Shamanism is an active part of daily Paliyan life, according to a 1991 journal article by Peter M. Gardner that has just been added to the Archive of the Peaceful Societies website. Their gods, called samis, are frequently summoned to come into the villages to provide personal healing, advice about stressful situations, or solutions to various kinds of problems.

When the Paliyan people need their gods, several men or women will clap and sing at a steadily increasing speed until one or more of the samis come and enter the bodies of a few of the participants. The samis, in possession of the bodies of people, will then give ritualized advice and healing. The temporary visitors may directly diagnose and heal illnesses, prevent epidemics, and give advice. Sometimes they may summon other samis, such as the ones that assist with the game resources, to come and provide food.

Humans humble themselves before the samis, curl up at their feet, exaggerate their disabilities, and seek their parental protection. These relationships of dependency contrast with normal Paliyan interpersonal behavior, in which individuals usually act in an independent, autonomous fashion. They normally avoid affronting people, shun overbearing attitudes, and retreat from any hint of dependency on others. Thus, in their interactions with the samis, the Paliyans escape momentarily from their normal social codes.

In a society where no one has more knowledge or authority than anyone else, the judgment and wisdom of the samis can be helpful. During the visits of the gods, individuals can interact with them as much or as little as they need to. The shamans who are possessed by the samis derive no special recognition or authority for their roles—the individual shamans must be self-effacing in order to keep their good relations with others.