Some think that she was an actual 𝕤𝕙𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟 who 𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕗𝕠𝕣𝕞𝕖𝕕 a real 𝕖𝕩𝕠𝕣𝕔𝕚𝕤𝕞 𝕣𝕚𝕥𝕦𝕒𝕝 for the MAS*H episode. Maybe she wanted to remain anonymous.
The prevailing theory is that the MAS*H crew found the shaman in southern California. It’s possible that she wore authentic traditional garb and carried the actual tools of the 𝕣𝕚𝕥𝕦𝕒𝕝. After all, most cultures have rituals for driving out unclean spirits, so it’s not that much of a stretch.
Apparently, they planned to show the contrast between the doctors in the field 𝕙𝕠𝕤𝕡𝕚𝕥𝕒𝕝 and traditional forms of healing. The doctors couldn’t heal the ailments of some locals. So, they called her in. She succeeded where they failed. It makes for an interesting contrast.
More than that, though, it highlights the differences and similarities between the respective cultures. Both sides of the coin have a way to drive out demons but they look very different. The dark-garbed priests and dancing shaman seem to have nothing in common. However, they have the same goal.
Decades later, the episode makes for a cool piece of trivia for MAS*H fans.