Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Layers of the Soul

Sometimes I find it difficult to separate Native concepts of spirituality, and those imported through western influences. Even the oldest tribal leaders sometimes mix traditions, making it nearly impossible to identify "pure" concepts from pre-Christian history.

There are clues, however.

The Salish word for soul is: snxpew's. I often wondered if this word is of ancient origin, or if it bears a Christian influence. One source I recently found seems to indicate an ancient belief in the soul, though it does not reveal the level of Christian influence.

The Flathead Indians by Harry Turney-High says, "All (tribal informants) agree that people recognized the existence of the soul and its survival after death, and that it was considered the substance with which a man is lined. The same term used to signify the soul also indicates the lining of a garment."

The photograph of the river above reminds me of this concept of the soul. The water is like a flowing lining over the riverbed, much like the soul within our bodies.

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