Course Syllabus

REL3185: Healers and Mediums; Section RVC

Professor Erin Weston

Professor's photo



Phone: (305) 348-1329

Office: DM-322B

Office Hours:  By Appointment


General Information 


Course Description And Purpose

This online course investigates healing outside the norm of the USA through mediumship, channeling, PSI (paranormal psychological phenomena), shamans, animals and plants and offers a unique experience through alternative global practices that are studied through the use of texts, electronic readings, video streaming, artwork and resources information. In addition, the skeptic viewpoint that questions the validity of such healing and PSI experiences is included. An overview of accepted global alternatives in health and religious practices of categories that were considered taboo in Western medicine for many years, are currently being investigated and implemented by institutions of higher learning, universities and research laboratories in the US and world-wide. "Healers and Mediums" (through religious and cultural practices) treat diseases, maladies, and physical-emotional-spiritual problems encountered by human beings. Many treatments have been used for hundreds or thousands of years, and lie outside the normative practice of Western science, technology and medical practices.

Course Objectives 

  • Define the terms healer/s and medium/s using the glossary of terms for the course. 
  • Develop an understanding of the role that healers, mediums and shamans play in cultural and cross-cultural societies and describe some of their alternative methods of healing. 
  • Recognize patterns of evolutionary change past rituals and practices used in healing that may play a role in reshaping future traditions of aesthetics and cultural values. 
  • Recognize shamans exist within in specific community and that shamanism per se is not considered a specific religion or denomination within a religious realm in western concepts even though some shamanic beliefs have similar practices. 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of some alternative methods of healing and how they are being incorporated into medical practices of western medicine, i.e. meditation, yoga, acupressure and acupuncture. 
  • Describe healing methods that include ethnobotany: the use of plants in healing, and describe some plants used in healing. Note the indigenous cultures use of plants. 
  • Explain in definitive terms how animal are healers and used in the healing process through analysis of their importance today. 
  • Define PSI and the believers who support PSI experiences. 
  • Define skepticism from the glossary of terms and the accompanying skeptic viewpoints; synthesize why the skeptical viewpoint is important. 
  • Distinguish global perspectives that shape trends in dealing systems like reincarnation or past-life regressions. 
  • Gain an appreciation for the diversity of healing methods for life on Earth as well as concluding ways to heal the maladies of the body from global perspectives the lie outside the Western medical practices. 
  • Compare and contrast healing from areas like Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
  • Relate the above objectives in problem solving regarding healing methods from the course beginning with the pre-course survey and connecting the solutions through the post course survey. 

Global Learning Course Objectives

  • Global Awareness - Students will demonstrate knowledge of the interrelated global dynamics (social-cultural, political, economic and other values) that have been known to influence practices, both currently and historically, in diverse cultural contexts.
  • Global Perspective - Students will be able to analyze the multiple global forces that shape their and others’ understanding of a deeper and broader sense of healing on Earth- economically, political, sociological, technological, and cultural.
  • Global Engagement - Students will be able to develop solutions to local, global, international, and/or intercultural problems and be able to articulate the causes and contributions to these problems.

This is a Discipline-specific Global Learning course that counts toward your graduation requirement.

Important Information  _________________________________________________________


Covid-19 Policies

Since this is an online course, some of FIU's policies will not impact us directly. The most important thing to note for our class is that if you are diagnosed with Covid-19, please let me know as soon as you can. If you are asymptomatic, you should be able to continue to complete your work as scheduled. If you are symptomatic, then please make sure to let me know as soon as possible. You will be able to make up your work with a positive Covid-19 test, but please note that some graded assignments may be given in an alternate format to maintain the integrity of the class content. We can work out the details on a case-by-case basis. Please stay safe. You can review more on the Covid-19 policies page.    

You can contact me directly in the Canvas messages or at
 Wishing you a good semester. Please stay healthy! 

Please review the 
FIU's Policies and Netiquette webpage. The policies webpage contains essential information regarding guidelines relevant to all courses at FIU, as well as additional information about acceptable netiquette for online courses.

As a member of the FIU community you are expected to be knowledgeable about the behavioral expectations set forth in the FIU Student Code of Conduct.

Technical Requirements and Skills

One of the greatest barriers to taking an online course is a lack of basic computer literacy. By computer literacy we mean being able to manage and organize computer files efficiently, and learning to use your computer's operating system and software quickly and easily. Keep in mind that this is not a computer literacy course; but students enrolled in online courses are expected to have moderate proficiency using a computer. Please go to the "What's Required" webpage to find out more information on this subject.

Privacy Policy Statements for Partners and Vendors

Please visit our Technical Requirements webpage for additional information.

