You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.\
::~ C.S. Lewis
The shaman’s toolbox is a personal and intimate gathering of powers. Some shamans learned through direct experience, others gleaned through master teachers, and still others are simply gifted in the thrall of journeying to the depths of the invisible realms.
A few tools are so foundational, nearly every shaman utilizes them. Soul retrieval is one such tool. Not only is it universally effective, but it’s also the pervasive root cause of illness overlooked by many in the medical field.
The shaman performs soul retrievals, which are the result of soul loss. The basic idea is this: as traumas occur, little pieces of us take flight or run away. This is called soul loss. A soul retrieval gathers the soul’s "parts" and ushers them home.
Let’s break this down a few ways so we can understand why this spiritual illness is so damaging.
NAVIGATING SOUL LOSS
The soul is our most basic life force. As soon as the soul leaves, the body dies. Anyone who has been with a loved one at the moment of passing can tell you once the soul departs, the person looks different, empty even.
Our soul is multi-faceted and complicated, to say the least. Not only does it venture through lifetimes, but it may even leave our body occasionally and visit other places. Shamanic journeying, astral projection, and remote viewing are examples of the soul taking an escapade, but not fully departing the physical body.
The soul can explore realms and come back. In a soul loss, however, parts of it venture off and stay gone until we come lookin’.
Soul loss occurs through a number of ways and for a number of reasons — from physical or sexual abuse to traumatic situations, or even just a bad fight. No one knows with certainty why a soul aspect decides to depart, but it’s a common occurrence and one rarely addressed in our modern society.
Soul loss cannot be prevented. It’s simply part of the package in this human condition, and one that can be normalized so it doesn’t sound as startling as the name suggests.
Shamans look for hints that soul loss has occurred. When they find clues, a soul retrieval is the next step to restoration for the client.
Here are some red flags that may suggest soul retrieval needs to take place
You may notice a part of you feels dead or lost. You were in an accident years ago and haven't been the same since. There's a long-gone relationship that you've never been able to shake.
Common symptoms of a soul loss include
Depression Feeling incomplete Feeling stuck and not knowing how to move through it, or Feeling not like yourself, disconnected from those you love.
Not all traumas cause soul loss and, in some instances, a piece may just decide it's all too much and hightail it outta there. I had one piece do exactly that: she wasn’t happy with the choices I was making as a young adult — I enjoyed my drinking phase, while she found it destructive!
Though we cannot prevent soul loss, we can become energetically sensitive enough to recognize when something is off. With this skill, we can do our own psychic maintenance to ensure total wellbeing.
ACTIVATING SOUL RETRIEVAL
Soul retrieval is a favored tool in shamanic healing. It can be the much-needed blessing in any number of situations to bring the soul back to wholeness.
The healing session is much like a massage — lying down in a comfortable space — while the shaman works. Your shaman uses an ancient technique of "journeying" into the spirit realm to find the pieces of your soul that are ready to come back.
Journeying is the most trusted tool of the shaman (though to you, it may just look like someone with their eyes closed). Drums often help set the tone and aid in the voyage. Since you’re lying on the table, chances are it sounds pretty soothing!
The retrieval itself is incredibly interesting. In some cases, the parts are eager to come back, excited to once again experience the physical world. Other times, the parts are still repeating the trauma that sent them away in the first place, and they need sweet-talking...or even negotiation.
In one of my personal soul retrievals, I had a soul aspect who agreed to come back only if I soaked in a bath weekly. To her, this was an important need that wasn't being met. To keep her around and bring completion to the healing, I needed to nurture her — and myself — more. Pretty cool, right? A perfect example of requiring negotiation before she agreed to return.
When the retrieval is complete, the shaman may blow on your head, heart, and/or stomach to help the pieces land back in their home.
The pieces who do come back act as blessings, helping us feel more complete, content and purposeful. Our heart space opens wide to receive them, and whatever ailed us may be lifted. Heavy emotions, once centerstage, are lessened in intensity. All of this allows for better flow, appreciation and a return to passion and vitality.
Once the retrieval is complete, your job is to celebrate their return and make them feel welcome! Talk to them, follow through with the requests they made, and do your best to avoid another departure. It may also help to write and share their story so you don’t repeat it!
In this traditional world of invisible medicine, it’s empowering to know that such tools are available. In all cases, find someone you trust or get referrals. Since this is energy work, we all navigate it differently, and require our own unique subtleties.