In some North American Indigenous cultures the northern lights represent the dancing spirits of humans and animals | Image source: splitfeathers.blogspot.com
The idea of soul loss and retrieval has popped up for me again and again in my research, dreams and life lessons. My understanding is not complete but I will share here what I have learned. Before I do, though, I’d just like to point out that “soul loss and retrieval” is one way of understanding wellness. There are many other cultural ways of understanding in the world. The “story” of soul loss is meant to show us one of many healing paths. You can use this story to replace your current understandings or let it stand beside them. Or disregard completely if something else serves you better.
In modern physics we find the idea that energy organizes and structures matter. If you’ve ever done the experiment of placing iron shavings on a paper and moving a magnet around underneath you’ll see this principle in action. Governed by magnetism (an energy) the iron shavings (matter) will dance around the paper as if they were puppets on a string even though there is no physical contact between them and the magnet. This is one way that energy impacts matter, which is, at its core, mostly energy (or 100% energy according to some theorists). So we have energy controlling the behavior of denser energy (matter).
Basic to the idea of “soul loss” is that we all have a light, luminous or spirit body. An energy field, if you will, that surrounds our physical being. Physicist Claude Swanson is probably the leading North American “expert” on what has been called the “torsion” field by Russian scientists, who feel they are now able to measure what Asian cultures have called “chi”, “ki” or “prana” for centuries. It’s a fairly new area of research in Western society but the point is that this energy field is now detectable with new technologies.
According to many teachings, your light body/energy field forms, organizes and structures your physical body. Themes influence how your body has been organized; passions, you purpose and challenges are programmed into that light field at the time of your birth. What’s more, whatever happens to you physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually throughout your life is encoded into that light body. In fact, whatever happened to your ancestors or to you in previous lifetimes are encoded into your energy field. This might feel rather unfair, but in this knowledge system, you consented to all of that before you were born. You chose the general circumstances of your birth because of the opportunities it gave you to grow spiritually.
Can it be that in many of the world’s Indigenous cultures birthing songs and ceremonies as well as naming rituals were about cleansing inherited crap in your energy field? Such practices might have been about clearing away stuff that wasn’t helpful so you could move forward with community and family support to fulfill your purpose in life. As well, such ceremonies celebrated your arrival into the world and the unique gifts you were bringing. Moreover, your parents, family and community had this formal opportunity to commit to supporting your beinghood.
Soul loss was further explained to me in the writings of the remarkable Curandera Elena Avila, may she rest in power. In Woman Who Glows in the Dark, Avila asks her readers to consider what happens when as a child we show enthusiasm, passion or delight for something. Maybe you liked to dance, play in the mud, sing or wear clothes that were deemed inappropriate. Your parents, teachers or others forbade you, especially after a certain age, from engaging in these activities, declaring them unacceptable. You were encouraged, perhaps under some form of threat, to focus on other activities that society found more acceptable, productive and useful. So you suppressed that part of your spirit to conform to the expectations of others. That, too, is a form of soul loss.
Soul retrieval in such cases might be about reclaiming that repressed part of yourself; giving yourself permission to embrace your passions, following the paths carved out by those passions and gaining the inner strength to shake off criticisms, disdain and maybe even hate that come your way from people who aren’t spiritually evolved enough to accept how wondrous you are.
In any case, as life happens, stuff happens, and it scars your light body. Illnesses, injuries, broken hearts and trauma all show up in your energy field. The Mexica, who heavily influenced curanderismo (along with other Indigenous civilizations), understood that the light body determines how your physical body functions. So if you become ill and address that illness (whether in the mind or body) at the physical level, you can only temporarily resolve the problem because the root of your dis-ease is is the spirit body. Consequently, physical or mental symptoms will return, either showing up as they did before or in some other way.
Unless you address illness at the spiritual level you will never be well. We see this idea gaining a bit of acceptance in mainstream medicine with laughter, music and energy therapies. Though still considered a “complimentary” form of treatment, there are over 5,000 studies on the healing power of light therapy. Scientists have studied the impacts of different frequencies on human tissue suggesting that blue light treats infections, UV stimulates the production of Vitamin D, and red and Infrared light reduces inflammation and improves circulation — to name three examples. There are scientists around the world studying how the torsion and electro-magnetic energies we give off can tell us something about our states of wellness.
These studies remind me of the power of sunlight. Our ancestors across the Americas may not have had LEDs or lasers but they made good use of sun temples, sun dances, sun gazing and sunrise ceremonies in their wellness work. They knew that sunlight activated the chakras, stimulated glands, enhanced immunity, helped heal wounds, improved heart health and so much more. Dances, songs and drumming were other ways of creating wellness “vibrations” that impacted the light body. How often have you noticed how these activities can lift your spirits and alleviate suffering? Do these forms of energetic medicines heal our light body when we use them with conscious, prayerful intent?
Remember that our bodies radiate energy. The energies we radiate get shared in the world, impacting other life forms for better or worse. As explored in the previous post “Curanderismo: Being Medicine” we can conjure up healthful energetic vibrations that impact others around us. This happens through prayer, ceremony, intentions and merely focusing on the good in life. Is this a form of soul retrieval?
As I study and practice curanderismo, I understand that some soul wounds can cut very deep. In the case of trauma, the soul retrieval process has to penetrate just as deeply in order to heal, and you might need the help of people with special skills and/or the collective spiritual power of your community, including your ancestors and other Spirit Beings. This is where folks who are trained to use spiritual tools might be helpful to your self-healing journey.
There is so much more to explore about soul loss and retrieval and from many perspectives. May you enjoy your explorations. Until my next post on “Symbols of Wellness”, may your spirit be whole.
Check out our previous posts on Curanderismo: