When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him…While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5: 21-24, 35-43).
Continuing our exploration of Jesus-as-Shaman: Soul Retrievals are yet another common form of shamanic healing. The idea behind soul retrievals is that through certain traumatic events, people may experience the loss of a part of their soul. It’s as if that part of the soul breaks off and is lost. The shaman journeys to retrieve this lost part of the soul and return it to the person. This is typically enacted by the shaman blowing the retrieved soul-piece back into the heart, the mouth, and/or the top of the head of the person.
I read this story of Jesus’ as a soul retrieval. While everyone else thinks the young girl is dead, Jesus intuits she is sleeping–i.e. she might be in a coma. The barrier between death and life is thinner than people believe. Even in our own day with advanced technology, it actually be difficult to determine when someone is actually fully dead. (Please – no Princess Bride references!) Death is more a process not an end state…death isn’t an on/off switch.
In other words, I don’t think Jesus has brought this girl back from the dead. Rather I think he’s retrieved her soul and this has re-animated her – animate coming from animus/anima, meaning soul.
The story does not include any specific mention of Jesus going into a trance or journeying to retrieve the soul, as is usual in shamanic literature. It is common, however, that when a soul retrieval journey is undertaken that family members can be there in the room with the shaman as in this story.
Jesus speaks directly to the girl – very close to her body. Since he takes her by the hand and she is laying down, presumably Jesus is seated next to her or bending down. The breath that blows“Talitha Kum” would go right into the girl’s face and in particular, her mouth. This is classic soul retrieval technique. The words Talitha Kum might then be what shamans call “power words.” They are words that effect what they say. Talitha Kum (Rise up, little girl) is not simply a didactic command from Jesus, like someone telling you to close the door. He is calling her to awakened reality. The words have force and spirit behind them and effect the ‘waking’ up of the girl.
This hypothesis is bolstered by the fact that there is an intervening story between the announcement of the girl’s illness and her supposed death. An old woman who has suffered from a disease for 12 years (note the girl is referenced as being 12 years old) touches Jesus’ cloak and she is instantly healed. Jesus whirls around and notices that “power had gone out from him.” This power is shamanic energy. And he can feel that some went out of him, just as a Reiki healer can feel when the flow of Reiki passes through his/her hands.
As with the healings and the exorcisms, we see here a potential for good work in our day. Persons who have experienced highly traumatic events – car crashes, war zones, child abuse, and more – may seem after the trauma that they are never “quite themselves.” People say that something is missing – the look in their eyes is vacant somehow. Soul Retrievals are often required in such cases, but since our society does not recognize these modalities as valid, people suffer.
As with exorcisms, soul retrievals can be beneficial for all kinds of individuals, whether they have been through highly traumatic events or not.
Coming next week in the Jesus the Shaman series: Jesus the Psychopomp.
Chris Dierkes is a long time student and practitioner of the Christ-consciousness mystical path. After receiving his MDiv., Chris worked in parish ministry for three years (Anglican Church of Canada) and now maintains a private practice in interspiritual soul work. In addition Chris has studied energy healing, intuitive arts, and shamanic practice. He writes frequently on subjects of spirituality in the contemporary world. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Chloe and their daughter Sage. You can check out his writing and practice here.