Recently I was asked a question that gave me pause. It was a simple question that opened up whole worlds of inquiry which have echoed through many hundreds of years. The question was, “Do birds have souls?” This is not such an unusual question. For a very long time in history, we have been told that only humans have souls. As God gave mankind dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26), this seems to imply that, though animals have the ‘breath of life’ to animate them, they are not connected with the Divine in the same sense as mankind. They do not have souls nor do they go to heaven. We have come a long way in appreciating that animals have thoughts and feelings. Anyone who owns a pet (and this implication of ‘ownership’ becomes interesting language itself) can attest to the different, particular personalities that come through. Many of you reading this likely have already answered the question of animal’s souls in your own minds. For me it was an invitation to a more expansive question, “What exactly is a Soul and does it differ from Spirit?”
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One of the secrets of horse whispering is to widen your focus: to be on the horizon as you are also with the horse standing in front of you. Why? Because that is what horses do all the time. This gives horses that mystical presence that we like to cuddle up against, groom, or ride.
Horses never left their soul. Soul Retrieval is about finding this back in your life.
I needed in my life to research into what it means to be a woman. I went right back to the roots of our culture, and found a field of wisdom and love. The Sacred Feminine. It was more than intellectual research, it was a true journey of initiation. And I initiated many others. I have come to understand my soul is my personal connection to this field, but it IS also the field...it's like a drop which contains the whole ocean.
When I tell people I follow a Minoan spiritual path, one comment that regularly comes up involves “those massive double-axe weapons.” Sometimes Wiccans will compare the labrys to the athame or the coven sword – a strong, sharp weapon that’s meant to signify the practitioner’s will, strength, passion and so on. But that’s not an accurate comparison. Yes, there have been cultures that used double-bladed axes as weapons, and very effective ones at that. And we know the Minoans made all sorts of bronze weapons for export; they may have been the world’s first major arms dealers, even though they probably had no military of their own.
But if you look carefully at the actual labyrses found in the ruins on Crete, the first thing you notice is that they’re incredibly flimsy. They are made of sheet metal, either gold or gold-plated, that’s not much thicker than tinfoil. Honestly, you could crumple most of them with your bare hands. That doesn’t strike me as a way to make a weapon....
Summer is well into full-swing this first week of August. In this part of Illinois, August is usually very hot and miserable. Even so, the first slight signs of Autumn can be detected. The sun is setting earlier and sometimes a cool breeze filters through the window at night. First harvests have been happening in actuality for a while The gardens and fields have been planted, fertilized and in way too many cases fumigated with pesticides to keep out the weeds and pests. Wheat has been harvested for over a month and those fields are currently planted in soybeans to get a second harvest before winter hits. Corn is in full tassel which means that the grain is now being formed. In the gardens, tomatoes, peppers, green beans and other summer crops are in full production. Soon, I will be planting a fall garden to get a new supply of greens and other vegetables that prefer the cool nights. Now is the time to go venturing into the uncultivated acres to gather milk thistle seed and goldenrod for the herb cabinet.
This is also the time of year that the weeds in the garden and along the fencerows are coming into full maturity. It becomes obvious that I have not been diligent about keeping the weeds out of the places where I would prefer they do not grow. Well, isn't that the real definition of a weed? A weed is simply a plant growing where you do not want it. I have an overabundance of foxtail grass, lambs quarters and ragweed where the abundance is supposed to be blackberries, tomatoes and melons.
Ka, double, khaibit, ba, sahu - what a confusing complexity of terms for what moderns simply call “soul.” Everything we know about the ancient Egyptian concepts of non-physical being come from writings like the Pyramid Texts, the Book of Going Forth, Coffin Texts, etc. These do not define terms that must have been an accepted part of the culture, but we can derive a sense of their meaning from the context of what they do, where they live, and to what they are attached. Reams and reams have been written about Egyptian ideas of the soul, but I will only give as very brief summary here, as best I understand.
shat - this is the living body; a corpse or mummified body is the khat.
ba - shown in art as a bird with a human head, I think of this as the personal identity, the personality. The ba is restless and longs for the next life, but is attached to and continually drawn back to the shat, then the khat.
ka - source, life force, “higher self,” the group spirit or energy of one’s ancestral group.
akh - the being of light that one becomes as a last step in spiritual development after death, often translated as “shining one,” or “imperishable star.”
sah - a spiritual body, sah is to akh as ka is to ba
Some people also add some more concepts to this group:
ren - one’s true name; to speak the true name of a person or any thing in the world gives one power over it.
ib - the heart, seat of individual existence, conscience, intellect.
sekhem - personal power or will
hau - unified whole of all aspects of one’s existence
Egyptians also located different qualities of the soul in various parts of the body, for example:
heart - seat of being
legs - strength
arms - ability and efficiency
genitals - creative power
mouth - entry and exit point of life
eye - inner strength, protection, knowledge
ears - understanding, compassion
Somehow, western culture began to view existence in a binary or polarized pattern, about the time the Egyptian civilization was dying. Many will not accept the veracity of anything that is not physical; others exalt the non-physical as a superior state. Egyptian cosmology, however, is all about the cycle of life, death, transformation and rebirth. Each aspect of the self is a facet of being, a step along the way of growing.
One thing the current age seems to be getting right is to recognize the hau, the whole self. But I also like the nuances of the Egyptian terms, which honor the parts of our self, defining the underlying purposes of each.
I have passed through the Duat
I have seen my father Osiris,
I have scattered the gloom of the night . . .
I have become a sah,
I have become an akh,
I have become equipped,
Oh, all you gods and akhs,
make a way for me . . . (Book of Going Forth By Day)
Who is this flower above me,
And what is the work of this god?
I would know myself in all my parts.
~ Feri Flower Prayer
My work of late has been focused around surrender, specifically, surrendering to the moment and surrendering to the Gods. And first and foremost, I have to surrender to my Self, specifically, to my Godself.*...