SOUL RETRIEVAL: THE SHAMANIC VISION OF THE SOUL
In Western countries, we hear people speaking about the soul, but it is always described as a product of our psyche or perceived as something far away, belonging to the realm of the “spiritual things”. This is not true. The soul is what makes us unique living beings. The soul gives us our characteristics, our personality, and our will to achieve goals, but its power does not stop there. The soul regulates our metabolism and our biological functions because, as traditional shamans teach, there is no separation between the psychic and physical, between spirit and the material world.
Tsunki showed to his students how the soul is a spirit that, through becoming material, becomes us. But the soul is not our ego, the part of us with which we call “I”. The ego’s importance in contemporary society is overrated. The soul is larger than the ego, and to communicate with it it is easier to see it as a brother, or someone dear who lives in the same house, but at the same time, the house is also our soul. As with much of shamanic knowledge, it is not possible to understand it with our rationality, but there are some rituals in which spirits can help us to experience it, to meet our soul and feel what it does.
The soul is materialized to different extents: lightly (thoughts and emotions), strongly ( biological functions), or completely (organs). The way it materializes is unique because the soul is personal. Therefore every expression of it is peculiar: the thoughts, the emotions, and the consciousness, but also the functionality of every organ. For instance, a malfunction of the liver can lead to the inability to get through a period of loneliness, or the weakness of the lungs and the skin (which are deeply connected) can cause a fear of being rejected or abandoned by our loved ones. As Tsunki said: “We are also our body”.
Due to the influence of monotheism, nowadays people think that the soul is an inseparable entity, but in fact, parts of our soul can be lost. This fragment, when isolated, appears and behaves as an independent soul. Thus, we can speak about liver’s soul, the heart’s soul, and so on, though traditional shamans do not speak in this way because Spirits do not speak in this way. They simply say “the liver “or “the heart” because there is no separation between the organ and its soul.
The loss of the soul
Fragments of the soul can leave our body and never come back.
In the worst cases, the consequences can be coma, dementia, serious mental illness, drug addiction, or loss of vitality that can expose the person to disease.
Less severe losses can cause affectivity issues, such as the inability to love or to be excited by and life. It can cause depression and also malfunctions of the organs.
The soul can run away because it is scared, be kidnapped by Spirits, or be stolen by another person. That person may not necessarily be a shaman or a sorcerer. But if the soul does not come back, a shaman or a shamanic healer can look for and retrieve it.
Also the personality changes typical of the advanced old age, such as the return to childhood, are caused by the loss of the most complex parts of the soul, that bring with them characteristics of the personality.
Often in these cases the retrieval is not possible because the soul left the body due to the degeneration of the brain with which it could no longer relate. The person was in fact partially already dead. Our culture believes that the death is just one event, but shamans know that is can happen in different steps. Old people locked in rest homes, without the capacity to think and remeber, are already dead. Their soul continued its path in other worlds, while in the body remained just a small part able to control few physiological functions and elementary feelings and thoughts.
When we try to speak with an old person in that stage, with the hope to have an answer that will remeber us the person that we knew before, that is not anymore in the body, and to communicate with it there is the need to travel in different worlds. The person of before is simply not longer here.
The lost soul
A physical or psychic trauma can cause the loss of part of the soul that feels vulnerable and leaves the body. This is why during a terrible experience, it seems that we do not feel anything. The soul is gone. If the part that leaves the body is the part that controls consciousness, a person may faint or become comatose. Usually, the soul comes back by itself. But if this does not happen, damage will occur. For instance, the fear of terrible injury, illness, or death can make the soul of the lungs run away. This part of the soul controls the breath and the skin. Our first experience of independent life on this world, when we leave the maternal womb, is the feeling of cold air on our skin, and both we and our skin start to breathe. This is the reason why the soul of our lungs is highly sensitive to the passage between life and death and the fear of death can damage it. Also, abandonment by parents can cause a loss of the lung’s soul. This is because every mammal cub, when it loses the parents, experiences the terror of death as it is left vulnerable to predators or to starvation.
Therefore, those who have had these traumas may easily suffer pneumonia, asthma, or a skin disease if the soul does not come back quickly.
If the soul does not come back at all, the person will suffer weakness of the lungs, respiratory illness, or chronic skin diseases. The person can also develop the tendency to isolate themselves from society and family; they may seek solitude and experience depression, laziness, loss of vital energy, and fatigability. Other consequences can be anxiety about small details, problems relaxing, poor self-esteem and the feeling of being unworthy.
The lost soul behaves often as a scared animal.
It can hide in a remote place in this world or in the Under or Upper Worlds. The soul can remain there for decades, or forever if a shaman does not come to bring it back. Sometimes the soul wanders without direction because it is lost and it does not know how to go back.
The kidnapped soul
A soul can also be abducted by Spirits. Spirits can capture souls in times of vulnerability, like during the traumas described above, but there are more serious consequences when a soul is captured than when it is simply lost.
Also during a shamanic journey, a shaman risks his soul being abducted by the Spirits encountered during his travels, especially if the shaman engages in a spiritual fight. This is the reason why a shaman and all the shamanic practitioners always have various protectors, such as an animal of power, other spirit helpers, or the Arutam.