Accessibility and Accommodation

The Disability Resource Center collaborates with students, faculty, staff, and community members to create diverse learning environments that are usable, equitable, inclusive and sustainable. The DRC provides FIU students with disabilities the necessary support to successfully complete their education and participate in activities available to all students. If you have a diagnosed disability and plan to utilize academic accommodations, please contact the Center at 305-348-3532 or visit them at the Graham Center GC 190.

For additional assistance please contact FIU's Disability Resource Center.

Web Accessibility Statements for Partners and Vendors 

Please visit our ADA Compliance webpage for additional information about accessibility involving the tools used in this course.

Academic Misconduct Statement

Florida International University is a community dedicated to generating and imparting knowledge through excellent teaching and research, the rigorous and respectful exchange of ideas and community service. All students should respect the right of others to have an equitable opportunity to learn and honestly to demonstrate the quality of their learning. Therefore, all students are expected to adhere to a standard of academic conduct, which demonstrates respect for themselves, their fellow students, and the educational mission of the University. All students are deemed by the University to understand that if they are found responsible for academic misconduct, they will be subject to the Academic Misconduct procedures and sanctions, as outlined in the Student Handbook.

Academic Misconduct includes: Cheating – The unauthorized use of books, notes, aids, electronic sources; or assistance from another person with respect to examinations, course assignments, field service reports, class recitations; or the unauthorized possession of examination papers or course materials, whether originally authorized or not. Plagiarism – The use and appropriation of another’s work without any indication of the source and the representation of such work as the student’s own. Any student who fails to give credit for ideas, expressions or materials taken from another source, including internet sources, is responsible for plagiarism.

Learn more about the academic integrity policies and procedures as well as student resources that can help you prepare for a successful semester.

Course Prerequisites

The course does not have any prerequisites.

Panthers Care & Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

If you are looking for help for yourself or a fellow classmate, Panthers Care encourages you to express any concerns you may come across as it relates to any personal behavior concerns or worries you have, for the classmate’s well-being or yours; you are encouraged to share your concerns with FIU’s Panthers Care website.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers free and confidential help for anxiety, depression, stress, and other concerns that life brings. Professional counselors are available for same-day appointments. Don’t wait to call 305-348-2277 to set up a time to talk or visit the online self-help portal.


Cover of the textbook Health, Healing, and Religion

Health, Healing, and Religion: A Cross-Cultural Persective
David Kinsley
Prentice Hall, 1st Edition, 1996
ISBN-10 0132127717
ISBN-13  978-0132127714

Expectations of this Course

This is an online course, which means most (if not all) of the course work will be conducted online. Expectations for performance in an online course are the same for a traditional course. In fact, online courses require a degree of self-motivation, self-discipline, and technology skills which can make these courses more demanding for some students.


Course Detail 


Course Communication

Communication in this course will take place via the Canvas Inbox. Check out the Canvas Conversations Tutorial or Canvas Guide to learn how to communicate with your instructor and peers using Announcements, Discussions, and the Inbox. I will respond to all correspondences within 48 hours unless otherwise advised.


In order to mitigate any issues with your computer and online assessments, it is very important that you take the "Practice Quiz" from each computer you will be using to take your graded quizzes and exams. It is your responsibility to make sure your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements.

All assessments will auto-submit when (1) the timer runs out OR (2) the closing date/time is reached, whichever happens first. For example, if a quiz has a closing time of 5:00 pm but the student begins the exam at 4:55 pm, the student will only have 5 minutes to complete the quiz.

Assessments in this course are not compatible with mobile devices and should not be taken through a mobile phone or a tablet. If you need further assistance please contact FIU Canvas Support.


There will be fully online quizzes covering each section. Your quiz scores will be averaged together for a final quiz score worth 10% of your final grade. All quizzes consist of 10 multiple-choice questions, and each question will be worth 10 points. A quiz will be available from Monday 12:00 am till Monday 11:59 pm of the given week. Once you open a quiz, you will have 30 minutes to complete and submit it. You will have two attempts to take a quiz. The highest score will be counted. 

In order to mitigate any issues with your computer and online assessments, it is very important that you take the "Practice Quiz" from each computer you will be using to take your graded quizzes and exams. It is your responsibility to make sure your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements.

Assessments in this course are not compatible with mobile devices and should not be taken through a mobile phone or a tablet. If you need further assistance please contact FIU Online Support Services.


There will be three non-cumulative exams based on the readings and materials covered throughout the course. Each exam will be worth 15% of your final grade. All exams consist of multiple choice, fill in the blanks, true/false,  each worth 2 points and essay questions worth 10 points each. Exams must be taken during their availability period. Once you open an exam, you will have 60 minutes to complete and submit it. 

In order to mitigate any issues with your computer and online assessments, it is very important that you take the "Practice Quiz" from each computer you will be using to take your graded quizzes and exams. It is your responsibility to make sure your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements.

