Want somebody tell me, what is the soul of a man...
— Blind Willie Johnson
However does the mind work? Is it contained entirely in the brain, or is there something more there? Whichever it is, the "something more" is generally referred to as a soul. However, as something that is by definition intangible, there hasn't been much agreement on what it is that a soul actually does. Is it essential for life, or can a person live on without it? What exactly does it give you, life, or wisdom, or will, or morality? Does it have weight? What happens if it's stolen or sold? Is it an Energy Being? Does it taste like strawberries or chocolate?
Note that despite popular culture associating it with the "soul", the above definition actually describes "spirit" better, which refers to in this case Life Energy (it can also refer to an invisible force such as an angel). The correct definition of a "soul" is the person itself, including the physical body and mind rather than separate from it. Many often confuse them as being the same thing.
Authors of fiction explore some possibilities on how the nature of a soul, and its absence, affects a person.
Here are some common side effects of losing your soul:
Any of the above, with the additional addendum: your consciousness goes wherever your soul is. (and whether that's a ghost or glowing ball of light is a whole different story.) Meanwhile your body/shell may show the previous symptoms.
Nothing happens immediately, but you go to Hell when you die.
Whether a soul can eat another one (common with various soul eating demons and villains). Usually this is done to gain more Life Energy or to gain a (very evil) powerup.
Whether a soul can be "sold" for power, and who would benefit from this.
What happens to the soul of characters who are resurrected? Frequently, it Came Back Wrong.
Other times, the possibility of resurrection is dependent on the ability and willingness of the soul to come back at all. If it's unable or unwilling, you can just forget about revival.
See also Heart Trauma, where one's literal heart is synonymous with one's soul. If there's more than a one-piece soul inside of a person, it is likely that a whole Soul Anatomy is in there. Sometimes, a soul is a Piece Of God. See also Brain in a Jar, which presents a more scientific variation in which the brain either is the self (with no spiritual aspect) or somehow contains the soul.
Compare Our Spirits Are Different.
The central premise of Ghost in the Shell, and its sequels, is the exploration of the true nature of souls and minds. People believe that even when almost the entire body and brain is replaced by implants, cybernetics do ''not'' eat your soul and that some unique part of a person always remains. It's even hinted that highly advanced machines could possibly create rudimentary ghosts.
Bleach has a lot of this; die in the real world, your spirit goes to Soul Society, or you become a Hollow. Get killed after you go to Soul Society or the Hollow world, you're reincarnated back in the real world. Screw up way too badly in life, and you leave the loop - you go to Hell. Acorrding to one of The Movies, if you die in Hell, you regenerate in Hell; no escape.
Conversely, it is possible to transplant a human soul into another biological body - even into an Evangelion which results in the soul's co-existence with the Evangelion's Ax-Crazy inner consciousness for eternity.
Forcibly removing a human soul from its body causes the body to instantly liquefy, collapsing into a puddle of primordial ooze; this is apparently a reversible process as a disembodied soul can reconstruct its physical form if sufficient raw materials (read: primordial ooze) are available and the soul's desire to be isolated from others is strong enough to manifest an AT-field.
Disembodied souls clumped together form a Hive Mind where everyone has full access to everyone else's memories, personality and just about everything imaginable. Like a large, metaphysical group hug.
It is unclear just what exactly the dummy plugs are: artificial souls, soul-copies or just an AI emulating one? Who knows?
Shaman King: Souls, at first sight, appear to be destroyable, but then it's discovered that every soul is able to be recovered from the Elemental Spirits, since they are fragments of the Greater One, so, the Spirit of Fire doesn't technically burn souls to oblivion, or even eat them, only absorbs these to become stronger.
In one arc of YuYu Hakusho the protagonists encountered a character who had the power to capture a person's soul if the person spoke a certain taboo word. Characters whose souls were taken were frozen in place and glowed with something resembling electricity until the only character who didn't break the taboo won their souls back.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is terrible with this. Souls can jump/be sucked in and out bodies, millennium items, the Shadow Realm, Virtual Reality games, cards and other lifeless objects; they can float in mid-air, possess other bodies (both with and without the original owner still present, and with or without his permission/knowledge), or even split up into different parts, which can be diametral opposites or identical copies, depending on the situation. The only rule that stands is " 'you' go where your soul is", but (because of the split-ups) some can be in several places at the same time. Bodies without a soul usually go into a coma, unless some other soul comes along for a ride.
Soul Eater, obviously enough. Weapons are designed to eat souls, but there's a moral code that only the souls of those about to become kishin are allowed. Eating human souls is a very bad thing. Also, if weapons and meisters have their souls in sync—Soul Resonance—massive fighting power can be unlocked. The size of one's soul wavelength reflects their potential strength (physical and otherwise), and the leader of the good guys has a soul large enough to contain an entire city. Potentially, the souls of gods can cover the entire planet (which, if one in-universe god is Death, is actually quite appropriate).
In Fullmetal Alchemist, Philosopher's Stones are made of condensed masses of human souls, and the homunculi are created with special Philosopher's Stones extracted from the body of their Father, who's basically a living Philosopher's Stone.
It is also established that the act of removing one's soul and attaching it to another person corrodes the soul and renders it incapable of sustaining a body. BarrytheChopper's original body is revealed to actually still be around. However, an animal's soul is inside it, causing it to decay, though 'his' current body is okay. Alphonse realizes the same is happening to his own suit of armor, different in that it causes him to black out occasionally and will lead to a violent explosion at an unpredictable point in time. Seems that souls are indeed paired up with one body and one mind in this series.
In the 2003 anime version, souls are what power alchemy. In turn, people actually have a smaller version of the Gate of Alchemy within their own souls, which pulls souls of the dead from a parallel world (read: our real world, circa WWI) to power alchemy. The Philosopher's Stone is in turn made from condensing a metric ton of souls into one object. This is also why attempts at human transmutation fail and produce homunculi: equivalent exchange can account for the physical elements that make up a body, but not for the soul. Homunculi are thus soulless abominations, though it's shown that what truly makes them a homunculus in the end (and gives them their overall life and power) is eating red stones, which are lower-power versions of Philosopher's Stones.
The element of a soul and body requiring one another is also touched upon in this version, as Hohenheim reveals to Dante towards the end of the series.
A story in Mushishi features a Mushishi who had his soul replaced with a Mushi (essentially making him "the can") because he couldn't see mushi, which would have made him useless in protecting another "can". Most of the time he's merely The Stoic, but occasionally the Mushi-soul leaves and he becomes The Spock.
The rule in Mahou Sensei Negima! is apparently that if you think you have a soul, you do. Details on this are fuzzy, but it appears to only be necessary for certain aspects of magic such as forming pactios and dark magic. Plus the whole 'Am I a real person and not just a robot?' thing. Chachamaru's sisters presumably do not have one while she herself does.
