The existence after death, and with it the otherworldly body with which people thought to live on, was of essential importance from time immemorial and in various cultures. Thus, there are many names for the vernacular term "soul". Some terms are: soul body, spiritual body, astral body, subtle body, mental body, astral vehicle and many other denominations. The notions behind these terms are quite different, but it is the term "astral body" which has become established in afterlife researches.
The ideas about the otherworld are as different as those about the soul. Some terms are: otherworld, afterlife, afterworld, the beyond, heaven, hell and differentiated terms like astral plane, mental plane, buddhic plane etc. On this website, we will prefer the word "otherworld" as a general term for non-physical realms.
In the paintings in tombs of the ancient Egypt, often two different bodies are represented: the ‘breath soul’ Ka, which was closely connected to the material body and was thought to be preserved through mummification. Then there was a second body, Ba. This body was ‘airy’ and far subtler than the ‘breath soul’ Ka. Ba was depicted as a bird (soul bird).
Ba bird – the astral body in the ancient Egypt
Depictions of the soul bird can be found as early as in the Palaeolithic Age in rock engravings.
From a book about astronomy, 1898. The first astral document worldwide in the Lascaux Caves: a 17.000 years old hunting scene with bison. Shaman, supposedly lying in trance, and a bird on a perch, which reminds of the horse’s head on the staff of Siberian shamans (wind horse or soul horse, Hiimori in Mongolian language). This may be found in later times in the mythical creature pegasus (winged horse), and may indicate the history of this Eurasian power animal that was responsible for carrying the shaman on his inner journey. (Source)
Characteristics and features of the astral body
There are a lots of traditional ideas and misunderstandings about the astral body which are unfortunately deeply engraved in the minds of many people. Thus, it will be necessary to give some explanation.
The astral body is an otherworldly appearance which has its origin in an unconscious or conscious process of imagination. It is not a functional body as our material body, but an object of self-representation (similar to the avatar in the internet). In the same way, the astral planes and other subtle realms aren’t life-sustaining environments in the senses of nutrition and other resources, but they are in fact an element for communication. You will find further information in this section as well as in the section world beyond.
For specific information about the broad topic of astral planes, astral travelling and methods, see section world beyond.
© Alfred Ballabene (Vienna) translated by Corra