We are the sum of our ancestors
Our roots stretch back to blue-green algae
They stretch to the stars
They ultimately reach the void
This history is inscribed in our psyches
Silence and solitude enjoin us to remember
Our whole and great body.
– Joan Halifax
Shamans have been healing the living and the dead for forty thousand years. Shamanic healing deals with the spiritual aspects of problems and illness. In the shaman’s worldview, there are basically three common causes of illness.
1. The loss of one’s personal power can cause repeated misfortune, depression and chronic illness. When this happens, the shaman journeys in a trance state to find and retrieve the lost power in the form of a spirit animal.
2. Another cause of illness from a shamanic perspective is when a person has taken on negative energies which create blockages or pain in localized areas of the body. In this case, the shaman merges with a helping spirit, then works with the person to extract these intruded energies.
3. A frequent cause of illness is when a person loses a part of their soul. According to shamanic traditions, partial soul loss can occur during times of emotional or physical trauma. This loss of soul can result in depression, illness, addictions, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or even coma. The shaman tracks the parts of the soul that have fled and recovers them in a soul retrieval ceremony.
I have been a practitioner and teacher of shamanism here and in Europe for many years. I was in a wooden chalet on a writing retreat in the Swiss Alps the first time I heard about soul retrieval. I had a book with me that had a list of typical soul loss symptoms and a description of healing the soul through shamanic retrieval. Having even one of these symptoms (which I did), can be an indication of soul loss.
* Chronically ill as a child
* Problems with your immune system and your ability to resist illness
* Difficulty staying present in your body, feeling outside your body, looking in
* Feeling numb, deadened, apathetic
* Difficulty moving on after loss, divorce, or the death of a loved one
* Struggling with addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling
* Looking for external things to fill an internal void or emptiness
It became immediately apparent that soul retrieval was the next big step in my healing journey. I needed to have my vital core essence returned to me and with it a sense of joy, presence and wholeness. I looked out the small window, down to the alpine trail below. There stood an enormous bright red fox looking up at me, and I felt the power of the universe confirming my knowledge that my soul fragment wanted to come back home to me.
As I was growing up I noticed how some people changed after illness and loss. My grandmother was never the same after her beloved sister died tragically. And after her husband left her with five children to raise, my other grandmother remained completely stuck in the past. One girl in high school, who experienced an epileptic seizure out of the blue, was never present in the same way again, even though the condition was medically under control. Another family down the street whose handicapped daughter died, never recovered from the loss.