The Form and Function of the Three Souls

All humans and animals possess more than one soul; in fact, multiple souls are required in order to keep a physical body alive. Throughout Siberia and Mongolia it is believed that all humans possess at least three souls; some groups, such as the Samoyed, believe there are more, four in women and five in men. These extra souls, however, are not permanent like the core three souls that all Siberian groups agree upon, and the extra one or two souls gradually dissipate after the death of the physical body. Animals also possess souls that return again and again to their habitat and must therefore not be offended. Human beings possess three souls (for simplicity, I give only the Mongolian names):

-the suld soul, which resides in nature after death;
-the ami body soul, which reincarnates;
-the suns soul, which also reincarnates.

Of the three, one of the most vital to life is the suld; if it is separated from the body, death is practically inevitable. The other two souls may be separated temporarily from the physical body without harm.

The three souls reside in the spherical field of energy that envelops the physical body. This sphere has an upright axis within it, pierced by seven holes that correspond to the seven chakras. The suld soul resides at the crown of the head, where there is a direct connection to Father Heaven through the small tenger that is also located there. The other two souls oscillate back and forth through the holes of the body axis in a sine-wave pattern.

In order to be perfectly balanced, the suns and ami souls should always be on opposite sides of the axis. When a person becomes excited, the circulation of the souls through the seven holes speeds up, causing the heart to beat faster and creating a feeling of high energy or tension. The balance of the suns and ami souls can be disrupted by spiritual attack of physical trauma. In the most serious cases the ami or suns may be knocked out of the body, and if the soul remains out of the body for a long time, it will result in illness or mental confusion.

Children’s souls are considered the most unstable, but they can often be called back by their parents. As people mature, the body’s energy field matures, the souls are less easily knocked out of balance, and resistance to outside spiritual forces is stronger. In cases of soul imbalance or loss a shaman’s help is needed to restore order. The strength of the souls is proportional to the amount of hiimori (windhorse) a person possesses. Human awareness (setgel) is centered around the chest area, and the size of the setgel depends on the amount of windhorse a person has. The brain is recognized as being important to bodily function, but the ultimate seat of consciousness is in the chest.

The suld soul is the most individualized of the three human souls. It lives in a physical body only once, then takes residence in nature. It is located in the crown of the head and is necessary for the body to live. After death it remains around the body for a while, and some groups create ongon spirit houses for these souls in order to keep them near and have their aid and protection. After eight or so generations the suld will become a nature spirit. The suld carries no past-life experiences, so it develops the characteristics that distinguish a person from other people. Charisma and dignity are evidence of a strong suld soul; for that reason suld is also used to describe the majesty of mountains or trees.

The ami soul is the soul that enlivens the body. Sometimes it is called the breath soul because it is related to the ability to breathe, amisgal. Breathing is evidence that the ami is within the body; however, at times it will exit the body, resulting in illness. It returns after death to the World Tree, where it roosts in the tree’s branches between heaven and earth in the form of a bird. Ami souls tend to reincarnate among their relatives and are the carriers of ancestral, or so-called genetic, memory. They are under the care of the womb goddess, Umai, who lives beside the World Tree. She dispatches them on spirit horses, omisi murin, to enter the body at the time of birth. While the ami may be temporarily displaced during illness, the ami does not leave permanently until after death. Twins share one ami, which is the reason why there is often a psychic connection between them, especially identical twins. Foxes and wolves are especially sensitive to the presence of stray souls, and when they bark, it is said to be a sign that they have sighted a wandering ami soul.

The suns soul, like the suld soul, contributes to the formation of personality, but it carries the collected experiences of past lives within it. The suns is an inhabitant of the lower world between incarnations, but it may return as a ghost to visit friends or relatives. Suns souls that have become lost on their way to the lower world are commonly the cause of hauntings and, at times, illness. It is considered inappropriate to think or talk about people who have recently died because this will attract the soul back to its friends and relatives and hinder its progress to the lower world. The suns is commonly thought to follow water courses to the lower world, and so water animals are considered to have a special connection with the spirits. When a person dies the suns soul is shown the way to the lower world by the Raven, and its journey is said to be watched by the bear. Erleg Khan, ruler of the lower world, is responsible for the disposition of the suns and determines when and where it reincarnates. If a soul was extremely evil during its life on earth he may send it to Ela Guren, a part of the lower world where souls are extinguished forever. The suns may also temporarily leave the body and sometimes wander as far as the lower world, which may require a shaman to negotiate with Erleg Khan for its return.

Of the two reincarnating souls, the suns usually bears the strongest past-life memories. When people remember past lives it is almost always past life memories of the suns. This is also why some people who have had past-life memories sometimes have conflicting stories. It is very possible to have recollections of memories of distant relatives through the ami in addition to a completely different set of memories from the suns. It is sometimes possible for an individual to see the image of past lives in a mirror, especially in a shaman’s mirror. Also when a person dies, it is believed that the suns lingers around the place where it had lived for seven days. In some places it is a custom to scatter ashes or sand in front of the door on the seventh night after a death. In the morning the tracks of the suns are said to appear in the sand or ashes. Sometimes instead of human tracks there will be animal tracks, the tracks of an animal that the suns had occupied during a previous incarnation. Mongols and Siberians believe that sometimes the suns of a human being will occupy an animal body, and that sometimes an animal will reincarnate as a human. This belief reinforces the strict customs surrounding treating animal remains with respect, and furthermore, if some human beings show rude and animal-like behavior, it may be because they had been animals in a previous life. Actually, animal souls are not considered in any way inferior to human souls, for animals are considered to be humanlike in personality and capable of experiencing emotions and communicating among each other, just as people do.

The triad of souls that comprises the human being can bee seen as a combination of essences from all three worlds. The suld is the most closely tied to this world because it lives no place else. The ami lives between earthly lives and as a bird on the World Tree and is practically a being of the upper world. The suns is definitely a part of the lower world. Any one soul by itself is invisible except to shamans and other people with extrasensory perception. The need for multiple souls in order to be a visible physical entity implies that a physical living being represents an intersection of spirits from more than one of the three worlds.