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Embodying the Sacred

By River Devora

Each tradition and culture has its own understanding of the relationship between the physical body and the soul: some see the body as vehicle or vessel for the soul; some believe that the body is the physical manifestation of the soul and the source of our human magic; others believe the body houses a soul that is incomplete without the context of family, community or environment. Culture itself is enacted by the physical body through physical acts such as singing, dancing, eating, performing rituals, crafting objects and interacting with others. Individually, our relationship to our own physical bodies may be complicated due to history of trauma, physical disability, illness or pain, discomfort with some aspect of our size, gender, or appearance or for other reasons. Our core beliefs about our physical bodies intimately shape the way we connect to and understand the sacred. Spiritual longing, and that deep sense of meaning and purpose that having a spiritual path can bring, are physical as well as emotional and spiritual phenomena.

Body and Soul

There is no universally agreed-upon definition of the human soul. Every tradition (and many individuals) defines this concept differently. How we understand the nature of our soul (or even our sense of “self”) informs the way we relate to spirituality in general, and how (or if) we form relationships to our own blessed Powers (Deities, Oricha, Lwa, ancestors, fae, helpful dead people, animal and plant spirits, angels, and all the others who might walk with us). How we understand our physical bodies directly relates to how we understand our souls.

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