Lately I’ve been thinking of the old shamanic tradition of soul retrieval. Many years ago I spent quite a bit of time with the ancient shamanic traditions, and have always been strongly touched and viscerally drawn by the ceremonies as well as by the tools used in the traditions. Left to my own devices, when my art time turns to doodling with three-dimensional work, I often find myself creating small ceremonial and ritual objects that incorporate things of the earth: leaves, twigs, leather, dirt, feathers, fur, stones. The shamanic traditions feel deeply connected to earth in a way that is very grounding and powerful for me.
Shamanic soul retrieval doesn’t all take place in the other worlds, other dimensions. It crosses back and forth over the imaginary boundary that we believe exists between this world and the other worlds. It steps out, then it comes back into this world and touches it, affirms it as real, shakes its bells and taps its drum and waves its feathers. There is value in this bridge, this use of tools. Its ceremonies and rituals focus intention, and its tools make the impossible real to the touch. Often our minds believe, but our experience is all in the realm of the mind, leaving the body to lie still and stay out of it – out of body experiences, consciousness travel, meditation. Shamanic traditions understand the value of making things real to the body, of applying the impossible by creating a bridge between worlds that is experienced through our bodies’ senses. Ceremony and ritual can have incredible power, engaging our bodies along with our minds.
The idea of shamanic soul retrieval is that through the course of a lifetime, some people may encounter situations or events that are so traumatic or stressful that they close off, shut down, or ‘lose’ a part of themselves. The shamanic tradition describes this as losing a piece of the soul. I’ve heard it described as a piece of the soul going elsewhere to hide – be that on a star, in the earth, in another world.
Someone trained in the shamanic tradition travels other worlds seeking out the lost parts of a person then returns them to the soul in the course of a ceremony. The shaman goes into trance, traveling other dimensions or frequencies in search of the lost parts of a person. The lost parts are gathered up or talked into returning. The shaman then literally blows those parts back into the person who lost them, into their heart and into their head. The shaman then seals them into the person with one or various methods – bells, drums, chanting, and intention.
Whether losing parts of the self is literal truth or an illustrative way to describe what happens doesn’t really matter, in my mind. That it works is, I believe, attested to in the fact that this sort of work has been done by many cultures over millennia. If it works, and if it speaks to you, explore it.
If The Truth is infinite, all things are valuable intricacies of the One.