Assessments in this course are not compatible with mobile devices and should not be taken through a mobile phone or a tablet. If you need further assistance please contact FIU Canvas Support.

Journal Reflections

There will be weekly journal reflections, which will only be seen by the student and the professor. These reflections will only be graded that they were completed, but not for content. This will provide an opportunity for students to interact privately with the professor in regards to the course content. Journals may be a short paragraph, but must be turned in on time to receive credit. Altogether, the journal entries will be worth 7% of your overall grade.


Blogs are an open communications tool for students to share their thoughts. Here you can post text, images, links and attachments, open for comments. These will be completed within Discussions on Canvas. Blogs can be found in Discussion on the course menu or within the content area of the course.

  • There will be ten course blog topics. The topics will be posted in the "Discussion" in the Course Content. Students must post well thought-out comments based on the required work throughout the semester. Participation is required and represents 11% of your final grade. Both the quantity and the quality of your posts will contribute to your grade. All students are required to participate in all the three topics (at least 200 words). Blogs must be posted during the period they are assigned and are due by 11:59 pm on the Monday which ends that particular lesson. 
  • Once you have composed your original posting, take some time to carefully review other postings within your discussion group. Pick two that are most interesting to you and provide meaningful, detailed, and constructive feedback.
  • Keep in mind that your blog postings will likely be seen by other members of the course. Care should be taken when determining what to post. 

Critical Book Review & Proposal

For your paper, you will write a critical book review on a book of your choice. I have posted a list of possible options, but you are free to choose other books as well. Each essay will be between 1200 to 2000 words long and will be worth 15% of your grade. These are formal academic essays and students must cite their sources. MLA is the preferred citation style in Religious Studies. 

You will also need to submit a short proposal (200 words) providing basic information about your book choice. The proposal is worth 2% of your overall grade. 

Turnitin- Read Turnitin's Privacy Policy

Late Papers: Late papers are only accepted under extreme and verifiable conditions. 

Students are responsible for reading their messages and all announcements posted by the instructor. The instructor also reserves the right to make changes to the syllabus by means of announcements or messages with ample time allowed for students to respond and adjust appropriately.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarism, or attempting to pass off another's work as your own, falls into three different categories:

  1. A written work that is entirely stolen from another source;
  2. Using quotations from another source without properly citing them; and
  3. Paraphrasing from another source without proper citations.

Students are expected to understand the definition of plagiarism. See the University Code of Academic Integrity if you need further clarification. Offenders will receive a grade of F for the plagiarized assignment, and possibly the course.

You will need to do research; your textbook and required readings will not have enough information about the topic. You will need to consult a minimum of three outside sources and one must be a book reference. You will also need notes in your paper, and a Bibliography/Works Cited page in MLA style. 

Do not use Wikipedia as an internet source. You may use internet sources, but use only academic sources from the internet. (Academic sources list individual authors, name their sources, and have institutional affiliations.) Points will be deducted for infractions of these rules.

If you have questions regarding how to cite or what to cite, ask me BEFORE you submit your essay. If you turn in your paper and you "accidentally" plagiarize parts of your essay, you will fail the assignment and possibly the course. Better safe than sorry! To reiterate, ask me before the due date if you are unsure about how to cite your sources.

**Students may not submit work from a previous semester or from another class for this assignment or any other assignment in this course. It will be flagged for plagiarism by Turnitin.

Review the Grademark comments (feedback) from your professor.

Individual Wiki Page

After you have written your critical book review, you will also create your own wiki page for your book.  This wiki will be shared with the class.  Your wiki page will present an overview of your chosen book, and will also include your analysis of the book applying the Religious Studies concepts that we have covered in class. This assignment is worth 8% of your overall grade. 


In this course we will use Zoom in order to schedule online meetings between students and Professor Weston.


Protocol for Technical Issues

If you have any technical problems,

  1. Contact tech support to file a report, and
  2. Contact me by email to let me know what is going on.

If you are having technical problems and an assignment is due,

  1. E-mail me a copy of the assignment, so it is on time, and
  2. Contact tech support.

Student Support Offers Assistance in the form of: 

E-mail & Live Chat Support

Phone Support

Office Support (On Campus)

7 days a week 8am - midnight

Email Us

Support Center

Live Chat

7 days a week 8am - midnight 
Telephone: 305-348-3630 
Toll-Free: 1-877-3-ELEARN


Monday - Friday from 8am - 10pm 

Modesto A. Maidique Campus

MANGO Building, 5th Floor 

Driving Directions || Campus Map


Course Requirements
Course Requirements Number of Items Points for Each Total Points Available Weight
Biography 1 10 10  2%
Journal  5 1 5 5%
Blogs  5 10  50 12%
Quizzes 11 100  1,100 11%
Exams 3 100 300 45% 
Book Proposal  1 10  10 2%
Critical Book Review  1 100  100 15%
Wiki Presentation 1 100 100  8%
Total  28     100%