This is likely because Chachamaru is part robot part magic puppet. Note that Chachazero also has her own distinct personality.
In One Piece, Brook's devil fruit power is that after he died, his soul returned to his body (though not until after it had rotted to a skeleton). Later on, during the Time Skip, he figures out how to force his soul out of his body have it fly around.
In Sailor Moon, souls are represented by starseeds, which can be readily stolen by Sailor Galaxia and her minions. When a normal human loses their starseed, they become a phage, when a Sailor Soldier loses hers, she dies.
In Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Soul Gem is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The souls get transformed into one as a part of a contract with Kyubey. The girls' emotions seem to appear as magic energy, so while a girl's wish gives her positive magic, the despair equal to the wishes the girl creates darkens the Soul Gem and turns it into a Grief Seed, turning the girl into a witch. In addition, being too far away from your gem causes you to enter an Empty Shell state until it's returned, and if it's ever destroyed, you die.
"When humans die, approximately 21 grams of data detaches and migrates to a separate dimension. Is this data what you refer to?"
Apparently this data keeps on migrating from individual to individual after their deaths. Also, the souls that have shared a "relation" in life keep close to each other even after they die and reincarnate into the living world.
Undertaker Riddle: People's souls take the form of butterflies and they're fuel to evil spirits.
Hector Hall in Infinity, Inc., later used in The Sandman, is a weird case. He was born without a soul. The major effect of this was that it let him be taken over by Hath-Set later, and was eventually reincarnated as a version of Doctor Fate. The idea of someone without a soul being reincarnated, when reincarnation by definition involves a soul, was never explained.
Spawn had soul-negating demons, who could cause angels and demons to become Deader than Dead. It was later revealed that the title character had several thousand souls in his body.
In Lucifer, demons don't have souls. Lucifer demonstrates his power by creating a soul for one just so he can sentence it to eternal suffering.
That may refer only to some demons, since many are angels who originally fell with him, and presumably retain the souls that they had. The demons that came from elsewhere may be soulless.
It's also explained that souls are absolutely indestructible, but can be "unravelled" into a broken state that takes millennia to come back together into a conscious entity.
Sebastian Faust, the son of Evil Sorcerer Felix Faust from The DCU, doesn't have a soul. He doesn't have one because his father sold his infant son's soul to a demonin exchange for power (as his Meaningful Name would suggest, Faust has a penchant for making Faustian bargains). The silver lining in this whole mess was that the demon screwed over Faust for the hell of it and gave Sebastian the power instead. Unusually, lacking a soul hasn't had any obvious negative effect on Sebastian; he more or less makes do without one.
The idea of body and souls was tackled in the resurrection of Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. When he returns from the dead, it's discovered that he only remembers about as far as the Bronze Age (thus having no knowledge of Parallax, Arsenal, etc.), and has none of the character development he experienced since. After some digging around, Ollie finds out that when he was resurrected his soul didn't come back, so he's really just an empty shell (his "quiver"). It appears the soulless body still possesses free will but can't grow or change emotionally and is stuck in whatever period he remembers, like a projection, and it's alluded that when it dies, the consciousness inside will just cease existing. As for Ollie's soul, it decided to stay in heaven even when being offered outright a chance to come back to life by reuniting with his body, deciding it preferred heavenly bliss and using it as an excuse to duck his lingering problems back on Earth. Turns out that not having a soul made Ollie's body an easy target for possession by any demon who stumbled on him or even an Earthly sorcerer, and he winds up almost being taken over by a Satanist warlock who wanted immortality. At the end of the story, Ollie reunites with his soul, bringing with him all the memories of what's happened since his death and foiling the warlock's plans.
Sometime later, she does the same thing to Guido Carosella. While Guido apparently doesn't feel anything wrong about himself, he's shown acting more erratically and less restrained than usual, with Layla utterly distraught at his condition.
The Mad Scientist Wars explores this a bit. Souls are basically a imprint or image of a person that is tied to the body, and constantly updates. Upon death, they go to either heaven or hell depending on their deeds. The mind of a person is something else entirely, and can be copied, moved or altered, but the soul will still be the same. Intelligent creations that were not physically born need to pass a test to see if they should exist and have had existence (i.e. If they fail it, they will have never existed at all).
The Heart Containers in The Blue Blur of Termina are the metaphysical manifestation of a person's soul. The more powerful a person is, the larger (and more crystallized) their Heart Container will appear. Heart Containers of particularly powerful entities can even take on their own separate forms, should they be separated from their "bodies". Beings of godlike caliber harbor Heart Containers of truly limitless power.
In The Jewellery Box, the main characters have been in a form of spiritual stasis and are awakened when their dragon friend "invokes" their element. They also forgot everything about their past lives while in stasis.
In the Pony POV Series, a being's soul is composed of two parts — a Light of Existence (the heart) and a Shadow of Existence (the appearance), both containing parts of the being's personality. If erased from existence, the Shadow ends up in Entropy's Realm (the Light, according to Word of God, returns to Fauna Luster from whom all souls spring, or in the case of some of the G3 ponies, entered the afterlife, or was reborn as a new individual). What's more, it's stated that there's not a "Law of Conservation of Mass" when it comes to souls, meaning the same person can have multiplereincarnations (Dark World!Twilight being the reincarnation of G3 Minty's Light and Minty Pie being the reincarnation of her shadow, for example), but the soul will still exist independently of the reincarnation.
In Black Queen, Red King, Rex gains the ability to see souls. He describes them as brilliant, flaming figures that glow an impossible color. His own soul is described as a horrifying monstrosity that damages the eyes of those who look at it and that it "glowed with a blindingly bright darkness." This world is of the "Loose your soul, you die" variety, and soul eaters do exist.
Short Circuit. Number Five gets struck by lightning, there is a glitch in the programming and he gains a soul. In the sequel, he foils the bad guys, is legally recognized as a person and swears the oath of citizenship.
In the world of Cold Souls, extracting your soul is as common as, say, wiping away bad memories. Creative Sterility happens to Paul Giamatti (as himself) when his "chickpea-sized" soul is removed to prevent anxiety, and he later gets involved in Russian soul-smuggling.
In 9, souls essentially act as a life source, and their forcible removal can be...nasty. It would also appear that they can be split into parts, each functioning as a separate entity, with their own personality (which is speculated to be) based on a particular part/trait of the original soul-owner's personality.
In the 2000 remake, a person the protagonist meets in a jail cell most likely God Himself tells him that while humans do have souls, they are not able to sell them as the owner is God, a universal spirit that animates and binds all things in existence.
In the Nasuverse, the soul is an indestructible "concept" that is tied down to the material world via the body. Souls of the dead are returned to "The Root" (that is, the origin of everything - past, present, and future) and recycled to create new souls.
Other concepts in The Verse, such as Magic Circuits and Origins, are also attached to the soul. It is also quite touchy, and easily damaged if messed with.
Harry Potter: Losing your soul robs you of all willpower and memory; you simply "exist" as an empty shell, conscious but unable to make choices or act, while breaking it apart makes you less human (and immortal). It appears that the mind is a semi-separate entity that remains with the largest piece of a split soul.
In addition, ripping it apart and dying with your soul not in one piece will condemn you to eternity in agony, as the act is a "horribly crime against nature". Hermione implies that repentance can potentially put a torn soul back together, but it hurts a lot.
Peter F. Hamilton loves the subject so much that he wrote a whole SF trilogy about possession in the 2600s. The soul is basically sentience (that is, YOU), but in a form that retains cohesion after death, without physical support (like the brain). This is linked to a theory of strata-less computing, which says (correct me if I'm wrong) that computation (read 'thought') can be accomplished without energy consumption and support if there is no input or output. A dead guy loses his 'input' (senses), and, so Hamilton says, the Universe is wired so that sentience survives and is either transported to the 'beyond' (an input-less hell where souls pass the time by raping each other for memories), or is transported to the end of time, to contribute with its memories to the creation of a new universe. Also, for some reason, if a soul is given the chance to take over a living human body (after suppressing the occupant), its remaining part which is still in the beyond dimension can serve as a massive source of energy for all sorts of evil powers.
In The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump children with apsychia are born without a soul and apparently simply stop existing after death—no afterlife, no nothing. It is seen as horrendously tragic. (An experimental medical treatment is being investigated, in which tiny pieces of many souls are fused into, essentially, a synthetic soul which can then be implanted in the apsychic child. Whether this will actually work is still unclear.)
The Bear at the Gate: Short story about a teddy bear who earns a soul through a good deed and gaining emotions, which results in it getting into heaven.
Piers Anthony's Xanth: Characters without souls are less introspective and less capable of empathy than those with souls, but can earn souls through self-exploration and consciously trying to think of others more. Souls can be taken apart, and regenerate; babies' souls are grown from bits of the soul of their mother and father.
In Incarnations of Immortality, souls are described as essentially being two-dimensional; and they only gain substance in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Souls in these frameworks are virtually indistinguishable from when the individual was alive and become the defacto body. In special cases, the incarnation Death may be needed to physically pull the soul from the body so that they may die.
In Steven Brust's Dragaera novels, a person's soul can only be destroyed by a Morganti weapon. If they're killed any other way, they can reincarnate. It's implied that wizards keep their souls separate from their bodies, but otherwise they're treated inextricably linked.
In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Bob describes "the soul" as equivalent to "life force" or "chi": "the part of you that is more than merely physical." He also notes (to Harry's dismay) that you can lose a significant chunk of it and still remain "you," since it grows back in about a week. In Small Favor, Harry uses "soulfire": magic strengthened with soul energy in much the same way that concrete is strengthened with rebar. Archangels use soulfire, but they have one hell...uh...heck of a lot more soul to work with.
Using it does, however, damage the soul (Bob complains that humans get too upset over phrases like that, though too much damage could be fatal). The damaged soul will regenerate naturally over a week or so — faster if the person in question spends time doing something uplifting.
And in Ghost Story, the concept of a soul is finally settled by one line from Archangel Uriel.
Uriel's smile blossomed again. "You've got it backward, Harry," he said. "You are a soul. You have a body.
In Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series, the soul is an artificial construct implanted by Applied Phlebotinum, recording one's life, memories, and existence to allow people to reincarnate on the eponymous Riverworld, eons later, and work their way to some kind of Redemption/Ascension/Crystal Dragon Nirvana. One striking scene shows a holding vat holding thousands of souls: this is metaphysics meeting brutally mass manufacture. Imagine: machinery handling souls like a billion ghostly coke bottles on a production line. In a supreme irony there is no proof for the final afterlife: the spirit engineers are profoundly religious.
This is backwards. The devices were not souls, they were the detailed recordings of physical humans, including all memories recorded by the brain. To rejoin the soul to a body, they needed the exact physical body it started with, because the soul had a blueprint of that body when it left the body once and for all. So they created the person's exact original body from the blueprint in the soul, which summoned the soul back into the unconscious body. They healed the body from all human ills, including whatever killed it and old age, so the soul would have a healthy young body to return to. Then they destroyed the bodies. However, when they were ready, they could recreate them at will, thus summoning the soul to a young healthy body and returning the person to life. The problem wasn't that they needed to create souls, but that the souls floated around unconscious after death, and they needed to create an afterlife.
In C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, it is implied that the souls of those in Hell are devoured by demons, and this is in fact the fate of all the damned, including the demons themselves minus whoever's last. (Theologically, this can be seen as a parody/inversion of the Christian belief in Heaven as eternal communion with God, where the Devil's version of that communion is an eternal domination and violation of all lesser souls.)
In Lewis'The Great Divorce, on the other hand, souls in Hell (which looks like an English industrial town on a perpetually cold and rainy evening), isolate themselves there out of refusal to give up some single vital facet of their self, becoming a twisted, damaged version of their former personality. Divorce plays with the idea that souls can leave Hell of their own will (in which case it will merely have been Purgatory), if they have not placed themselves beyond redemption — it can be difficult to tell if a person has crossed the line. (A "Solid Person" who has made it to heaven questions whether a woman whose fate is up for grabs is still a grumbler, or merely a grumble going on and on mechanically.)
The whole trilogy has quite a lot to say about the nature of the soul, and may be considered a long meditation on the subject. In a child, losing the soul causes schizophrenia-like symptoms: catatonia, delusions that your soul is still there, etc. — presuming, of course, that the subject survived the process in the first place. One character who goes through this dies of apathy. Another gradually wastes away. Some characters, especially adults, who manage to survive that part are Stepford Smilers, the "nothing underneath" variation. On top of this, much of the series takes place in a world where the soul resides outside the body as a sentient, autonomous entity with its own (highly symbolic) physical form.
Of course, those are only the effects if your soul is cut away. If your soul is eaten away by a Specter, it leaves you a completely hollow body that does not react to any stimulus whatsoever, which is why there are apparently no adults in Cittàgazze.
The first book also has soldiers dying outright when their daemons are killed, which might explain the taboo against touching another's daemon.
His Dark Materials also holds that the mind and the soul are separate, though intrinsically connected, and that a person's mind (ghost) retains its composition upon death, while a soul (Dæmon) dissolves upon death. The mind feels incomplete however. On the bright side, a dead-but-still-intact ghost is the perfect fighter against the aforementioned soul-eating Specters.
Iorek Byrnison mentions that his armor is his soul-bears make their own soul.
