You throw away your life because you've come to assume that it'll bounce right back into your lap, but the human soul is not a rubber ball. It's vulnerable, impermanent, but stronger than you know. And more valuable than you can imagine.
Nature of Souls
Well, what about souls? They fuel your demon deals. Souls are living batteries. They're full of energy. They're full of light. Each one is as powerful as... 100 suns?
A soul is a person's essence, and what persists after death. In the natural order, souls are transported to the afterlife by reapers, and with the supervision of Death. The reaper Tessa refuses to tell Dean, on more than one occasion, where she takes the souls. Known destinations of souls are Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
In Supernatural, a soul separate from its body is visualized as a blinding white light. Death and Famine have transported souls in a doctor's bag and briefcase respectively. Angels can determine whether or not someone has a soul, or the taste of it, via a painful procedure in which the angel reaches inside a person to touch the soul.
Souls are also a powerful energy source, Famine was able to consume them to strengthen himself, and demons bargain for them, and even angels have traded in them. Souls also provide sustenance for certain supernatural creatures like the crocotta and the shtriga.
When Castiel rescues Sam from Lucifer's Cage, his soul remained trapped in the Cage until Death retrieved it for him. Without his soul, Sam feels no empathy, guilt or compassion. He is not evil, but rather lacks any moral compass, willing to resort to more questionable actions, such as allowing Dean to become a vampire to help them find an Alpha, albeit also knowing that there was a cure for vampirism, than he might consider when normal. While he continues to have physical needs for food and sex, he doesn't sleep, and has a high tolerance for pain.
Death reveals that souls are so powerful that even he can't break them. They can be damaged, but never broken. When ghosts are put to rest, their souls are not destroyed; they are simply ferried by a reaper to their final destination, though it had been believed by many hunters to be "death" for them with oblivion waiting for them afterwards.
It is possible for a human to function without a soul, however their reactions to its removal differ from person to person. With Sam Winchester he became less empathetic, and more instinctual. When souls were being harvested in Milton, Illinois the victims would become violent over the smallest infraction, as well as suicidal. In the instance where a soul is forcefully removed, if it is released from whatever is binding it it will return to its body.
The Grigori find human souls to be a delicacy and have fed on them since their expulsion from Heaven thousands of years ago.
Demons are formed in Hell by the corruption of a human soul over time. Lucifer made Lilith into the first demon in order to mock God's creation of humanity. While in Hell, Dean eventually broke under Alastair's torture and started torturing souls himself, and so likely would have been transformed without Castiel's intervention. Angels are able to rescue souls from Hell, though this generally requires a massive incursion, but a human can rescue a soul as well if they can sneak into and out of Hell with said soul.
The process of converting a soul into a demon essentially destroys the soul; when Crowley attempted to offer his soul to Plutus for the Word of God tablet, the offer was rejected as he did not have a soul to offer.
When the demons of Hell prove reluctant to abandon their loyalty to Crowley, Abaddon decides to create her own demons by taking souls from still living humans, in order to create her own demon army.
Other souls go to Heaven, although it is unclear what the criteria is for entrance. Raphael mentions devoutness as one possibility, which trumps all others, such as in Ken Lay's case. In Heaven, each soul has its own version of Heaven where he or she relives happy memories. According to Ash these Heavens are individual, except in the case of soulmates, who share the same Heaven. Sam and Dean appear to share the same Heaven. Most souls cannot leave their own allotted space, although Ash works out a way to move between them freely.
Purgatory is a spiritual realm where the souls of supernatural creatures such as vampires and shapeshifters go after they die. This place is not connected with Heaven or Hell, though Crowley and the rogue reaper Ajay have said that it is Hell adjacent. After resurrecting Samuel Campbell, Crowley has him tracking down high-ranking creatures, especially Alphas, so that he can question them about the location of Purgatory, which he wants for "development purposes." Though in truth, Crowley and Castiel had joined forces to find Purgatory in order to get the souls, which would aid Castiel in his war against Raphael. When Dean kills Leviathan leader Dick Roman, both he and Castiel get transported there without dying.
A vampire named Benny Lafitte tells Dean there is a way a human can escape Purgatory, and he'll help Dean find it for Dean taking him through the portal. Dean escapes Purgatory with Benny's soul inside him, allowing him to resurrect the vampire. When Dean is releasing Benny's soul from his body onto Benny's bones he speaks the words: Anima. Corpori. Fuerit corpus totem resurgent. Which translates as "Soul. Body. Whole body shall be raised." When Sam later escapes from Hell with Bobby Singer's soul, he carries it out of Purgatory in a similar way to what Dean did with Benny's soul.