Grading Scheme
Letter Range (%) Letter Range (%) Letter Range (%)
A 95 or above B 83 - 86 C 70 - 76
A- 90 - 94 B- 80 - 82 D 60 - 69
B+ 87 - 89 C+ 77 - 79 F 59 or less

Course Calendar 

Weekly Schedule

Course Calendar
Date Tasks


May 9 -16

Tasks: Purchase textbook, start reading ahead

Read: Critical Thinking PPT PDF

Video: Evaluating Evidence 

Due: Biography


May 9 - 16


PPT - Skepticism

Read: The Burden of Skepticism
            Skepticism Vs. Cynicism 
Videos: Skepticism
               The Baloney Detection Kit
               Chi Explained without Magic (optional video)

Website: James Randi

Due: Blog 1
          Quiz 1 


May 16 - 23


Read: Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 

Videos: Native American Healers
               Brazilian Healing
               Phuket Pain Rituals

Due: Blog 2
          Quiz 2

Case Studies

May 16 - 23


Read: Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7

Optional Reading - Yoruba

Videos: Possession
               Hmong Shamanism 
               Incan Blood Ritual
               Santeria Ritual 

Due: Blog 3
         Quiz 3

Themes in Healing

May 16 - 23 


Read: Chapter 8
          Disease Etiologies in Non-Western Medical Systems
          Folk Magic & Symbolism in the West
          Shamanism & Neurotheology 
(optional reading) 


 Culture Specific Diseases

Due: Blog 4 
          Quiz 4

Plants & Animals

May 16 - 23


Review: PPTS - Plants & In the House of Animals

Read: Emotions of Animals
           Psychedelic Drugs and Religious Experience
          The Magic Drink of the Amazon

Videos: The Animal Communicator
               Jungle to "Civilization" - How Plant Medicine Can Promote Health in a Toxic Culture
               San Pedro Ceremony 

               Fire on the Mountain (optional video)

Due: Blog 5
          Quiz 5

May 16 - 23


Due: Exam 1 
Book Proposal

Healing in the Christian Church

May 23 - 31


Chapters 9, 10, 11

Videos: In Search of Lourdes
                A Day in the Life of a Modern Exorcist
               Man Crucified Every Year
               Padre Pio
              Charismatic Catholicism 

Due: Blog 6
         Quiz 6

N. American Faith Healers

May 23 - 31


Chapters 12, 13

Videos: What is Pentecostalism?
                My Life Inside: The Snake Church
                Pentecostal Service
                Speaking in Tongues (Service Example) 
                Glossolalia: The Science of Speaking in Tongues
                Vice- Teenage Exorcists

Due: Blog 7
         Quiz 7 

Espiritismo & Reincarnation

May 30 - June 6


Espiritismo: Creole Spiritism in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States
           Hypnosis and Trance Induction in the Surgeries of Brazilian Spiritist Healer-Mediums

           Glossary: New Age Concepts

Videos: Spiritualism in the West (parts 1-4) 
                Nosso Lar 
                Allan Kardec: Fundamentals of the Spiritist Philosophy 
                The Boy Who Lived Before

                Interview with Jim B. Tucker
                Children's Past Lives 

Due: Blog 8
         Quiz 8


May 30 - June 6


Read: The Resurgence of Magical Religion as a Response to the Crisis of Modernity: A Postmodern   
            Depth Psychological Perspective
            Amulets & Anthropology: A Paranormal Encounter with Malay Magic 

            PSI Glossary Terms

Videos: OBE's 
              Expanded Consciousness and Psi Phenomena 

Due: Blog 9
         Quiz 9 

May 30 - June 6


Due: Exam 2

Modern Medical Culture

June 6 - 13


Read: Chapters 14, 15, 16
           What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick? 
           Religious Development: A Synthesis and Reformulation

Videos: Unified Theory of Everything

Due: Blog 10
         Quiz 10

Modern Western Medical Subcultures

June 6 - 13


Read: Chapters 17, 18 
           The Rave: Spiritual Healing in Modern Western Subcultures
           Embers, Dust, and Ashes: Pilgrimage and Healing at the Burning Man Festival 
You are What You Eat: Religious Aspects of the Health Movement

Videos: The Potential Role of Epigenetics in Ayahuasca Shamanism 
              The Search for Purpose and Meaning
              Living Your Best Life 

Due: Blog 11
         Quiz 11
         Critical Book Review


June 13 - 17


Due: Wiki Presentations

June 13 - 17


Due: Exam 3 

Course Summary:

Date Details Due