Adapted with permission from "Soul Sisters" by Pythia Peay, published by Tarcher books, a division of Penguin Putnam.

What is a "Soul Sister"? Quite simply, a soul sister is a woman friend who tends to the needs of our souls. A soul sister keeps her eye on what really matters, even when we may not be centered on that ourselves. She is that person who recognizes the simple truth that while material security and professional success have their place in life, they cannot satisfy all our needs. Thus, soul sisters are those who are loyal to the innermost essence, the deepest heart's desire, of their friends. By maintaining a fidelity and trust to the better part of their friend's nature, they help nurture it into existence.

It is my strong conviction that we are each born, as Jungian thinker James Hillman has written, "called." Each person comes into this world, I believe, with a spiritual mandate, and the realization of that mandate is the soul's aim. Only a rare few, however, are privileged to know the secret of their reason for being from birth. Though we may have hints when we are young, our life purpose only becomes visible over the course of time, forged through life's trials and errors. As the heroine in the classic fairy tale must spin fine cloth from sheaves of wheat in order to win her freedom or the hand of the prince, so, too, must we each sort and sift through the childhood memories, social and cultural influences, dreams, emotional conflicts, and major life events that have gone into making our lives, spinning from them the fine cloth of our own particular destiny.

There is great meaning in the image of the Moira, or Three Fates, for women. Pictured with their spindles at the spinning wheel, they are the feminine forces dispensing threads of destiny. Together they weave beautiful designs in the shape of human lives, then cut the thread of life when the pattern is complete. We learn from them that fate is an ongoing creative process of interweaving bits and pieces of many colors, shapes, and textures into a complex, whole, and beautiful image. We learn from the fates that this is not a solitary task, but one undertaken with the companionship and involvement of others.

That is why we all need a soul sister--someone who, metaphorically speaking, can sit beside us at the spinning wheels of our lives--talking, laughing, crying, feeling--weaving, in the process, commonsense wisdom out of who we are and why we are here. This process between soul friends is what feminist thinker Christine Downing calls "the mutuality of soulmaking," the "reciprocal and equal love for one another's psychic development." Says my longtime acquaintance Jan Clanton Collins, a Jungian analyst and professor of anthropology, "Friends are steadfast companions on the spiritual pilgrimage. They are a grace that makes the journey worthwhile. Just to know that they are in the world and that we are not alone gives us courage to go on."


Delving into Celtic wisdom, Irish Catholic scholar John O'Donohue has called this kind of profound kinship anam cara

, or soul friend. Part of the role of one's anam cara, he says, "is to see for you in places where you're blind. There is a secret destiny in every friendship that awakens the hidden possibilities asleep in people's hearts. Thus part of the magic of anam cara is that the human psyche is given to each individual, but it remains relatively unborn--friendships help you to birth yourself."

Finding a Soul Sister

How can women find a soul sister? To begin with, I think any search must begin with an intention. Just like dream incubation begins with a process of soul searching, so, too, does the quest for a true friend begin with an honest survey of one's own life. While friendship is a process that facilitates awareness, we must have a certain measure of self-knowledge ourselves before we can engage at a certain depth with another person. Thus, a person seeking a friend might start out by first drawing a character map of themselves. They might sketch out the basic framework of their life, noting such basic conditions as whether or not they are married and meeting the demands of children and a husband, or whether they are a single parent, or have an all-consuming career. Next a woman should identify where she falls on the age continuum: is she young and just setting out on life's adventure, is she midstream and somewhat settled down, or is she entering the elder years of her life?