Deals and Markers
Souls are first mentioned in relation to the deals made by crossroads demons, wherein a person agrees to give their soul to the demon upon death in exchange for some benefit when they are alive. Crowley was originally the head crossroads demon. The deals are traditionally sealed with a kiss, and have a set time limit at the end of which the subject of a deal, if still living, is killed.
John Winchester sold his soul to Azazel in exchange for Dean's life, and Dean sold his soul for Sam. Sam attempted to sell his own soul to bring back Dean, but the demons refused to make a deal as they wanted to keep Dean in Hell.
Bobby sells his soul to Crowley to get information on Death's whereabouts in order to help stop the Apocalypse. Crowley is able to make the details of the contract he made with Bobby manifest as writing on his skin. The deal is undone when Bobby, with help from Sam and Dean, threatened to destroy Crowley by burning the bones of his human self.
While bidding on the Word of God tablet, Linda Tran and Crowley each offered souls as a price for the auction, with Crowley initially offering three million souls from Hell while Linda offered her own soul. Plutus accepted Linda's offer over Crowley's due to the potential sacrifice of Linda's bid, prompting Crowley to offer his own soul, but this bid was rejected as he didn't have a soul to barter. Plutus noted that he owned various other souls from his past deals, but he was killed by Beau and Crowley before he could take Linda's soul.
The Power of Souls
Each soul a beautiful little nuclear reactor. Put 'em together, you have the sun.
Souls are extremely powerful sources of energy, often likened to nuclear weapons. The Horseman Famine sought out the souls of others because of their power so he could strengthen himself by ingesting them.
Balthazar bought the soul of a boy, Aaron Birch, in exchange for a part of the Staff of Moses. When asked why he bought it, Balthazar refers to souls as the only thing left of value; he is eventually forced to return it. Death hinted at the value of souls when he talked to Dean, saying that even he could not destroy a soul, or alter it. Death also said that a soul was "vulnerable, impermanent, but stronger than you know. And more valuable than you can imagine."
Angels can channel the power of souls. During a fight with Rachel, Castiel is severely wounded by an angel blade. The injury drains much of his power, making it impossible for him to retrieve Dean and Sam from the past. He tells Bobby that the human soul is pure energy, and if he touches Bobby's soul he might be able to draw on that energy to revitalize himself. Castiel says that done incorrectly, the procedure could cause Bobby to explode. Bobby agrees and endures great pain, and Castiel is able to bring back Sam and Dean through time from 1861.
Crowley's interest in Purgatory, the resting place of the souls of supernatural beings, relates to the untapped power inside. Before her death Eve explains that her actions in rising from Purgatory, and mobilizing all the supernatural beings, are in reaction to Crowley capturing and torturing "her children." She speculates that Crowley is after the souls from Purgatory as together they would form a powerful weapon.
Crowley's partner in the search for Purgatory was Castiel. Crowley convinced Cas that the souls there will give him the power to fight Raphael, as without some extra force he is no match for the archangel. A loan of 50,000 souls from Hell from Crowley allowed him to briefly overpower Raphael. Later, Atropos accuses Castiel of sinking the Titanic to create 50,000 more souls in order to "fund his war machine." She said that "He (Castiel) couldn't mint money, that it was wrong and dangerous and she wouldn't let him."
Balthazar warns Castiel that if he takes in the souls of Purgatory, he may not be able to contain them and may explode "taking a substantial chunk of the planet" along with him. When Crowley and Castiel finally determine how to access Purgatory and the souls there, Castiel cuts Crowley out of the deal, refusing him access to that power. Castiel opens the gate to Purgatory and absorbs all the souls, which allow him to destroy Raphael. He then declares himself the new God.
When Castiel ingested all of the souls of Purgatory, he becomes a God-like being, or as Death put it a "mutated angel," for a time before he returned the souls. However, the Leviathans hang on and are able to escape into the world.
As part of a spell to travel through time, Henry Winchester uses his own soul as a power source, something that surprises Sam and Dean as they thought only angels could do this. According to Henry, he needs a week for his soul to recharge enough to safely travel in time again, though in desperation he tries to make the trip early despite the possible risks.
