What is shamanic Spirit Retrieval and what is it for?
Have you ever felt incomplete or powerless? Have you ever thought that you were suffering long-term pain that just was not normal or unable to move on from circumstances, places, or people? These and other signs are symptoms of a sickness of the soul that is widespread in our society: spirit loss.
Shamanic healing techniques have focused, since the dawn of time, not only on the health of the body but on that of the inner being. It’s just as— if not more— crucial to happiness! If you feel like you or someone you know is suffering from loss of spirit or soul, read on. Armed with this knowledge and the basics of shamanic journeying, you can begin the path to a wholesome, healed self.
The role of the shaman
Shamanism is and has been, in many cultures around the world, a crucial part of existence. You could say the shamanic practice is at the very core of our relationship to the world. Through it, we explore not only the physical, visible world but also the hidden spirit realms and the recesses of our own minds.
By voluntarily altering their state of consciousness, the trained shaman has access to worlds and dimensions that go beyond our material reality, while still affecting it. The shamanic practitioner deals in matters of spirit and soul (used as synonyms in this article): gaining knowledge, power, and healing for themselves and others. What’s the point? To live happier, deeper, more fulfilling lives as individuals and communities.
What is Spirit Loss
This integrated and happy life is the ideal, of course. But our world is not perfect and does not always treat us with the love and kindness each of us deserves. Most people, at some point in their lives, experience trauma.
It can happen in the first years of childhood, in the shape of physical or emotional abuse, witnessing a death or accident, having to repress your emotions, or simply an adult that would not let you into your own power. Spirit loss can happen at any point in your life, though, and can be caused by any sort of trauma. Common triggers are addiction, abusive relationships, loss and grief, and not remaining true to yourself.
When going through a difficult experience, the soul fragments itself as a protective measure to avoid suffering. Think of it as the impact of a hard object fracturing a piece of glass. After getting separated, if you don’t take care to heal the split, the soul piece can be lost.
Some of the symptoms of spirit loss are:
- Feeling like you are missing a part of yourself, like you are not quite whole.
- Feeling unexplainable longing.
- Chronic depression and anxiety.
- Addictions or substance abuse.
- A long-term feeling that you are not present in your body, disassociation.
- Chronic fatigue or physical illnesses.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Inability to let go (of people, places, habits, etc.).
- Feeling stuck in negative patterns of thought or action.
Soul or spirit loss means that the person who suffers it loses their power. It is like a gaping wound, and those who have lost part of their souls spend lots of energy— even unconsciously— trying to get it back.
What is Spirit Retrieval
Rather than staying with the individual, the lost soul fragment can end up in the spirit realms. This is where the shamanic practitioner, an experienced traveler in non-ordinary realities, comes in!
To retrieve the lost piece of soul, the shaman enters a “trance” or altered state of consciousness, often by means of a drum, a drumming track, or a different percussion instrument that aids meditation.
Then, when in a shamanic state of consciousness, the practitioner travels to a spiritual realm— often the Underworld— to find the soul fragment. The power animals of the shaman or of the patient— if they have already found these— help the shaman overcome obstacles and protections and, eventually, find the soul piece. The practitioner uses active imagination to visualize the quest and often narrates it out loud.
When the soul piece is found, it has to be persuaded to come back. The issue at the core of the soul wound is addressed. This might take more than one shamanic session but, in the end, the soul piece will most likely want to return to the whole.
Then, exiting the spirit realms, the shaman will bring the soul fragment back to our ordinary reality and integrate it with the rest of the patient’s spirit. This can be as simple as blowing it in. It can also take a lot more active work, like the development of a personal ceremony, practicing creative arts, or more “mainstream” psychological tools such as therapy.
Most soul splits can be healed in this way. This will, in turn, help the patient realize their personal power and start changing their lives. Some issues that were symptoms of the spirit loss may resolve on their own but others, like addiction, depression, or illnesses, often need more work.
Think of it as a beautiful tapestry that was missing a corner. You might have found the lacking piece in the bottom of a dusty drawer and put it next to the whole, but the work is not done. You need to stitch it together and harmonize it.
How to prepare for Spirit Retrieval
To maximize and smooth the chances of a successful spirit retrieval and later integration, you need to work on yourself before attempting a shamanic journey. Some useful tips for getting ready in the weeks (or months) before the retrieval:
- Keep a daily journal. You don’t even have to write much or be good at it— just let your hand and thoughts flow and fill the page. This might give you clues as to why and where the soul piece has gone. It will also prepare the terrain to receive it back!
- Keep a mindful diet. This means taking care of your body and listening to what it needs. Don’t eat what your body rejects and try your best not to take drugs or alcohol.
- Think of what you want to release during this process.
- Connect with your Higher Self and think about what qualities of it you want to embody in this process.
- Ground yourself. This might mean different things to different people. Perhaps it’s taking a bath with essences and crystals. Perhaps it means walking barefoot on the earth and talking to trees. Do what makes you feel alive!
