Updated: Feb 25, 2022
One of the core practices in Shamanism is called Soul Retrieval. By definition, this is the retrieval of a soul part that has separated from the core soul. In Shamanic practice, we know that every traumatic experience that a person endures results in a separation of the soul part that was wounded during the experience. We know that illness and disease is caused by separation of soul and/or an individual's loss of power (which is often related to soul separation). It is my opinion that this is more of a compartmentalization than a separation, but I will use the term separation because it is easier to digest/understand that term. Sometimes these soul parts return on their own, when the environment is right, and sometimes they must be intentionally called back in. Sometimes we need a practitioner to help us retrieve the part. These soul parts are ALWAYS aspects of ourselves that are currently unseen and unintegrated, and usually aspects of our child self.
I want to first dive into Soul Retrieval with a personal story. This will help give you context for the remainder of this entry, but also open your mind to the different ways in which a soul part can be retrieved.
Earlier this summer I was called to take a long weekend out in Ellensburg, WA on my birthday. I booked an Airbnb at this magnificent ranch knowing that the Medicine was calling me to do a solo Ceremony. As soon as I got in the car that morning, I felt like I had taken a handful of mushrooms, I knew I was in for something intense! The beautiful, and sometimes challenging, part of my work is how I enter that altered state so naturally when I am called to do so. No physical mushrooms are required! I drove out to Ellensburg alone and received the intuitive message to start fasting and to bring cleansing foods with me. As soon as I arrived and settled in, I was told I needed to lay down and get comfortable. I greeted all the animals on the farm as well as the land, thanking them for holding space for me on this journey. My intuitive guidance told me the Ceremony was going to begin, and boy did it! I spent the next 15 hours in the bed of this cozy little Airbnb in the most profound Ceremony of my life! All through the night I was visited by natives of that land, by the animals on the surrounding farms, and a circle of women who were singing and drumming for me. One of my close friends showed up with her rattle and was working over me for hours in this Medicine space. I cried, hallucinated, drifted in and out of dream state for all those hours as the healing work occurred. This aspect of the Ceremony was very clearly an cleansing and Extraction, which is the clearing out of the space where the soul part should reside. Extraction is always performed in conjunction with a Soul Retrieval. At the end of that 15 hour Ceremony, I felt exhausted and empty. I was told that it was time to go into town to get some food, stretch my legs, and come back for more later that day.
At this point, I was pretty confused. I knew that something big was happening, but I had no idea what. In reality, I am such a newbie to Shamanism.. but I guess we all are really! I had extraction work and Soul Retrieval done in the past, but it was never as profound and clearly defined as this was.
When I came back to the bed and told Spirit that I was ready for more, I was taken back under. I was guided to perform an underworld journey (find a good sample of that here) and perform a Soul Retrieval on myself. In my underworld, there is a cave that I have visited once before on a behalf of a Ceremony participant. This cave is often challenging to get to and there are animals/forces/energies that try to distract me or scare my off as I make my way inside. This process takes me almost an hour for that reason. Once I am in the cave, I call out for my soul part. This cave is pitch black and I am unable to see it's occupants clearly, but I know there are many. Recently, I read that Sandra Ingerman calls this place the Cave of Lost Children. Finally, I am able to turn on a flashlight and see this small girl who says she knows she needs to come with me, but she is scared. I tell her about the games we can play and the joy that it is in my life, trying to demonstrate that it is no longer a scary place to be. I tell her about the family I have, the pets and the loving partner in my life. This again takes some time because this little child is terrified of the things she saw when she was embodied, and this terror is what brought her to the cave. She finally tells me that she will come under one condition, I must let her bring the cat spirit that is with her. She tells me I must get her a cat when we return to where we are going.
I agree and she lets me pick her up to depart the cave.
Once we exit the cave and talk about returning to my world, it is very clear that she has things she requires in order to stay with me. She makes these requests clearly as I set her down to have a conversation now that we are back in the light part of my underworld. First, I must get a cat. Second, she wants me to create a necklace using her favorite type of beads and I must wear it for her. Then we discuss the stress of my work and agree that it is time for me to stop working so hard, it is time for me to bring in more play. Now she is ready to come back with me. Upon our return, there is also the return of some of the memories and emotions that this inner child has been holding on to. More memories and emotions return over time as I integrate her more fully and it is unclear how long that process will actually take. Shortly after the journey, I went out to buy the beads she showed me and asked her what words she wanted me to create on the necklace. She chose "Me, Play, Happy, Love". I have been wearing the necklace since June and have placed photos of little Nadia on my altar, taking the time to honor her every day. I often chat and journal with her to make sure she is happy and comfortable here. Still, I have things I am discovering that need to be adjusted for her happiness to continue. I also regularly discover aspects of her that I am embodying more on a regular basis, such as the ability to be playful, silly, and dance. These are all such important parts of the aftercare of Soul Retrieval. To this day I am discovering how to more deeply integrate this inner child more fully - 4 months after her retrieval.
On another side of this experience, there was a very cool thing that happened a few weeks after this Ceremony. A few weeks after the retrieval, a cat appeared to me in my dreams. He was majestic and looked like a black maine coon. He says he is ready, that I need to pick him up at the Humane Society tomorrow. LOL! I had been spending those few weeks trying to warm my family up to the idea of getting a cat after my Soul Retrieval, but now it was go time, ready or not! We go down to the Humane Society as a family and do indeed end up adopting a scruffy little tuxedo. He is integrating well into our family, showing us how to open our hearts as well as how to experience joy more fully. He has also become my oldest daughter's guardian and has helped her through her own very challenging time over the last two months.
Soul Retrieval is traditionally performed by the Shaman on behalf of the person needing the retrieval. The Shaman lays down next to the person and does the whole journey for them. This is something I do offer to people who work with me, but I have been very guided to take others on a journey to do their own retrieval. To show them how to be their own Shaman. This is quickly demonstrating to me that it is one of the beautiful outcomes of sitting in a Psilocybin Ceremony. In Ceremony, there is often one or more soul parts retrieved for the person sitting. Sometimes the person is guided to retrieve the part for themselves, sometimes the aspect(s) shows up in the room and asks me to be returned, and sometimes I am guided to take an epic journey through portals to bring it back from where they are stored! I had one Ceremony a few weeks ago where literally 14 soul parts stood in line, waiting their turn to come back in and give me details about who they were and what they needed. Some parts just need the space where they belong to be cleared out for their return (Extraction) and sometimes they need specific instructions be given to the person on how to integrate them and why they left in the first place. Many times there is an emotional or physical release that accompanies the replacement of that soul part. Occasionally, this is when repressed memories return. Either way, I am in awe of the beauty of how working with the plants allows this to happen effortlessly and with grace for the average person.
If you are interested in learning more about Soul Retrieval or Integration of returned soul aspects, I highly recommend reading these two books. If you want to experience this in one of our Ceremonies, you know where to find us.
Sandra Ingerman's Welcome Home: Following your Soul's Journey Home
Do you have a Soul Retrieval story you'd like to share? How does this compare to your experience?