Furthermore, if your Dæmon is injured or separated from you by a certain distance, it causes the both of you intense physical pain. Physical contact with another person's Dæmon is all but forbidden (except for certain circumstances, If You Know What I Mean). And the final chapters of the third novel explain some of the ways around all of these handicaps.
Dæmons are also described as being made from Dust, as are angels, and in fact the product of the interference of the fallen angels (the result of the fruit of knowledge, or the wheel oil). While the panserbjørne's existence seems to prove this is not necessary for intelligent life, their attachment to armor and a stricter culture could be seen as a suggestion that it helps, and lacking it a surrogate needs to be found. Then again, we only have the one example to go on.
Dante played with the idea of separating the soul from the body before death in the Inferno, where in Hell, he ran into one of the more notorious historical figures of his time who was in fact still alive while he was writing, the idea being his sin had been so bad he had fallen to Hell immediately, while a demon had come up to Earth to mind his body until it died.
In Nerh�n, as stated in the preface, 'Soul' is treated like a form of energy like heat or light, that can be transferred and controlled, and that is the basis for the series' magic system.
Handled interestingly in Oscar Wilde's The Fisherman And His Soul, where the titular Fisherman gives up his soul in order to be with the mermaid he loves. His soul is shown as being intellectually completely different from himself. In fact, his life only changes for the worse once his soul returns.
Note that the spell the Fisherman performs to separate himself from his soul involves cutting his shadow free from his body, and that the soul, left on its own, is apparently Heartless.
Oscar Wilde's other work, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a lot darker. The protagonist makes a Deal with the Devil in order to have his portrait age instead of him. He then proceeds to live a life of debauchery and decadence which can be seen on his portrait, but he himself remains unharmed for the most part.
Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel Trilogy: when you die, your soul ascends to the sky ("deep heaven"). Once there, it is possible for it to return to earth temporarily to speak to living people, though this happens rarely. However, the soul can be removed from the body and stored in a vial. When this happens, the soul's owner become a wraith which retains the power of speech but very little memory. Souls can also be consumed by demons like darkangels and lorelei, in which case the owner's consciousness is completely obliterated. Soulless beings are always hideous to look at.
In "The Boy Who Couldn't Die", removing the soul from a living thing's body makes them immortal. The soul can only be retrieved from the recently deceased or dying; it requires some voodoo crap to pull out, and the proper container to keep it in. Damaging the soul is instant death.
In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath series, a person's soul is what casts a shadow (in many respects it IS the shadow) and thus someone whose soul is missing doesn't cast one. Members of the Kencyr races can give their soul to another who has the ability to accept it; this makes the giver very hard to kill, and makes it so that dishonorable acts that must be done do not stain the soul, since it isn't there. Souls may also be stolen or consumed, and heroine Jame and her mother are able to reap souls, drawing them from the body and taking them.
H. Beam Piper flip-flopped about souls. While one of his Paratime novels featured reincarnation as a scientific fact, which makes no sense without some kind of soul...there was also a story in Federation which revolved around the attempt to settle down a planet's main religion, who were convinced The Last Hot Time was coming and were going a bit psychotic with fire-frenzies. To pacify them, a Terran who was very friendly with their culture explained not only that Armageddon wasn't coming, but also that humans needed the main local product (biocrystals) to build themselves souls, following a curse (It Makes Sense in Context). When another member of the cast objects to this, a military man comes up with this gem:
-Foxx Travis: Can you prove that was a lie? Let's see yours. Draw-SOUL! Inspection-SOUL!
Considering Piper killed himself apparently as a result of a bad time and a belief in reincarnation...
Souls in The Hollows novels are a nebulous thing that is referenced often but ill-defined. The souls of living vampires are destroyed maybe when the die and reanimate and they seem to lose their conscience and the ability to feel emotion. Souls of living beings can be temporarily removed by demon magic without appreciable harm to the person though what change this makes in the person is never explored. Black Magic creates 'smut' on the soul that is visible to magical creatures. This is considered a bad thing though the negative consequences of having this smut is never explained. This smut can be transferred to another person's soul. Finally the existence of souls is an established fact and its loss and destruction can be detected by an unexplained process.
To add more confusion a person's aura is linked yet separate from their soul in an unexplained manner.
In The Salvation War, people's souls become tangible (with all attendant sensation) as corporeal bodies in another dimension, immortal, and gain a Healing Factor upon the person's death. Unfortunately, that's the better to let demons abuse you forever, since everyone goes to Fire and Brimstone Hell when they die. Despite the fact that in this series, human race invades and occupies Hell and eventually even Heaven and kills God, where souls come from is still a Riddle for the Ages by the end.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth mythos, the precise nature of the soul (fëa, in Quenya), and its fate after death varies depending on race: the souls of Elves are bound to this universe, and when they die they go to hang out in the Halls of Mandos, eventually to be reincarnated (unless they've committed acts of irredeemable evil in life) in a body identical to the old one. The souls of Men, on the other hand, are only meant to stay in this world for a limited time; after death they make a brief stop in the Halls of Mandos and then depart from the universe for an unknown destination. Disembodied Elvish souls are capable of refusing the summons to the Halls of Mandos, in which case they will drift around wherever they like-but such souls are then susceptible to being captured and controlled by black magic (remember how Sauron was sometimes called the "Necromancer"? Yeah...).
It's uncertain what happens to dwarves, not being part of the original divine plan for the world, but they believe that Aulë their maker (who they call Mahal) has prepared some sort of afterlife for them. Tolkien speculates in The Silmarillion that Aulë made some sort of arrangement with Mandos to get his creatures a space in his Halls. Hobbits, as a kind of sub-species of Men, are probably subject to the same fate as them.
Wayne Barlowe book series that takes place in Hell has a rather terrifying prospect for all human souls who go there. Apparently, the underworld does have a food chain, but humans are at the bottom of it. And that's not counting the fact that humans are the main building materials for demons, their livestock, vehicles, and war machines all made out of souls.
In Warbreaker, everyone has a single Breath, which is the equivalent of the soul, but can be transferred willingly to others and used to animate objects. Those who lose their Breath can function normally, but they and their clothes appear drained of color, and they are more irritable and angry.
In a young adult novel, an adopted girl was contacted by the astral projection of her long lost twin sister who encouraged her to also astrally project. This evidently meant vacating your soul from your body as when she was back from flying among the stars her twin sister had snaffled her body. When her siblings threw an 'anti-bad-spirit' charm that touched the body, the twin sister was momentarily displaced and the original sister got snapped back into her body. Because the original sister did not seek out her twins' now-spare body but stayed with her family her sister was assumed to be dead and cremated. Her soul would continue to exist, gradually getting fainter and fainter. As long as she didn't astrally project again she was fine.
Michael Swanick wrote a short story in which dead souls fall up to the heavens to be absorbed into creation. However, power lines and cold iron would stop this (if for example you died in a building with reinforced concrete ceilings) so ghosts could avoid that undiscovered country and stay themselves while they navigated an upside down otherwise intangible world constantly holding on to iron or powerlines. There was also a soul eating monster.
