We all know people who, having gone through divorce, remain deadened for some time afterwards, or who, after a car accident or other personal tragedy, never fully recover their spirit. We see soldiers returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder, who feel that they are not completely here anymore.
These are all situations where the person may be suffering from the departure of a piece of their spiritual essence or soul. Soul is our vital essence and when it is fully present we radiate joy, vitality and life force. Soul loss can keep us from feeling our connections with others, from creating healthy relationships and from living the life we really want to live.
The shaman is concerned with the soul and its adventure – in all the realms the soul moves through, in all its stages – birth, life, and the passage through death and back into life again. (see Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy)
Where does the soul fragment go and how does the shaman track and retrieve what was lost?
Shamans divide the spiritual cosmos into three worlds; the Upper World, the Middle World, the Lower World. A missing soul essence may be found in any of these worlds.
Shamans most often use the beat of the drum to take them into an altered state of consciousness and carry them in spirit flight into the hidden universe of these worlds. Once there, they meet with their helping spirits, power animals and spirit teachers. It is the spirits who then lead the shaman to the places where lost soul essences are found. Working hand in hand with their spirits, the shaman retrieves the lost soul and carries it back to the person who is awaiting its return. The soul is sung back, blown into the body and welcomed home in a beautiful ceremony. This work takes training, great skill and compassion on the part of the shaman.
In my shamanic healing practice I have, for many years now, had the honor of helping people recover their souls and discover how to live from a place of renewed wholeness after the soul retrieval. Every practitioner experiences the spiritual worlds in their own ways. I often find lost souls waiting in the Great Forest of the hidden universe, in the Cave of Lost Children, in the Ocean of Souls and in the Void. Occasionally I discover a soul part is still in the Middle World, in the childhood home where a trauma occurred.
After the soul retrieval, life changes for the person. For some that change is major and immediately evident. For others it is more subtle as the returning essence enters into one’s present life. When welcomed home, the return of one’s soul can bring more enthusiasm back into life, help break old patterns and open up more choices in life.
All shamanic healing is a gift from the helping spirits.
The stars call out to you
the trees and streams sing your name
the moon and sun call out to you
the mountains, animals and ocean, too
saying, you belong to a greater whole,
you have a unity with all of life.
You are not alone.
Editor’s Note from Peter Clark: Soul retrieval is a central pillar of shamanic healing. Everything that a shaman does with regard to healing comes through the spirits, and this makes the process even more mysterious and ethereal than the most cutting edge high tech medical procedure. Many scientists and doctors would say that truly nothing has happened. But in case after case, distinct positive changes occur in the patient’s life after soul retrieval. These changes are often in the realm of the psyche or emotional state, but can just as easily be physical: distinct increases in energy, restored memories or physical abilities, restored bodily functions. The author of this article, Beth Beurkens, is a shamanic practitioner and teacher with decades of experience. She will be teaching a four day workshop in the practice of soul retrieval in Ashland, OR on September 13-16, 2012. See her website for more details.