Polytheist Dark Night of the Soul(s)

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Like some other Polytheists, there are times when I doubt the existence of the Gods. I question whether they are only wild imaginings or simply fictional characters. During these times, I feel empty and alone.

I have pondered the reasons for the occurrence of this dark night of the soul(s). Since the body is the root of the self, physical and mental health need to be checked first. When I am sick, my mind is not focused on anything in particular. Moreover, meaningless and emptiness are signs of deep depression. Since I have major depression, I need to check the effectiveness of my medicines.

Second, I look at what I am currently reading. For various reasons, I read Christian historical romances. Usually, I balance this reading with science fiction and mysteries. I do find that if I read too many of the former, the monotheistic filter gains a foothold and sprouts.

One sign of monotheistic thinking is regarding the Gods as fiction. Another is believing that there is only “one true living God.” This is the “monotheistic gaze,” which views all Gods as One. Furthermore, the monotheistic gaze insists that there is order in the universe. Since God (or the Single Divine) is the logical authority of the Universe, everything happens according to His Plan. Therefore there is always a logical explanation for every happening, bad or good. This is supposed to answer the question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

In contrast, the “polytheistic gaze” embraces chaos since the Gods are diverse and anarchic. For me to regain the polytheistic gaze is to stop expecting meaning and order in everything. When my dark night occurs, I realize that I have too much order in my life. Because I need more anarchy, I go squirrel watching. Yes, squirrels demonstrate that there is no universal plan or universal order. Nobody knows why they chase each other through the trees. From the squirrels, I learn that life is to be embraced on its own terms. I also learned the polytheistic gaze from them as well.

Soul Retrieval and Polytheists

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As a Roman Polytheist, I discovered the durability of my multiple souls (Note 1) when I had my traumatic brain injury. When one soul becomes damaged as what did happen to me, it grows back. A soul will regenerate slowly. In my case, it took three years. My major concern during this time was to prevent anything else from coming in. Therefore, I made offerings to my Juno (female Genius) to watch over me. Also, I wore a bulla (a Roman talisman) to ensure my safety from the “evil eye.”

After my accident, several Core Shamans offered to help me. They wanted to do a shamanic retrieval to bring back my “lost” soul. Although they were well-meaning friends, I had to refuse.

The concept and protocol for Soul Retrieval by Core Shamans was developed by Sandra Ingerman. (Note 2) (Note 3) After suffering a stroke in the 1980s, Michael Harner, who started the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, had Ingerman replace him. It is from Ingerman’s writings that the modern beliefs about soul retrieval took shape.

Ingerman’s background is that of a mental health professional. She bases her theories on the writings of Carl Jung. There is the Higher Self of Humanity/God, the Conscious Self, and the Unconscious Self. Ingerman explains, “When we talk about soul we are really talking about light. In returning the soul parts and lost vitality to the client we are really returning light.” (The “light” is the Higher Self.)

For Ingerman, soul loss can come from daily life. She writes, “A reflection of how much soul loss people are dealing with is evident when so many governments and businesses are valuing money over life.” In her book on Soul Retrieval, Ingerman notes, “Although soul loss is a survival mechanism the problem from a shamanic point of view is that the soul part that left usually does not come back on its own. The soul might be lost, or stolen by another person or doesn’t know the trauma has passed and it is safe to return.”

Ingerman expands on her concepts of soul loss. “The basic premise is whenever we experience trauma, a part of our vital essence separates from us in order to survive the experience by escaping the full impact of the pain….It is important to understand that soul loss is a good thing that happens to us. It is how we survive pain.”

Ingerman’s focus in her ideas of soul loss is to repair the psyche or emotional aspects of a person. Although a shaman, she accepts the Monotheistic tenet of a single soul. Going further, Ingerman assumes that the soul is very fragile.

For a Polytheist like myself, a traditional Shaman is best for soul repair. One of the many souls usually needs to be healed instead of being retrieved. During the first five years of my TBI, I went to a therapist to deal with trauma. It served me well.

Notes:

Note 1. The Romans have the genius, renamed by Christians as the Guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the animus, which is the dynamic force of personality, can exist outside of the body. One soul dies with the body, while another one survives to form its own body. When a person dies, one soul will merge with the ancestral soul, and another soul will go to the underworld. The physical (body) soul that lives on after death is called a revenant.