And what to do after
To help your soul piece itself together, you will need to keep working! Consider this challenge a gift: it is an opportunity to become a more aware and complete version of yourself. Some nifty tips:
- Pick a ceremony time that will let you have space to recover afterward. If you can take a whole weekend off to yourself, all the better!
- Be in Nature— I can’t stress this enough! Grounding yourself in the Oneness of Nature will help your soul become one again as well.
- Bring someone with you. You might be disoriented or need a little care after the ceremony. Having someone you trust to drive you home and draw you a bath can be really helpful!
- Keep that writing coming! Be aware of your feelings and sensations. If writing helps, keep at it. Afterward, you’ll be able to read it and see your journey.
- Don’t neglect your health practices. Doing everything you can for your mental and physical health is also a form of respecting your spirit. Don’t neglect physical or psychological therapies.
- Be willing to look at your life from a different perspective. Be willing to play the fool! Your newly reunited soul will want to explore, just like a child. Let it wonder at the world!
Other resources on Spirit Retrieval
Ideally, you will conduct any spirit or soul retrieval practices once you are a trained shaman, or with the help of a trained shaman. Spirit retrieval procedures are serious things, and no reading material is, by itself, enough to adequately prepare you for the real thing.
However, knowledge truly is power. As far as reading material goes, it is better to be as informed and knowledgeable as you possibly can!
That is why reading good quality books that deal with spirit or soul retrieval is helpful. Here is the full list of my favorite resources on spirit retrieval to help get you on your feet.
Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self – by Sandra Ingerman
The book to end all books on shamanic spirit retrieval is, no doubt, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self. The author is a seasoned shaman with over 30 years of practical and teaching experience on her back. She focuses on adapting traditional shamanic practices to be useful in our contemporary setting.
Soul Retrieval explores the concepts of soul loss and soul retrieval in depth and guides the reader on a journey to learn more about healing techniques. As a certified therapist, Ingerman combines shamanic techniques with contemporary psychological notions to help us understand and remedy soul loss. A basic must-read!
Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole – by Robert Moss
Robert Moss is an uber-knowledgeable and didactic teacher in everything related to shamanism. In Dreaming the Soul back home, Moss masterfully explores the phenomenon of soul loss and the possibility of retrieval through the healing shamanic practice.
This book teaches us more than just how soul or spirit loss can happen. It takes the reader on a path of self-exploration that leads to mapping our soul journey through our sacred, symbolic dreams. Its lessons, from entering past, future, and parallel lives to healing and growing the Soul on a community level, make this is an amazing resource to have on hand.
The Shamanic Journey: A Practical Guide to Therapeutic Shamanism (The Therapeutic Shamanism series Book 1) – by Paul Francis
Everyone needs a trip back to the basics to refresh stagnant knowledge every now and then. This book by Paul Francis, The Shamanic Journey: A Practical Guide to Therapeutic Shamanism provides a super helpful resource on the basics of shamanic journeying, with a twist: it focuses on the therapeutic aspects of the practice. These— perhaps obviously— include soul retrieval.
Through this practical guide, we learn the mechanisms of how soul loss can happen, the ways in which shamanic healing might help, and the techniques you can use to invite a piece of soul back to the whole. It also gives a good account of power loss, spirit intrusions, as well as paths to heal these. This is a clear, practice-oriented guide that will make soul retrieval much clearer to you!
Shamanism and Spirituality in Therapeutic Practice: An Introduction – by Christa McKinnon
If you are a psychology and science junkie, this is definitely the right book for you. In many cases, our society has taught us that science and spirituality go down completely different paths. Though the approaches are certainly different, keeping them strictly separate harms the abilities of either to help us lead whole, happy lives.
McKinnon, in Shamanism and Spirituality in Therapeutic Practice, aims to close this rift by using both traditional shamanic healing techniques and modern tools such as scientific concepts, research, and case studies. This volume is perfect not only for shamanic practitioners but also for innovative professionals in the realms of healing (psychologists, counselors, etc.). It’s quite the find!
Welcome Home: Following Your Soul’s Journey Home – by Sandra Ingerman
After you have read Ingerman’s masterpiece— Soul Retrieval—, you might be left craving a bit more of her authentic and warm style of writing on the topic. This is where Welcome Home comes in to save the day!
As you already know, the important work doesn’t end when you successfully bring the estranged piece of soul back to the fold. Healing trauma is a bit more complicated than that and requires long-term, loving commitment. Welcome Home explores the needs of the returned soul and how the shamanic practice can help fulfill them. You’ll learn how to regain power and create a better, more wholesome future for yourself.
Journey safe and be whole
Our society has let go of the hand of wholesome ancestral practices and exchanged them for pure scientific knowledge. Though this is necessary, it’s not enough to help us heal the soul or spirit wounds that life causes. Spirit retrieval is one of the many ways the shamanic practice can help us and our love-starved world.
You can use traditional shamanic tools both in your personal practice and to help others with their own healing. Hopefully, these resources and quick introduction to shamanic journeying for spirit retrieval will aid you in your life’s path towards wholeness and happiness. May you be safe, wholesome, and growing!