In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, Luke loses his soul. He's comatose, but he can now possess his nephew Jacen.
In The Wheel of Time souls are reincarnated countless times throughout history. What happens between incarnations isn't discussed. The souls of Heroes get a slightly different treatment-they spend their time between lives in Tel'aranh'rhiod, but lose their memories between the time they are reborn and their next death. Birgitte proves a soul can be forced into the real world before its time, but the full effects are far from certain.
The Dark One can also reincarnate his followers at the instant of their death. Balefire can be used to retroactively kill someone before the Dark One knows what's happening, denying it the ability to reincarnate its servant into a new body, instead forcing the soul back into the normal cycle of reincarnation.
Machin'Shin (The Black Wind) is an entity of the Ways. An encounter with it may be fatal, or it could destroy the soul, leaving the victim alive but an Empty Shell.
Interestingly, ghosts aren't generally a thing that happens in this 'verse, and are only seen during "bubbles of evil" from the Dark One.
In Lord Dunsany's short story "The Kith of the Elf-Folk", a little Wild Thing from the marshes longs to have a soul so it can worship God and know the meaning of music. It has none, but the other Wild Things make a soul for it out of what is around them, although the Oldest of the Wild Things warns that "if you got a soul, one day you would have to die, and if you knew the meaning of music you would learn the meaning of sorrow, and it is better to be a Wild Thing and not to die".
In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, it is taken for granted that the humans that Professor Maxon creates have no souls. At one point, Number 13 goes to murder him, and stops because it would be the act of a soulless creature. von Horn becomes quite envious of him because a soulless creature acts better than he does.
Charles Stross's The Laundry Series is couched in mathematical and scientific language, based as it is off the Cthulhu Mythos. The word "soul" refers to the electrical impulses that make up a human being's brain: thinking, feeling, calculating; some of that information remains as "echoes" when a person dies, but there are ways—and creatures—capable of erasing those echoes entirely. Certain beings feed by increasing entropy, and erasing information generates a lot of it.
The World Gates Trilogy by Holly Lisle involves several artifacts (necklaces and such, usually) that bring someone back if they die while they're wearing them. At one point a character who was so revived is told that she has no soul. Her sister ends up going to the afterlife, where it is revealed that losing a soul is not all that uncommon, and that someone who has no soul can essentially grow a new one by good deeds and so on. There's no indication that soullessness has any particular effect on a person's life, although those who get revived by these artifacts more than a few times tend to become cruel.
Souls in The Parasol Protectorate are discussed as a quantifiable substance. Those with excess soul can be turned into a vampire or werewolf, or become a ghost upon death. Others, such as the protagonist, have no soul at all, and are capable of turning such beings mortal (or dead, in a ghost's case) through physical contact. However, it's hinted that these phenomena have much more to do with how an individual interacts with the aether. Whether actual 'souls' are involved is left ambiguous.
In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Fey, the fey have no souls. This means they do not survive their bodily deaths but melt back into the Nevernever. One also says they are conscienceless because of it.
In The Tygrine Cat, a cat's spirit/consciousness is called the second self and can exit the body to traverse Fiåney. It is possible for the second self to get lost and for the body to eventually die, trapping the second self in Fiåney permanently.
Live Action TV
Vampires in the Buffyverse are typically soulless and Always Chaotic Evil, since the essence of one of the first demons comes in and parks in the vacated spot. Their vampiric personalities are generally twisted parodies of the original person, and never get any closer to goodness than a Noble Demon (and even Noble Demon vampires are very rare). A vampire can, through magic, actually regain a soul, and with it a completely human identity, morality, and guilt over their former crimes. Non-human demons may or may not have their own versions of souls, and they can range all the way from Omnicidal Maniacs to Knight in Sour Armor heroes. There are also Half Human Hybrids, and the dialogue suggests that, whatever other metaphysics apply, they do have human souls. Having a soul, however, is no guarantee of morality: as a demon points out, the worst serial killers and tyrants in human history also had souls. It could be considered that having a soul gives you a conscience so that you'll feel guilty about doing bad things, but that conscience can be misguided or suppressed. Lack of soul removes the guilt, and the demon essence gives you the evil.
There are also ghosts in the Buffyverse, and they seem to be disembodied human souls that haven't moved on to the afterlife (more than one episode dealt with either helping a ghost pass on, or at least come to terms with their current status as a ghost). The recently ensouled vampire Spike also became something like a ghost for a while, but the story made it clear that, despite his intangibility, he wasn't really a ghost, and his condition was the result of magic designed to mimic the effect. Another vampire who indirectly gained a soul before she died, Darla, later appeared as a ghost although, since she was sent as a messenger for the Powers That Be, this was likely the human Darla's soul (or the First Evil, your guess is as good as ours). For more speculation on the metaphysics of the Buffyverse, see here.
One of the creepier episodes of Angel involves Ryan Anderson, an otherwise-normal human child who is explicitly stated to be soulless. He is so monstrous that a age-old demon was Driven to Suicide by accidentally possessing him.
In Dead Like Me, a soul is attached to a body, even after death, and can only be removed by a reaper who usually does so right before their death to spare them the pain. A person without a soul will continue to act as they are programmed to, typically walking right in to whatever death fate had in store for them.
This show also includes an unusual case, where if a person's fated death is avoided, their soul is imprisoned in their body and unable to affect anything. According to Rube, this causes the soul to "rot."
Souls, as far as Engine Sentai Go-onger is concerned, are highly marketable. The team's mecha sidekicks need to have them placed into their bodies to return to their normal size, but only for ten minutes, as a side effect of being in the Human World. Even the human souls in the series work like this, as proven when Sousuke shoots his soul at his own body to reverse a Freaky Friday situation.
Star Trek: The Next Generation. When the android Data has to stand in court to prove himself a sentient being (with the right to refuse to be dismantled by a less then entirely competent scientist) the judge's final verdict deals with something to this effect.
Phillipa: We've all been dancing around the basic issue... Does Data have a soul?
The TNG novel Ghostship also deals with the idea of whether Data has a soul.
In Deep Space 9: Once more unto the breech Kor is sent on a suicide mission and promises to convey Worf's greetings to Jadzia in Sto'Vo'Kor. While Ezri is back at Deep Space 9 chatting in Quark's Bar. Which makes one wonder. What does happen to the souls of a Trill's previous hosts?
Jadzia even (re)introduced herself to some old friends of a previous host with the phrase "Don't mistake a new face with a new soul…" clouding the issue a bit. The symbiont which carries the memories to new hosts might be counted as having it's own soul, mingled with but distinct from the soul of the individual host.