Note 2. According to Ingerman: “The definition of “soul” is “essence”. Essence can’t be harmed or hurt. When we perform a Soul Retrieval on behalf of another we return to them pure essence that brings the client to a state of healing and wholeness.”

Note 3. Ingerman’s protocols for Soul Retrievals include:
• You want to learn how to help someone who lost a piece of his or her soul as a baby or a toddler and now have a habitual life pattern that runs the life of this person. People often notice that a recurring traumatic theme occurs in life that results from soul loss at an early age. An example of this would be a repetitive pattern of someone who always finds himself/herself being betrayed in relationships. …help a client break old patterns and create a new positive present and future different from the traumas of the past.
• Helping a client fully integrate their soul parts so that the Soul Retrieval creates long term healing instead of short term effects that fizzle out over a short period of time is crucial.
• ….share what was seen in a Soul Retrieval journey for a client in a way that inspires clients to move on with their healing process instead of re-traumatizing them and taking them back into traumas of their past. This is key as I found that so many clients were re-traumatized by shamanic practitioners’ lack of education in how to tell healing stories.
• People today don’t need more bad news. People today need to hear stories of hope and inspiration about the gifts, talents, and strengths that are now available to them after a Soul Retrieval which will improve the quality of their life.
• Frankly this takes simple common sense on behalf of the practitioner to understand the impact of his or her words on another….phrase your healing stories so that you bless each client with planting seeds of love, hope, and inspiration. Words can be used to bless or curse someone.

Works Cited:
Gaia Staff, “What is Soul Retrieval?” 30 March 2017. Web. https://www.gaia.com/article/what-is-soul-retrieval
—-, “The Power of Shamanism to Heal Emotional and Physical Illness.” Web. http://www.sandraingerman.com/sandrasarticles/abstractonshamanism.html
—-, “Soul Retrieval.” Web. http://www.sandraingerman.com/sandrasarticles/soulretrieval.html

Works Used:
Sandra Ingerman, “Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self.”
Sandra Ingerman’s Website: http://www.sandraingerman.com/

The Multiple Souls of Polytheism

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Polytheism differs from Christianity in that instead of one soul, a person has multiple souls. The Romans have the genius, renamed by Christians as the Guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the animus, which is the dynamic force of personality, can exist outside of the body. One soul dies with the body, while another one survives to form its own body. When a person dies, one soul will merge with the ancestral soul, and another soul will go to the underworld. The physical (body) soul that lives on after death is called a revenant.

This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. Western culture sees a person’s soul as a singularity. Moreover, the revenant is no longer believed to be real. Since the Dead have been relegated to being phantoms. Modern science has reinforced the idea that ghosts are figments of a confused mind.

The Christian Church deliberately redefined the concept of “soul,” thereby merging all the souls into one entity. Now, when the body dies, the soul merges with God. The Church dismissed the existence of revenants. Tertullian, St. Augustine, and Gregory the Great developed and promoted the concept of the soul being a singularity. Their aim was to eliminate the Pagan veneration of the Dead.

Tertullian claimed that Plato had asserted that the soul remains in the body after death. However Plato said that after death, a soul does continue to exist. Moreover, he divided the soul into three parts – logos (mind), thymos (emotion) and eros (desire).

In Polytheist theology, it is important to note multiple souls are the norm. For example, the Egyptians believed that everyone had nine souls. They are: kha: the body, ka: the living life force, ba: the personality, sekhem: the transfigured life force, khaibit: the shadow, akh: the transfigured soul, sahu: the spiritual body, ib: the heart and ren: the true name of the person.

In Norse Polytheism, the litr is the body’s vital force. The hame, the “astral body,” works with the lich, the physical body. The flygja is similar to the Roman genius. The kinfylgja is the ancestral soul.

It is important to note that the texts written by the ancients are often interpreted by people who are steeped in the monotheistic culture. Therefore, references to multiple souls may be thought of as aspects of a single soul. However, the idea of multiple souls still manifests itself in modern thought. I consider Freud’s theory of the ego, id, and super-ego to be one example.