Soul dualism

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Soul dualism or multiple souls is a range of beliefs that a person has two or more kinds of souls. In many cases, one of the souls is associated with body functions ("body soul") and the other one can leave the body ("free soul" or "wandering soul").[1][2][3][4][5] Sometimes the plethora of soul types can be even more complex.[6][7] Sometimes, a shaman's "free soul" may be held to be able to undertake a spirit journey.


Austronesian peoples[edit]

The belief in soul dualism found throughout most Austronesian shamanistic traditions. The reconstructed Proto-Austronesian word for the "body soul" is *nawa ("breath", "life", or "vital spirit"). It is located somewhere in the abdominal cavity, often in the liver or the heart (Proto-Austronesian *qaCay).[8][9] The "free soul" is located in the head. Its names are usually derived from Proto-Austronesian *qaNiCu ("ghost", "spirit [of the dead]"), which also apply to other non-human nature spirits. The "free soul" is also referred to in names that literally mean "twin" or "double", from Proto-Austronesian *duSa ("two").[10][11] A virtuous person is said to be one whose souls are in harmony with each other, while an evil person is one whose souls are in conflict.[12]

The "free soul" is said to leave the body and journey to the spirit world during sleep, trance-like states, delirium, insanity, and death. The duality is also seen in the healing traditions of Austronesian shamans, where illnesses are regarded as a "soul loss" and thus to heal the sick, one must "return" the "free soul" (which may have been stolen by an evil spirit or got lost in the spirit world) into the body. If the "free soul" can not be returned, the afflicted person dies or goes permanently insane.[13]

In some ethnic groups, there can also be more than two souls. Like among the Tagbanwa people, where a person is said to have six souls - the "free soul" (which is regarded as the "true" soul) and five secondary souls with various functions.[8]


Traditional Chinese culture differentiates two hun and po spirits or souls, which correlate with yang and yin respectively. Within this soul dualism, every human has both an ethereal hun "spiritual soul; spirit; mood" that leaves the body after death and a substantive po "physical soul; spirit; vigor" that remains with the corpse. Chinese traditions differ over the number of hun and po souls in a person, for example, Daoism has the sanhunqipo 三魂七魄 "three hun and seven po".


Kalbo Inuit groups believe that a person has more than one type of soul. One is associated with respiration, the other can accompany the body as a shadow. Soul concepts of Inuit groups are diverse and not alike.[14] In some cases, it is connected to shamanistic beliefs among the various Inuit groups.[15] Also Caribou Inuit groups believed in several types of souls.[16]

Uralic peoples[edit]

The concept of more kinds of souls can be found also at several Finno-Ugric peoples.[3][17] See notion of shadow-soul (being able to depart freely the body), e.g. “íz” in Hungarian folk beliefs.[17][18] The concept of a dualistic shadow-soul called itse, related to the Hungarian conception, is also part of Finnish and general Baltic-Finnic folklore. The Estonian soul concept has been approached by several authors, some of them using rather complex frameworks (online [7]).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hoppál, Mihály: Nature worship in Siberian shamanism
  2. ^ Great Basin Indian. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 28, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica: Online
  3. ^ a b Hoppál 1975:225
  4. ^ Hoppál 1994:13
  5. ^ Diószegi 1962:27
  6. ^ Merkur 1985
  7. ^ a b Conceptions of soul in old-Estonian religion (Vol. 4) written by Tarmo Kulmar
  8. ^ a b Michael L. Tan (2008). Revisiting Usog, Pasma, Kulam. University of the Philippines Press. ISBN 9789715425704. 
  9. ^ Clifford Sather (2018). "A work of love: Awareness and expressions of emotion in a Borneo healing ritual". In James J. Fox. Expressions of Austronesian Thought and Emotions. ANU Press. p. 57–63. ISBN 9781760461928. 
  10. ^ Jose Vidamor B. Yu (2000). Inculturation of Filipino-Chinese Culture Mentality. Interreligious and Intercultural Investigations. Volume 3. Editrice Pontifica Universita Gregoriana. pp. 148,149. ISBN 9788876528484. 
  11. ^ Robert Blust & Stephen Trussel. "Austronesian Comparative Dictionary: *du". Austronesian Comparative Dictionary. Retrieved 7 July 2018. 
  12. ^ Leonardo N. Mercado (1991). "Soul and Spirit in Filipino Thought". Philippine Studies. 39 (3): 287–302. JSTOR 42633258. 
  13. ^ Zeus A. Salazar (2007). "Faith Healing in the Philippines: An Historical Perspective" (PDF). Asian Studies. 43 (2): 1–15. 
  14. ^ Kleivan & Sonne 1985:17–18
  15. ^ Merkur 1985:61, 222–223, 226, 240
  16. ^ Gabus 1970:211
  17. ^ a b Fodor 2005: 16–17
  18. ^ Dienes 1975:83