The Tales from the Crypt episode "Doctor of Horror" featured a scientist who theorized that the human soul could be physically found, in the form of a pinprick of light, at the base of one's spine.
In Supernatural, it is possible to sell your soul, typically via the traditional Faustian Deal with the Devil. In later seasons, it was revealed that when Sam was pulled out of Lucifer's prison, his body was freed from the Pit, but not his soul. Without it, he lacked empathy and a conscience, and didn't need to sleep.
Supernatural souls can also be eaten (by Famine,) turned into demons via torture in Hell and used as an incredibly potent power source by various beings. Interestingly, while humans, monsters and demons all have souls or are souls, angels apparently don't have them-although apparently, they're like batteries, and touching one can recharge a wounded or winded angel back to full strength.
According to Death, souls can be twisted, corrupted, and outright destroyed but never broken. It is impossible, even for a cosmic entity such as Death, to split apart a soul.
Dead Inside is based almost entirely around the loss, gain, and expenditure of souls and soul energies. In most games, new characters start off as someone who's had his/her innate spiritual "shell" cracked open, and their soul scooped out, leaving nothing but the last few dregs of soul power to them. The overarching objective for anyone in such a position is to either grow (through doing good deeds or engaging in character building) or steal a new soul. Soul energy powers magic, is the basis of trade, and is the basis of self-improvement: you perform rituals at various stages to "lock" your soul energy into a fully-developed soul. Once you have your soul back, you become known as a Sensitive, and if you cull another soul's worth of energy and perform the proper ritual, you become a Mage. The more developed your soul, the easier magic is to perform, and what happens to you when you die is different depending on whether you're Dead Inside, Sensitive, or Mage.
Dungeons & Dragons has a pretty simple notion of a soul that seems to represent one's mind and sentience but is also a metaphysical-magical entity that can leave the body. Soul-trapping spells leave the body comatose, and the soul is what departs to various afterlives after death.
Planescape elaborated on the afterlife and the fate of souls in 2nd Edition, some of which 3rd Edition retained. When a mortal dies their soul moves on to the Astral Plane where the mind is peeled off and left behind to form a "memory core" (which enterprising scavengers can then find and break into for knowledge), while the soul passes to an Outer Plane that matches their Character Alignment, or the home of their god(s). There they become petitioners, which are basically naked soul, and work to merge with their plane or god. Some petitioners are instead the least forms of demons, devils, angels, and other Outer Planar races and can ascend the ranks of these races instead of merging with the plane - or, more likely on the evil planes, become currency in the hands of demons and devils and spent to fuel their endless wars.
Exalted has a complex but fairly well defined soul-ecology. Normal people have two souls, the lower and higher, whereas celestial Exalts have a third soul that grants them their powers. On death, each faces a separate fate. The lower ghost becomes a bestial grave guardian until the body rots away; it then is simply a mindless beast that hunts in the underworld. The higher usually has its memories destroyed and then goes on to be reincarnated, but "lucky" souls that cling to life can become ghosts, and very unlucky ones can be consumed by oblivion. Solar shards first go back to Lytek, the God of Exaltations, who prunes some of their memories, and then sends them to an almost always adult person who is somehow worthy in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun, thereby exalting them. Lunar shards face much the same process, although Luna's standards are different then the Unconquered Sun's. Abyssal shards have to slink back to the underworld and their deathlord, carefully, because sunlight hurts the shards. Infernal shards are pulled back inside a brutally tortured little girl until the Yozi feel like making another Infernal. Sidereal shards are fated to Exalt someone at a specific time, shortly after a specific Sidereal dies. Fate itself thus prepares them for their life as a Exalt as they grow up. The problem is that both Sidereals and Sidereals-to-be can be killed ahead of schedule by beings capable of defying fate, in which case the Sidereal shard Exalts someone completely unexpected and unprepared, which throws the whole system out of whack. Thing is, there are a lot of creatures that exist outside of fate running around Creation these days...
Also note that all the Shards have their memories pruned - except the Infernals. While the Ebon Dragon has the necessary tools, he sees no particular reason to use them.
Autochthon himself fell afoul of this soul ecology; since he left Creation before too much was known about the underworld, and he requires a supply of lower ghosts to nourish himself, he now has a massive pressurised vat of confused accumulated higher ghosts. Similarly, because Creation can produce new souls as necessary but Autochthon can't, there is now a massive soul shortage and an epidemic of stillbirths among the Autochthonians. And then we throw in the whole 'soulgem' thing and stuff gets complicated. Alchemicals have just their own souls, but those souls are soulgems that have gone back into the cycle multiple times and demonstrated unparalleled heroism in each life, around which the Alchemical is built.
The Primordials' own souls are pretty unusual, too - essentially, each Primordial has multiple soulsnote The usual minimum is around a dozen; Autochthon only has nine, but he's noted to be a sickly runt by Primordial standards., each of which is a separate, sapient being. These each have seven souls of their own, which are also separate, sapient beings. Most of these have humanoid forms, but some manifest as geographical features, or weather, or even odder thingsnote at least one, Lypothymie, is known to exist as a contagious emotion instead (or even use multiple forms simultaneously). The Yozis' souls also pull double duty as Our Demons Are Different.
It is possible to lose your soul in In Nomine by having all your Celestial Forces destroyed; on top of various mental disadvantages you cease to exist when you die. Undead in the same setting are not strictly soulless, but the trade off for physical immortality means that they too cease to exist when or if they die.
Sorcerer leaves it up to the individual gaming group to decide what a sorcerer's Humanity attribute (which can be damaged by too much consorting with demons) represents in concrete terms; one possible option is that Humanity measures how much of the sorcerer's soul still remains intact.
In the New World of Darkness, the soul is a concrete spiritual presence, capable of being affected by powerful magic. Should it be separated from the body, the person thus deprived slowly undergoes a horrific spiritual withering, eventually becoming a shriveled mockery of their original self that can be easily possessed by ghosts and spirits. The soul is completely separate from the mind, and apparently interchangeable with all others; attaching any soul to a victim of soul-theft will restore them to normal in due time. Each supplement deals with souls in various ways:
Mages must have their souls to work magic. Some Mages, more properly known as Tremere Liches, learn to prolong their existence by consuming the souls of others. These mages are sometimes known by an apt description: "sociopaths".
Werewolves are not entirely human, and their "souls" are likewise not entirely like human souls. It's implied they are half spirit, which is borne out since as they go down the Karma Meter they act more spirit like with strange behaviours, weaknesses, and bans.
It's believed that Changelings have their souls ripped to shreds on the Thorns when the True Fae first abduct them, and manage to gather and knit back (most) of the pieces unconsciously when they escape. However, this is only conjecture, and if it's true, whatever's left isn't affected by soul-targeting magic (and they worry a great deal about the connotations).
