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Soul retrieval and soul lost

Posted 15 3 18

Soul retrieval


Soul retrieval is the practice of recovering and restoring lost soul parts to the person who lost them. The practice is related to the belief that through trauma, abuse, voluntary surrender, soul theft, or black magic, pieces of a person´s spirit may be lost. The idea of soul loss is accepted by some modern psychologists as well as by traditional tribal shamans. The essence of soul retrieval is the shamanic use of the altered state of consciousness referred to as journeying. The shaman, who can be male or female, journeys into non-ordinary reality to find the missing parts, heal them if necessary, persuade them to return, and bring the parts back to be restored to the client experiencing soul loss. Restoring the lost soul to the client is believed to increase that personals level of energy to cure disease, and to recover memories associated with the lost soul part. Both traditional shamans and modern urban practitioners believe disease results from soul loss. Traditional shamans believe soul loss creates a hole in the personals spirit, and that a psychic intrusion can invade the weakened spirit, leading to physical disease. For this reason, an extraction is often performed before the soul retrieval. Traditional shamans also recognize that apathy, depression, amnesia, and other psychological illnesses can result from soul loss. Traditional shamans who have practiced soul retrieval techniques include Native Americans, notably the Coast Salish, Tlingit, and other Puget Sound tribes, as well as the Crow and other Plains Indian people. The concepts of soul loss and soul retrieval are also widespread throughout Siberia and South America, particularly in the Amazon and Andean regions. Some traditional shamans distinguish between a “free soul”, which is capable of taking flight away from the body, and the “life soul”, which sustains physical life (Hultkrantz 1992, 66, 67). If a person is in a coma, for example, the traditional shaman will assume that the free soul is wandering loose or held captive by a practitioner of black magic. Mircea Eliade noted that some shamans, such as the Buryat, attempt to call the soul back before going out to look for it. If the soul does not come back of its own volition, the shaman will descend to the land of the dead, recapture the soul, and bring it back (Eliade 1989). Calling lost souls is not confined to human sickness alone. The Karen of Burma use the technique of imploring the soul to return to a crop of rice to treat crop failure (Eliade 1989). Traditional shamans will go into trance to diagnose the problem affecting a client. If the shaman discovers that soul loss is at the root of the clients problem, she will perform a soul retrieval. The shaman journeys to the Underworld to recover the lost part, always with the help of power animals, spirit helpers, or other guides.
Once located, the lost soul parts may require persuasion or outright trickery to return with the shaman. The shaman may cajole or offer gifts to the soul part in exchange for its cooperation. The shaman may capture the soul parts in a spirit catcher or with her hands, or the soul part may return with the shaman voluntarily. On returning to her body, the shaman takes the recaptured soul parts and blows them into the client, typically into the crown of the head, the heart, or the abdominal area. A ceremony to ensure that the lost parts don´t take flight again is often performed. The client who receives the shaman’s services may also be required to perform a task, complete a ritual, or tender an offering in thanks for the return of the lost soul parts. Some traditional cultures believe that soul parts can be stolen, usually as a result of sorcery or black magic. If untreated, the person weakened by the act of soul theft may become ill and die. The shaman called upon to rescue soul parts taken by force may find himself wrestling with the thief during the journey. The shaman calls on the power of his spirit helpers to assist him in defeating the soul thief, rescuing the lost soul parts, and returning the parts to the victim. If the shaman is not strong enough to accomplish this task, he may die during the journey
or soon after. The belief that soul theft is possible is not common to all cultures practicing shamanism and is rejected outright by most urban shamanic practitioners. Modern urban shamans usually subscribe to the traditional shaman’s beliefs that soul loss can cause disease. However, contemporary psychological theories, particularly the concepts of self-integration and individuation, often have a greater impact on the urban shamans practice
of soul retrieval. There are classically trained, licensed counsellors who use soul retrieval as an adjunct to conventional psychotherapeutic techniques. There are also both licensed and unlicensed shamanic counsellors who practice healing techniques that involve trance states as the core of their work.