Lily Sunder is able to use Enochian magic, which allows her strength and longevity, however with a price. Every time she uses the magic, a piece of her soul burns away, and will continue to do so until there is nothing and she is a soulless husk.
Castiel: Somehow, when Sam was resurrected, it was without his soul.
Dean: So where is it?Castiel: Well, you pose an interesting philosophical question.
Castiel: My guess is still in the cage with Michael and Lucifer.
Dean: So is he even still Sam?
After his return from Lucifer's Cage, Sam appears different, especially to Dean. He exhibits little compassion and Dean becomes increasingly suspicious that Sam may be possessed by Lucifer. Castiel refutes the idea, saying that if Lucifer were free they would know. It is eventually Veritas, the Goddess of Truth, who confirms Dean's worst fears that Sam is "not human" when he proves to be immune to her power. Sam admits that he knows something is deeply wrong. Dean calls on Castiel, who ascertains that Sam was resurrected without his soul.
Crowley claims that he pulled Sam out of Lucifer's Cage, but kept the soul "hostage" and that he will return Sam's soul if the Winchesters help him find Purgatory - a task he has had Samuel Campbell working on since his resurrection. Crowley later reveals to Dean, Sam and Castiel that he is incapable of raising Sam's soul from Lucifer's Cage, stating that raising Sam's body from the Cage was a very difficult task to perform.
Once again, I went to harrow Hell, to free Sam from Lucifer's cage. It was nearly impossible, but I was so full of confidence, of mission. I see now that was arrogance... hubris... because, of course, I hadn't truly raised Sam -- not all of him.
Dean: I mean, it's your gigantor body and maybe your brain, but it's not you. So just...stop pretending. Do us both a favor.
Sam eventually admits that "I'm not your brother. I'm not Sam". Then he confesses that he doesn't think having no soul is "better or worse, just different", but decides that he should get his soul back.
Leprechaun: The human soul gives off a certain perfume. Your soul is far away, but not completely out of reach.
Castiel and Crowley both predict that Sam's soul will have been tortured by Lucifer and Michael, and would be so severely damaged that it would harm Sam to have it returned, even drive him insane. Following this revelation, Sam decides he doesn't want his soul back, and summons Balthazar to see if there is a way to keep a soul out of its body. Balthazar informs him of a ritual that involves him defiling his body, that needs the blood of his father (that needn't come from the "father of your blood") to keep his soul out his body. This leads Sam to try and kill Bobby, only to be stopped at the last moment by Dean.
Sam is eventually reunited with his soul when Dean approaches Death for help. Death himself liberates it from Hell and personally delivers it back to Sam's body, despite his protests. Death installs it with the promise that a wall will be erected in Sam's mind which will prevent him from remembering his torment in Hell, but advises him to not "scratch away at it." lest the wall collapse and his memories come flooding back - though he suggests that this may happen over time regardless. Castiel says of the soul's condition once it is returned that it feels like it has been skinned alive.
As Castiel gets close to accessing Purgatory, he pleads with the Winchesters not to fight against him, but they refuse. Castiel touches Sam's forehead, which cracks the mental barrier that was planted there by Death, saying, "I'll fix him when this is all over." The breaking of the wall in Sam's mind causes him to have a breakdown; he is trapped inside his mind with the memories of what he did when he was soulless and what happened to him in Hell. He manages to overcome this long enough to make his way to help Dean and Bobby in their efforts to stop Castiel. However, Sam begins hallucinating Lucifer and slowly goes insane until Castiel transfers the madness into his own mind, solving Sam's problems but driving Castiel insane instead. According to Castiel, Sam's hallucinations of Lucifer are an "aftertaste" of his time in Hell and simply projections of his own mind.
Dean makes a deal with a crossroads demon and exchanges his soul for Sam's resurrection. The demon revives Sam and gives Dean a year. At the end of the time allotted in the deal, Dean's soul gets dragged to Hell and is constantly abused and tortured by the demon Alastair. After much painful torment, Dean agrees to torture other souls to stop his own torment. His soul is later retrieved by the angel Castiel and brought back to Earth.
Famine: Hunger doesn't just come from the body it also come from the soul.
Dean: Funny, it doesn't seem to be coming from mine.
Famine: Yes, I've noticed that.
Bobby Singer, seeing no other way to locate Death, the last Horseman of the Apocalypse, sells his soul to Crowley to gain the Horseman's location. Crowley takes advantage of the deal to blackmail the Winchesters into not killing him, but also restores Bobby's legs out of apparent altruism with the deal. Crowley later reluctantly gives it back after Bobby threatens to have Sam and Dean burn his original human bones.