Vampires seem to keep their souls after being Embraced, but now the soul is trapped in an animated dead body with a hungry demon-thing (The "Beast") that occasionally takes control. As if that weren't bad enough, the soul can now be eaten by other vampires in an act called Diablerie; doing so risks damaging the eater's soul, addicting them to devouring souls, and stains their aura with black veins for decades, but in the process they absorb a measure of their victim's own power.
The process of becoming a Sin-Eater bonds a geist, an archetypal embodiment of death, to the prospective Sin-Eater's soul. To all intents and purposes, the geist becomes part of the Sin-Eater's soul, and removing it will have devastating consequences.
Whether or not there is an afterlife is unknown, so what happens to souls after death is an open question.
Ghosts don't seem to be a person's soul, but a few Mage and Thaumaturge powers can create ghosts by removing a person's soul and anchoring it to an object in a means similar to the above mentioned soul-theft which is similarly reversible.
In Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the soul is the core of sentience and emotions and also the foundation of magic and psychic ability; this also makes it the primary fare of the universe's Eldritch Abominations. Losing one's soul while still alive essentially renders one an inert lump of meat.
Pariahs are literally soulless, and have no existence in the spiritual reality called "the Warp". This is hugely disconcerting to all around them, although those so offended rarely know why. This is especially dangerous to those with powers drawn from that realm, but is no protection from their powers. Those ultra-rare individuals who passively block or diminish supernatural powers are referred to as 'blanks' or 'untouchables', and with the exception of Warp users reacting badly to them there is no indication that they are anything but fully souled. This confusion is not helped by Games Workshop being extremely vague on the manner, often using the terms interchangeably between different media. The current consensus on their differences and exact capabilities, and if they indeed are the same thing, appears highly diffuse.
The Liber Chaotica and Liber Necris sourcebooks go into deep detail on Warhammer souls, eventually concluding that they must comprise at least seven divisible parts.
Both Necrons and Tau also lack a Warp presence, meaning they probably lack souls. In the case of the Necrons this is because their Eldritch Abomination masters stole theirs and they are mostly mindless and entirely emotionless killing machines. The Tau never seem to have had any, which is odd, given that they are a vibrant, emotional and (given the state of the universe) relatively compassionate species.
The Tau DO have souls, they're just very small and weak compared to the souls of other races.
In Ars Magica the "Limit of the Soul" is one of the Limits of Magic and prevents wizards from affecting human souls with their magic. This means it is impossible for most magicians to perform resurrections, or create living people via their magics.
In The Elder Scrolls, a Daedric soul, or "Essence", is referred to as The Animus. Unlike a mortal soul, which can theoretically be permanently destroyed, a Daedric Animus is both everlasting and protean. As a result, "killing" a Daedra's mortal shell is possible, but it's soul will just take a metaphysical swim through the cosmic sewers and be spat back out again... Eventually.
Souls are also divided into Black, White and Dragon. A Black soul is a soul of an intelligent, sapient creature, except dragons. It can be a humanoid (human, elf, beastman) or a greater, social Daedric race such as Dremora or Golden Saint. It apparently consists of two parts: consciousness and spirit energy. When such a soul is trapped and used for enchantment, the energy part powers the item and the consciousness part goes to the Soul Cairn, the realm of the undead. Such a Fate Worse than Death this is, that black soul gems, used for trapping sapient souls, are banned by law and identify their owner as an user of The Dark Arts. A White soul, on the other hand, is a soul of an unintelligent creature (an animal, a lesser daedra, a non-sentient undead). It can be trapped in any old soul gem without qualms and repercussions. Dragon souls, the most powerful, cannot be manipulated by any soul gems and share the reincarnability property of the Daedric soul; but the Dovahkiin and other dragons can absorb dragon souls of their slain enemies, increasing their powers.
In Skyrim, the souls of the Falmer, unlike the other Mer races, are White and can be trapped in normal Soul Gems. This shows just how far the race has fallen. They are essentially neither sentient nor free-willed anymore.
Also worth nothing, in The Elder Scrolls Online it seems that even though your soul is in the hands of Molag Bal and your body separated from it, your body is still quite conscious, and suffers no ill effects. If anything it's beneficial, as you are apparently immortal. If your mortal shell is slain, you can reconstitute at the nearest wayshrine.
Demons Souls, souls just kind of plop onto the ground when their owners die, and are usually taken by whatever killed them. They can be absorbed to increase the power of the one who took it, which is how this game's leveling works, and particularly powerful souls can be used to make powerful weapons.
Kingdom Hearts: All beings have a separate heart and soul. If the heart separates from the body it becomes one of The Heartless, while the body and soul either die or become Nobodies. You read that right, "The Heartless" are in fact made from hearts (or at least the Emblem ones) and the Nobodies are actually "heartless". Here, the heart contains all your emotions and memories, while the soul is merely the spark that animates the body. Later games in the series elaborate on the nature of the heart. Anyone has the potential to have a heart, as long as they have friends. This includes Nobodies, the heart will naturally recover, given the chance.
And events in Birth By Sleep seem to indicate that their is a third element to the a person's soul when after Terra gets both his mind and heart taken over by Xehanort, his Heroic Spirit possesses his discarded armor to continue the fight. It should also be noted that despite Xehanort possessing both his heart and mind, Terra's Heroic Spirit imbued armor (which seems to lack even cognition) still beat him down. And ten years later, he/it is considered to be the That One Boss out of the entire series.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has Jovani, who lost his soul (and his mobility) to greed. To restore it, you must collect sixty Poe Souls. Sixty. Poe. Souls. The exchange rate is... interesting, to say the least. Also, Poe Souls are dark purple pseudo-spheres.
It wasn't the Poe's souls that were being collected, as the item name would have you believe; Jovani's soul was split into sixty pieces and each of the Poes carried one piece— the idea was that you were reclaiming Jovani's soul from the Poes to restore him.
Majora's Mask features the ability to extract the last regrets and thoughts of a dying soul into a mask... which you can promptly don and gain whatever wicked cool abilities the deceased may have possessed.
It is also implied that the masks allow the soul to possess the wearer - and according to certain Epileptic Trees, even preserve the soul for resurrection at the end of the game.
The Legacy of Kain series largely revolves around the various effects of souls and the corruption thereof. Losing your soul will kill you, while returning a soul into it's dead body will apparently create a vampire. A corruption of the soul leads to a creeping physical corruption - Kain's vampire lieutenants grew into increasingly inhuman monsters instead of just stronger. Also very importantly, souls are food for various beings, almost all them tied into the biggest soul-devourer of them all, the Elder God. A purified soul, on the other hand, will enable a being to see said god.. There's a lot more, but these are the most noteworthy points.
