Only the Spiritually Gifted Are Capable of Flight
It is a widespread spiritual belief that all humans were able to fly in primordial times, in illo tempore, before the fall from original grace, when the first people shared much in common with supernatural beings. In later times, only the spiritually gifted, such as wizards, yogis, witches, saints, and shamans, were believed to fly or levitate. Two ideas related to flight appear in religious thought around the world: first, that the human soul has the form of a bird, and second, that birds function as psychopomps, leading the souls of the dead into the next life. Associated with bird and soul imagery is a widespread notion that at death the human soul becomes discarnate, leaves the body, and flies like a bird. Flight, therefore, is a strong symbol of the soul’s autonomy, transcendence, and ultimate destiny after death. People capable of either physical flight or soul flight during their lifetimes are considered to have transcended the human condition and re-entered the original time; they enjoy supernatural privileges, denied most people until death. The shaman is revered, and sometimes feared, precisely on these terms: He or she has the power to leave our ordinary condition and pass the boundaries into the spirit world; to be able to fly and visit the land of the dead; and to enjoy the friendship of discarnate beings, the helping spirits.