When my grandmother thinks I may be sad or scared or frustrated, she insists on calling my soul back to me. Espanto, they call it. When your soul is scared away into the other world.
"Soul retrieval" is not uncommon in many shamanic traditions. I didn't learn this until university, and then it occurred to me that my grandmother may, in fact, be a shaman. It makes me wonder about our lineage, which my grandmother claims can be traced back to the ancient Mayans. What rituals did my ancestors practice that are still kept alive? How long has my family been trying to ward off the evil eye and pressings fingers dipped in holy water into loved ones' foreheads before travel?
My mother recently requested the healing a few months ago. She told me that Nana (what we call my grandmother) extended the ritual for her for three sessions. My uncle called my mom to tell her what they were doing was evil and that she should go to church instead. This is exemplary of the constant conflict in the spiritual beliefs of my family.
There is something about the women in our family being drawn to the other worlds. Sometimes we slip and lose ourselves there. Nana, my mother, her sister, and I have all had psychological breakdowns. My aunt did not survive hers.
Some part of me wonders if our more wilder traditions and tendencies were met with too much hostility from the civilized world, and this is what caused such pain and suffering for the women in our family. In shamanic cultures, nearly every shaman experiences what is called a shamanic crisis. The community, recognizing the sign of the emerging shaman, creates a space for him or her to completely experience it. To fully immerse oneself in the breakdown. Eventually, the shaman comes back to the upper world. And by going through that, by traversing the underworlds and oftentimes, facing their own deaths, then they've then obtained the gifts of healing.
My grandmother has not fully returned. She mixes reality and dreams, fantasies and lies in sometimes abysmal ways. Yet she still heals.
I think I'd like for her to teach me how to call the soul back. Maybe I'll ask her next time I'm home.