Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha

By Jean-Guy A. Goulet | Go to book overview

6. Journeys of the Soul

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They usually make someone die who is young, who is free from sin; they try to follow him or her to heaven.--Dene Tha speaker

From Dene Tha accounts of experiences in life we can infer that the mind is the seat of one's will, intellect, and memory. With one's mind one knows animal helpers who transfer to human beings a power to heal or to harm. When drunk, one's mind is gone. From this perspective it follows that after a state of drunkenness one does not remember one's actions and is not accountable for them. The mind is an essential part of one's individuality that endures beyond one's current incarnation. As we see in this chapter, individuals may always choose to come back to our land to be born again in a new body. That is why a reincarnated individual remembers people, places, and events from his or her earlier life. The mind, therefore, resides transiently in "someone's body," kezí, and permanently in "someone's spirit or soul," keyuné.1

Dene Tha indeed conceive of dreaming, sickness, and death as so many journeys of the soul. Dreaming involves the soul's journeying away from the body to explore areas in our land, to engage in a medicine fight with other powers, or momentarily to spend time in the other land in the company of dead relatives. At the end of each journey, when one wakes up, one remembers the events that took place beyond the confines of the body. That is why, a dreamer told me, when waking someone, one must do so cautiously, preferably by gently pulling on the sleeper's big toe, thus giving the person's soul or spirit time to reenter the body. Sickness may be induced by a prolonged absence of the soul from the body, in which case Dene Tha healers can be called on to retrieve the soul, bring it back to the body, and restore health. Death is the definitive separation of the mortal body and the enduring immortal soul.

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Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1. Stories from the Field 1
  • 2. True Knowledge and True Responsibility 27
  • 3. Powerful Beings and Being Powerful 60
  • 4. Powers to Heal, Powers to Respect 88
  • 5. Visions of Conflict, Conflicts of Vision 109
  • 6. Journeys of the Soul 142
  • 7. Searching for a Womb 167
  • 8. When the Drum and the Rosary Meet 193
  • 9. Dancing Your Way to Heaven 223
  • 10. An Experiential Approach to Knowledge 246
  • Notes 261
  • References 287
  • Index 329
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