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Mircea Eliade - On Sorcerors, spells and soul loss



Type of Spiritual Experience


A person may have a bodily illness caused by a virus or bacteria for example, or they may be psychologically ill.

Psychological illness is termed 'soul loss' and is treated differently from pathogenic illness in shamanic cultures.

In order to heal a patient of physical illness, the shaman shows the patient some physical object that is representative of the disease, whilst using an incantation of some sort to negate the function. The physical object is used as a convenient symbol that the healing was effective.

Many diseases are blamed on ‘sorcerors’ [evil shamans] as such treatment relies on the extraction of the ‘objects’ the sorcerors have ‘inserted’. All this is allegorical, symbolic, but the incantations may indeed have been very effective against the functions of viruses and bacteria.

A description of the experience

Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy

Injurious objects are usually projected by sorcerors. They are pebbles, small animals, insects; the magician does not introduce them ‘in concreto’, but creates them by the power of his thought. They may also be sent by spirits, who sometimes themselves take up residence in the patient’s body. Once he has discovered the cause of the illness, the shaman extracts the magical objects by suction...........

Summoned to a sick bed, the North American shaman first turns his attention to discovering the cause of the illness. Two principal kinds of diseases are distinguished; those due to the introduction of a pathogenic object, and those resulting from ‘soul loss’. The treatment in the two cases Is essentially different. In the first the effort is directed to expelling the cause of the trouble, in the second to finding and restoring the patient’s fugitive soul…….

The source of the experience

Native American Indians

Concepts, symbols and science items


Soul loss


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Singing spells