Spirit Loss in America
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Spirit Loss in America

“It is time to call your spirit back home. So, say your name aloud. Call your spirit back so that it may reanimate your body, mind, and heart.” Xochi Quetzalli, maestra and practitioner of curanderismo, offers a reflection on cultural susto and a velación to connect with ancestors.

Spirit Loss in America

“It is time to call your spirit back home. So, say your name aloud. Call your spirit back so that it may reanimate your body, mind, and heart.” Xochi Quetzalli, maestra and practitioner of curanderismo, offers a reflection on cultural susto and a velación to connect with ancestors.

TODAY IN THE USA, we are living in a country of different ethnicities, culturas, tongues, and religions—a confluence with its own evolutionary path. Ancestral identities have faded by both choice and force, and assimilation into the dominant colonial culture has triggered a new tendency in thinking: detachment and individualism. In America, we tend only to look ahead, with complete disregard of whom we step on while racing forward. Only now, it seems, are people beginning to step back, seeing the effects of the climate crisis and corporate capitalism, and questioning this stampede towards the future.

While living among a diversity of people brings so many positive influences, our detachment from our roots and our constant rush forward have sickened us. We are living today in a country full of inhabitants who have experienced susto: our spirits, nuestras almas, are lost amidst generations of cultural uprootedness. Lost identities, lost cultures, forgotten memories of who we once were.

In curanderismo, susto refers to a “shock” or “scare” that causes the loss of one’s soul... Today, in Los Estados Unidos, we are going through a pandemic of mass cultural susto.

In curanderismo, susto refers to a “shock” or “scare” that causes the loss of one’s soul. It is most often triggered by a shocking or traumatic event, and when someone is suffering from susto, they, in clinical terms, might be experiencing depression, PTSD, physical sickness, or any other low-energy conditions.

Today, in Los Estados Unidos, we are going through a pandemic of mass cultural susto. It is a soul loss of the deepest kind: a loss of tonalli caused by the loss of rootedness—by traumas, the pressure to conform, and the disconnection from our raíces.

In curanderismo, there are three levels of existence—physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual. Each person, too, has three souls. One of these, tonalli, lives in the heart and mind; it animates our forward motion, the path we choose to walk in life. When susto occurs, your tonalli spirit leaves, and your alma perdida (lost soul) must then find its way back home.

Because of oppressive assimilation over generations, there are adults of all ages who are all still searching for their lost souls. Many are questioning: who was I before they put up these walls? Their souls, wandering around like shadows, are lost fragments of self. They are hiding in forgotten childhood homes, at invisible crossroads, or deep within the locked parts of the mind.

These lost pieces of soul have forgotten who they once were. Sometimes, the lost pieces have wandered so far away from their people that death results. For soul loss causes low energies and ailments, such as fatigue, thirst, depression, or insomnia. It is a loss of life force and the will to keep living, for the tonalli spirit has wandered away. Without memories of where you come from, you may have no understanding of how to move forward.

Our spirit essence is that which gives us our breath to live; it inspires the desire to flower, to sing—in xochitl, in cuicatl—and to make beauty all around, yet we cannot move forward if we ignore our traumas that abound. It is time to recopar nuestras almas (recover our souls), retrieve ourselves from the depths of our minds, and truly begin the journey of looking inside.

We must become warriors and face our worst enemies ahead. Yet, as true warriors, we do not go into battle to inflict violence on others; instead, we meet our reflections in the original mirror (which is the moon) and face our own enemies (which are our traumas). The battle is to heal ourselves and make ourselves whole again.

We womxn, men, all genders alike, are like Coyolxauhqui,* broken and dismembered—but we are slowly putting ourselves back together again.

And remembering why we are here.

It is time to call your spirit back home. So, say your name aloud. Call your spirit back so that it may reanimate your body, mind, and heart.

It is time to call your spirit back home. So, say your name aloud. Call your spirit back so that it may reanimate your body, mind, and heart. Go ahead and say your birth name or nickname aloud with strength, courage, and force. It is time to journey within our lost memories, to find the lost pieces of our souls, and to rebirth ourselves into a new people who will interrupt and turn the dire course of history.

We have officially entered the time of the sixth sun, so this is the time to make way for the turning of cycles and the shift ahead. It is time to pick ourselves up and return to our raíces, whatever roots are calling you home.

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Four-Directions Prayer

It is time to turn to the east, Tlahuiztlampa, place of Quetzalcoatl, and offer copalli and the touch of the huehuetl (drum). Here, ask for intelligence and the capacity to speak with wisdom, watching your words carefully.

Go ahead, turn to the left, face the west, Cihuatlampa, where Xipe Totec lies, and add more copal to your burner while lightly beating the drum some more. Here, we may find the capacity to change, to forgive ourselves, and to improve.

Move then to the north, Mictlampa, where Tezcatlipoca reigns, and offer your copal smoke on the breath of the wind with drumbeat in rhythm. Here, look towards your ancestors, those who have crossed over to the longer life and Great Mystery.

Salute the four directions, with medicinas in hand, and know that your ancestors are here to guide your spirit back home.

Finally, we move to the south, Huitztlampa, place of the deity Huitzilopochtli, and offer copalli and drum. Petition for your willpower to strengthen, for the capacity to use free will when you choose, for the ability to persevere, and to always be curious, like the child within.

Salute the four directions, with medicinas in hand, and know that your ancestors are here to guide your spirit back home. See your feet rooting into the earth, Tonantzin Tlalli, and remember your raza may be mixed, but you are connecting to what calls you inside. Give thanks for your ancestors’ presence, for the healing work that you will do ahead; give thanks for your familia, and the long life that you have lived. 

To all my relations, Ometeotl

Xochi Quetzalli


Continue reading the companion to this piece, Xochi Quetzalli's Ancestor Velación for el Día de los Muertos.

*Coyolxauhqui is the Mexica warrior goddess archetype represented in the moon.

Top image credit: istock.com/Leontura (modified).

*Coyolxauhqui is the Mexica warrior goddess archetype represented in the moon.

Top image credit: istock.com/Leontura (modified).

*Coyolxauhqui is the Mexica warrior goddess archetype represented in the moon.

Top image credit: istock.com/Leontura (modified).

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