People that travel without spiritual protection risk their soul being abducted or lost.
Many people travel to the worlds of spirits without being conscious of it. People that use psychedelic drugs are some, but also artists who, with or without drugs, search for visions to bring back to this reality to transform them into art.
Travelling without preparation and necessary precautions, especially if they do not have strong, innate natural protections, will result in an abduction or a loss of the soul. In the shaman’s eyes, this is the reason why several artists are troubled in the course of their lives and become dependent on drugs or alcohol. Often the most visionary of them die young.
The soul can also be abducted by another human being. The person can be a malicious sorcerer or just an average Joe. A mother really attached to her son can fear separation and steal the child’s soul to keep it with her forever. A man who deeply loves his partner can try to steal part of her soul to hold back something of her if she leaves him.
In any case, the thief uses their connection with the victim in order to be able to steal the soul, and in many cases they use the fragility of the victim (for instance, the helpless kid) to their advantage.
The abduction of the soul by a mother can cause a serious lack of vital energy, different psychic disturbances, weakness of the immune system or autoimmune diseases, and also serious anemia or even leukemia. Sometimes, the person dies young, often before 40 years old. In other cases, they die just after the mother’s death.
If the theft is less serious, the victim may suffer neurasthenia, personality disorders, depression, hypochondria, difficulty succeeding in studies and in work, or inability to make decisions or to become independent. They can also experience chronic diseases due to weakness of the lymphatic system.
The abducted souls often remain close to the thief with whom they have an emotional bond, and sometimes dependency. This situation can make retrieval hard for the shaman.
The non-return of the soul
When the soul voluntarily leaves the body, it usually comes back when the danger is finished.
An example is the reversible coma: the soul runs away due to an extreme trauma, but after few days it returns to the body.
Sometimes, the soul does not come back. This happens for different reasons:
The cause of the soul’s flight is ongoing. For example, there is physical brain damage (in this case the shaman cannot do anything), or a person, often a child or a woman, is living in an abusive environment. Sometime the soul remains for a time in the hope of a change, but at last, it goes away forever.
There was an irreparable event. For example, the loss of the partner can cause the soul of the heart to run away causing depression and circulatory problems (hypertension or heart attack), or the loss of a child that cause the loss of the soul of the heart or of the sexual organs resulting in diseases of the sexual organs (cancers, fibromas, orchitis, etc). Failure in personal ambitions or a long sought-after dream can have similar repercussions. In these cases, the soul does not accept reality, and it goes away.
The person suffered an exceptionally strong physical or mental trauma. The effects of these events depend on the energetic level of the soul. A lack of personal power or the memory of prior losses can make the soul more fearful. In some cases, violent trauma experienced by someone close to us can also cause part of our soul to run away. Examples of these traumas can be: a big shock, a near-death experience, sexual abuse, or even less serious traumas if they happen when we are children and our being is less protected. The soul acts as a scared animal, and it runs far away. After long time, the soul would like return back, but it can happen that it does not find its way because it went too far.
The soul was imprisoned. The soul that is not protected by the body can be abducted by Spirits or go into a place from which it cannot escape. A classic example is the Sun: ancient cultures know that only the most powerful shamans can reach the sun because its attraction is so strong that the soul may not be able to leave it anymore. This symbol is often found in mythology, for instance, the myth of Icarus.
The sale of the soul
The natives of hunter-gatherer populations can sell their soul to a spirit protector of the animals in exchange for many animals to hunt.
Sometimes when they sell their soul, a shaman does the negotiation, giving the spirit protector the souls of some members of the tribe, a necessary sacrifice for the survival of the community.
The sale of the soul is not a fantasy restricted to stories and legends like that of Faust, but a reality present in every time. It happens when we surrender an essential part of ourselves in exchange of an advantage. Often the native and the immigrants sell the soul to the protector spirits of the West, in exchange of consumer goods. As it happened to the biggest part of the Northamerican Indians, then victims of existential emptiness (symptom of loss of the soul) and achoolism.
In the cases in which the soul is sold by entire populations, there is the sell of the collective soul.
The populations that sell their soul to the West fall often in addiction from drugs, alchool, like many Nortamerican Indians and the Inuit, because the loss of the soul exposes people to possessions which the most common consequences are drug addiction and alchoolism.
The surrendered soul
Many people give their soul to another person, often for love. It is similar to a sale, but it is not done to have a material return, but only to be accepted or protected. Sometime this giving is done to a group, an organization, an ideal, or to a sect.
We are pushed to give away our soul when we have low self-esteem, hoping that the relationship with the partner or the group will fill the emptiness left by the loss of the soul, the person feels appeased. Nevertheless, it is possible to notice a lack of personality in the behavior and in the way of thinking of people who have given away their souls.
When the bond with the partner or the group breaks, the person can suffer emptiness and the loss of emotion and can fall to material possessions, drug addiction, alcoholism, food addiction, or other repetitive habits such as spending their life on the couch in front of the television or computer screen.