Carl Jung’s concept of the unconscious opened the door for modern psychotherapists to examine less orthodox curative techniques. As psychologists began to understand the link between the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious aspects of the mind, the use of altered states of consciousness as a means of accessing wisdom and memories became more commonly practiced in the psychotherapeutic community. Some psychologists and anthropologists theorize that the shaman enters the collective unconscious while in the altered state of consciousness known as shamanic journeying. The shaman, as well as the psychologist’s client, may access race wisdom and experience instinctual drives directly while in trance.
The use of altered states of consciousness has emerged as a significant adjunct to more conventional talking therapies. Hypnosis, neurolinguistics programming, guided meditations, and now shamanic journeying are becoming accepted methods of assisting clients in making changes in their lives. Soul retrieval is a practice that makes use of the altered state of consciousness and the nurturing of the counselling relationship. One influential proponent of soul retrieval in psychotherapy is Sandra Ingerman, a leading teacher and practitioner of soul retrieval in psychotherapeutic counselling. Her book Soul Retrieval is an anecdotal work that describes the practice of soul retrieval in detail and includes many stories of clients who experienced psychological healing after participating in soul retrieval.
Ingerman pointed out that for the psychologist, the soul parts are lost in the
undifferentiated region called the unconscious, from which the client recovers disassociated contents. (Ingerman 1991, 20). Ingermans book helped further the examination of shamanic healing techniques within the conventional world of psychotherapy.
A more recent examination of shamanic healing appears in Jeanette Gagan’s work. Gagan outlined the wounding of the infant psyche and concludes that parts of the psyche are sequestered from conscious recall as a result of early wounding. In order to complete the developmental task linked to these early childhood traumas, Gagan teaches her clients to do shamanic journeying. Gagan proposed a new branch of modern psychotherapy, which she calls shamanic psychotherapeutics (Gagan 1998, 93).
Gagans practice involves teaching clients how to engage in shamanic journeying. The journey is recorded and analyzed by both client and practitioner in the context of the clients healing process. Gagan noted that this practice generally leads to faster insight into psychological issues confronting the client. The expression of instinctual drives and repressed emotional states in the safe context of journeying allows clients to release emotional patterns that interfere with developmental processes. Destructive emotional states find expression in and are contained by the boundaries of the journeying experience. Power animals and other internal allies found during the journey can take the place of external nurturing sources that failed to meet needs for bonding in earlier life. The practice of soul retrieval gives the client the impetus to move forward. The soul retrieval itself demonstrates to the client that he is worthy of effort and attention. The shaman takes personal risks on the client’s behalf, facing frightening phenomena in non-ordinary reality in order to find, heal, and return lost soul parts. The ritual practice of soul retrieval fills the clients need to be the center of attention, cared for, and nurtured. When returned soul parts symbolize repressed aspects of the psyche, the client is given permission to allow those aspects of self to manifest in his personality. This process furthers self-integration and individualization. Contemporary traditional shamans still practice soul retrieval with the same beneficial effects that urban shamans provide for their clients. Soul retrieval continues to gain acceptance as part of the repertoire of trance-based practices used by modern psychotherapists. New studies of the way the brain processes experience,  patterns of activity during altered states of consciousness, and the long-term effects of using soul retrieval and trance to heal psychological dysfunction demonstrate the viability of shamanic practices in the modern world. Trisha Lepp
See also: Core Shamanism and Neo- Shamanism; Healing and Shamanism; Neuropsychology of Shamanism; Psychology and Shamanism; Urban Shamanism

References and further reading:
Eliade, Mircea. 1989. Reprint. Shamanism:
Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Translated from
the French by Willard R. Trask. London:
Penguin Arkana. Original French edition,
Paris: Librairie Payot, 1951.
Gagan, Jeannette. 1998. Journeying Where
Shamanism and Psychology Meet. Santa Fe,
NM: Rio Chama Publications.
Halifax, Joan. 1982. Shaman: The Wounded
Healer. New York: Crossroad.
Harner, Michael. 1990. The Way of the Shaman.
2d ed. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
Hultkrantz, Ake. 1992. Shamanic Healing and
Ritual Drama. New York: Crossroad.
Ingerman, Sandra. 1991. Soul Retrieval:
Mending the Fragmented Self. San Francisco:
Harper San Francisco. 1994. Welcome Home: Following Your
Spirits Journey Home. San Francisco: Harper
San Francisco.

Read in..
Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture
by Mariko Namba Walter, Eva Jane Neumann Fridman


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