  • Dienes, István (1975). "A honfoglaló magyarok és ősi hiedelmeik". In Hajdú, Péter. Uráli népek / Nyelvrokonaink kultúrája és hagyományai (in Hungarian). Budapest: Corvina Kiadó. pp. 77–108. ISBN 963-13-0900-2.  The title means: “Uralic peoples / Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives”; the chapter means “The Hungarians at the time of entering the Carpathian Basin, and their ancient beliefs”.
  • Diószegi, Vilmos (1962). Samanizmus. Élet és Tudomány Kiskönyvtár. Budapest: Gondolat. 
  • Fodor, István (2005). "Az ősi magyar vallásról". In Molnár, Ádám. Csodaszarvas. Őstörténet, vallás és néphagyomány. Vol. I (in Hungarian). Budapest: Molnár Kiadó. pp. 11–34. ISBN 963-218-200-6.  The chapter means: “About the ancient Hungarian religion”; the book title means: “Miracle deer. Ancient history, religion and folklore tradition”.
  • Gabus, Jean (1970). A karibu eszkimók (in Hungarian). Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó.  Translation of the original: Gabus, Jean (1944). Vie et coutumes des Esquimaux Caribous. Libraire Payot Lausanne.  It describes the life of Caribou Eskimo and Padlermiut groups.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (1975). "Az uráli népek hiedelemvilága és a samanizmus". In Hajdú, Péter. Uráli népek. Nyelvrokonaink kultúrája és hagyományai (in Hungarian). Budapest: Corvina Kiadó. pp. 211–233. ISBN 963-13-0900-2.  The title means: “Uralic peoples / Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives”; the chapter means “The belief system of Uralic peoples and the shamanism”.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (1994). Sámánok. Lelkek és jelképek. Budapest: Helikon Kiadó. ISBN 963-208-298-2.  Title mans: “Shamans / Souls and symbols”.
  • Kleivan, Inge; Sonne, B. (1985). Eskimos. Greenland and Canada. Iconography of religions, section VIII /Arctic Peoples/, fascicle 2). Institute of Religious Iconography • State University Groningen. E.J. Brill, Leiden (The Netherland). ISBN 90-04-07160-1. 
  • Merkur, Daniel (1985). Becoming Half Hidden / Shamanism and Initiation among the Inuit. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis / Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. ISBN 91-22-00752-0. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Johansen, Ulla (2005). "Sámánfilozófia: változó lélekképzetek Tuvában". In Molnár, Ádám. Csodaszarvas. Őstörténet, vallás és néphagyomány. Vol. I (in Hungarian). Budapest: Molnár Kiadó. pp. 135–156. ISBN 963-218-200-6.  The chapter means: “Shamanic philosophy: soul concepts in Tuva, changing in time”; the book title means: “Miracle deer. Ancient history, religion and folklore tradition”.
  • Oosten, Jarich G. (1997). "Cosmological Cycles and the Constituents of the Person". In S. A. Mousalimas. Arctic Ecology and Identity. ISTOR Books 8. Budapest • Los Angeles: Akadémiai Kiadó • International Society for Trans-Oceanic Research. pp. 85–101. ISBN 963-05-6629-X. 

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