MWD: Soul

My Month of Written Devotion is for the Spirit of the Santa Clara Valley


My love for my Lady Valley is one of a few spiritual reasons I have for trying to learn about Native American cultures, arts, and spiritual traditions. Still, my interest pre-dates my awareness of Her as an entity by at least a decade.

When I shop for Native American arts or books, I am often asked if I believe I have Native American ancestry. “Oh, probably,” I have to answer, “my Mom’s side has been here long enough. But we have no record of who, or what nation, so the point is really moot.”

One time, in a shop in Solano, the artist and shopkeeper asked the usual bloodline question. She wasn’t asking out of any judgement, but because so many white women like me are only interested in her shop out of a sense of personal entitlement based on belief in their own native blood. She was trying to be welcoming to the kind of customer she had every reason to believe had walked in the door.

When I gave my answer, she said, “Well, maybe you have a native soul – do you believe in reincarnation?”

And yes, I do believe in reincarnation.

But I don’t go digging for past-life memories. I trust that if I need to remember something, I will. I don’t assume my past life memories were as any particular kind of human, or even human at all. I don’t assume they were in what my body in this life understands to be the past. I do have a few past-life memories, mostly as a result of encountering people I’m sure I’ve known before, which can produce flashes of our previous relationships. But few of them come with a clear sense of cultural context or ethnicity.

To me, the idea of an ethnic or gendered soul makes no sense, because the idea of a species soul makes no sense. If I spent a life as a tree, roots entangled with other trees, what was my soul’s gender or ethnicity then?

Now, I know some cultures include the belief that people reincarnate within the same family line, and I have no reason to believe that isn’t what some souls do. I know there is one Bodhisattva oath to incarnate only as women, and I have no reason to believe that isn’t what some souls do. Maybe if that’s the only context for a particular soul to reincarnate, that soul maybe self-identifies as belonging to that family or gender? I don’t know.

I admit that I’m not sure how gods can have gender. I assume it’s part of the anthropomorphic translation. My spiritual experiences don’t all contribute to a single, cohesive cosmovision. Very well, I contradict myself.

It’s not that I don’t identify as having gender and ethnicity traits. That comes with having a human body, after all. I wouldn’t be incarnate for no reason. The body is a soul part too in Heathen belief, and that bears some contemplation.

But I don’t believe that the fact that I’m human right now means that my soul is a human soul. So no, I don’t believe I have a Native American soul. And I don’t believe any Native American blood I may have entitles me to anything.

My interest is grounded in my love and respect for the land I call home, and empathy for my fellow human beings.


P.S. Read Lon’s “Soul”