After his fight with Rachel, Castiel, severely wounded and drained of his power, finds it impossible to retrieve Dean and Sam from the past. He tells Bobby that if he touches his soul he might siphon off enough power to bring them back. Bobby agrees, but experiences extreme pain in the process.
After death, instead of going to his afterlife where he belongs, Bobby's soul stays behind on Earth as a ghost to help Sam and Dean. After his flask is burned, Bobby's soul is taken by rogue reaper Ajay to Hell instead of Heaven on Crowley's orders as a result of what Bobby has done to him and his men. Bobby's soul spends the better part of a year in Hell before being rescued by Sam as part of the second trial to close the Gates of Hell. Despite being little more than a ghost, Bobby's soul is able to physically interact with things without concentration and is carried back to Earth in Sam's arm as they escape from Purgatory. On Earth, Sam releases Bobby's soul towards Heaven, but Crowley intercepts it with the intention to take it back to Hell. Naomi intervenes and releases Bobby's soul, allowing it to rise to its true resting place in Heaven.
Initially, the soul of Jimmy Novak remained in his body, but was rendered dormant after Castiel took Jimmy as a vessel. When Jimmy regained control of his body, he compared the experience to being strapped to a comet, unaware of most of Castiel's actions while in control apart from bits and pieces of recollection. He eventually consented to let Castiel use him as a vessel again, but after his body was disintegrated in a confrontation with Michael, his soul passed on as the body could only retain a soul if it also retained a certain structural integrity. Jimmy's soul is now in Heaven where he has been reunited with his wife after her own death, indicating that they could be soulmates.
After being captured by the Grigori Tamiel, Amelia Novak's soul was fed upon by the angel while she was in a dream state where she was in her perfect Heaven of being reunited with her missing husband Jimmy Novak. As a result of the feedings, she was left in a weakened state and even a fully restored Castiel couldn't heal her. Tamiel also indicated that she would eventually die of it. It is unknown if this is true or not as Tamiel killed her with his angel sword and Amelia's soul reunited with Jimmy in Heaven, her ability to share a Heaven with him indicating that they could are soul mates.
While trying to track down God, Amara consumed the soul of newly-made prophet Donatello Redfield. Despite losing his soul, Donatello retained the same general personality and states that with his loss of conscience he bases his actions upon the motto "what would Mr. Rogers do?" Even with the loss of his soul, Donatello still retains his prophet powers and status. However, without his soul acting as filter, Donatello would become corrupted by the demon tablet's dark influence, attempting to kill Sam, Dean and Castiel in order to keep it's secrets to himself.
Souls in Religion and Lore
The key events in the 1.01 Pilot- the night when Sam is fed demon blood by Azazel and Mary dies as well as the night Jessica dies exactly 22 years later- occur on November the second which is known as All Souls Day.
- Chassidic concepts of souls
- The soul in religion and philosophy from the Catholic Encylopedia
- Wikipedia entry on souls.
- The "human soul in the briefcase" device is a reference to the urban legend of the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction where the mysterious shining object in the briefcase (which is never seen or identified) is said to be the soul of Marsellus Wallace.
- 6.03 The Third Man
- 2.01 In My Time of Dying
- 9.17 Mother's Little Helper
- 6.20 The Man Who Would Be King
- 5.16 Dark Side of the Moon
- 2.01 In My Time of Dying
- 3.16 No Rest for the Wicked
- 4.09 I Know What You Did Last Summer
- 6.04 Weekend at Bobby's
- 8.02 What's Up, Tiger Mommy?
- 6.19 Mommy Dearest
- 6.18 Frontierland
- 6.20 The Man Who Would Be King
- 6.11 Appointment in Samarra
- 6.18 Frontierland
- 6.19 Mommy Dearest
- 6.20 The Man Who Would Be King
- 6.17 My Heart Will Go On
- 6.21 Let It Bleed
- 6.22 The Man Who Knew Too Much
- 7.01 Meet The New Boss
- 8.12 As Time Goes By
- 6.06 You Can't Handle the Truth
- 6.07 Family Matters
- 6.10 Caged Heat
- 6.08 All Dogs Go to Heaven
- 6.12 Like a Virgin
- 5.20 The Devil You Know
- 7.10 Death's Door
- 7.18 Party On, Garth
- 8.19 Taxi Driver