Souls are an important part of Mortal Kombat, as the battle for them throughout the tournaments makes up the premise of the series. Several characters (such as Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Shao Kahn) have the ability to take other people's souls as their own, and this primarily results in the demise of the victim and the granting of more strength to the victor. The only way to live without a soul in the Mortal Kombat universe, other than having it return to your body or being reanimated as a zombie by a sorcerer, is to get turned into a cyborg by the Lin Kuei.
In Final Fantasy X, when a person dies, their soul must be sent on to the Farplane by a summoner's Sending. If not one of two things will happen: Either the soul will form with other souls and become a Fiend, which is the major source of monsters all game, or a strong willed soul will give itself a physical form by pulling together supernatural creatures called pyreflies, becoming an Unsent. Several major characters are Unsent (including Auron). An Unsent can voluntarily leave for the Farplane (as happens to Belgemine in X and Maechen in X-2) or be Sent against their will.
Every episode of Sam and Max Season 2 involves souls in some way, and it appears that the "You are your soul" theory seems to be in use here. Your soul has two forms: a gloopy blob and a transparent version of your body. Zombies are created by Jurgen with his Soul Sucker, which separates the soul from the body and causes both soul and body to retain personality, effectively causing two copies of the same person, soul and zombie. Not the same personality though; Sam and Max's souls are fed up with Sam and Max's mindless violence and poor moral compass, and refuse to go back to their bodies. Jurgen then sends the souls off to T.H.E.M to be crushed by depressed Moai heads, and then finally the grim reaper takes them to the Soul Train on the River Styx which sends them to Hell.
It turns out that if you're the child of a god, you can keep going without your soul in Baldur's Gate 2. And it has some other interesting effects.
Darwinians in Darwinia have digital souls. When a Darwinian dies, its soul floats off to soul repository in the middle of Darwinia. Soon it'll float back and its intelligence is processed after being sent to spawning grounds to be reborn again. However, soul destroyers and in Multiwinia, dark forest can destroy their souls.
In Chzo Mythos the soul is one of a person's three aspects, the other two is the body and the mind. The soul is described as the entity that dreams and hopes, and is therefore regarded as a symbol of the future. A soul can feel pain if someone or something very dear to the person it belongs to is killed and/or destroyed, but since this permanently cripples the soul, it can only be done once. A soul can be completely destroyed if it is bound to an object and that object is destroyed. Furthermore: A mind separated from it's soul will go insane and lose it's perception of reality, an effect that increases the further away the soul is.
In Sa Ga Frontier 2, the ability to use magic, or 'Anima', is considered the physical manifestation of one's soul. The stronger your Anima, the stronger your soul. Occasionally, someone is born without the ability to use Anima; these few are scorned and looked down upon, and even rumored to be 'soulless'. Naturally, one of the main characters, Gustave XIII, can't use Anima and has to cope with this prejudice and hatred on top of all his other problems.
Played with in Afterlife and its SOULs (Stuff Of Unending Life).
Albion has two different versions. 'Soul' in a tradition sense is an abstract concept used by Terrans to make a distinction between sentient and non-sentient beings. The closest thing the game has to actual souls is called Ens, which is defined as life-force.
Borrowing from Eastern religions and mythologies, Touhou has interesting characters when it comes to the souls:
Most people's souls —or at least the human ones— are made of 3 "high" "kon" and 7 "lower" "paku". Part of Youmu Konpaku's souls is outside her body and is visible to everyone. Because of this macabre soul-arrangement, Youmu resists anything that specifically target only the living or only the dead. Meanwhile, Yuyuko (Youmu's ghostly mistress) has some ghost lights orbiting around her, each of them are themselves souls.
Hourai elixir renders one immortal: the soul gain the ability to materialize physical body, which is no longer tightly coupled to the soul. A Hourai immortal can be blown to bits and the soul will regenerate the body; this is a painful process that strain the soul. (This gory dismemberment has happened to Mokou multiple times.)
Other kind of immortals simply become immortals because they kick the arses of every Grim Reaper who come to claim their soul (much to Komachi Onozuka's grievance). Apparently you can be immortal if both your soul and your body are badass enough.
One of the few coherent and understandable portions of Limbo of the Lost involves souls. Those who end up in Limbo receive their souls in a vial, and are responsible for keeping it safe. There's a legend, however, that someone who can claim seven souls by any means can escape Limbo, which causes a bit of havoc. Briggs is unusual as, being a living person thrown into Limbo by outside intervention, his soul is inside his body.
In the Infinity Blade series, souls are called Quantum Identity Patterns or QIP. The Deathless are immortal because they can transfer their QIP to specially prepared clone bodies upon death. The fully charged Infinity Blade along with the other Infinity Weapons forged by the Worker of Secrets, the being who created the Deathless can disrupt the Deathless' QIP, permanently killing them or in Ausar's case, erasing his memory. When describing the latter event in the opening of the third game, the Worker even says that the Infinity Blade's light burned Ausar's very soul.
In Last Res0rt, souls are a form of 'creative energy' that naturally occurs in living beings, often in a set amount known as a 'Sterling'. Being born with more or less energy (or having it altered later on, in the case of the Dead Inside) leads to remarkable powers.
At the end of Zebra Girl's "The Magi-Net" arc, after the wizards lose their souls, most of them die, and the few that are left lose their magical talents and become permanently insane.
In Dominic Deegan, destroying a soul causes a huge explosion. Now that's metaphysics!
You knew we had to get in an El Goonish Shive example, right? According to Nioi, people created by the Dewitchery Diamond have completely new souls, rather than being reincarnations. Because she believed that being a new soul in an older body could lead to madness, she cast a spell on Kaoli and Ellen which made them have dreams in which they re-lived the lives of Alternate Universe versions of themselves up past their current age.
If you are a host for The Sins in Sins then your soul is destroyed, no matter what you do or have done. Just picking up their Soul Jar is enough. This doesn't seem to impact daily life, but Word of God states that when you die, it is nought but oblivion for you. Which sucks.
Misfile doesn't say where your soul goes when you die, but wherever it is, you go there naked.
Richard from Looking for Group has partially settled the final question of the first paragraph of this entry. Monk souls taste like chocolate, other souls apparently do not.
In Msf High all that is known is that souls are immutable. No magic can influence a soul. Period, end of story.
Also, it makes it so that after Deo Deo temporarily inhabits his body, he can't get it back. Ironically, Gilbert was only working for Deo Deo so he'd be immortal and wouldn't have to cease to exist. Deo Deo "forgot" to tell him the problem.
Subverted; Gilbert didn't lose his soul, he lost his DESTINY, as in the part of him that was supposed to make him a righteous hero of justice, to Maxim.
In Sluggy Freelance a person's consciousness and personality go where their soul goes. If their soul is sold or stolen, their body is left in a coma. It is apparently possible to "kill" a soul/spirit, but whether this leaves them Deader than Dead or just sends them somewhere else is unknown. Souls also take on the same appearance as the body they used to inhabit (with a few ghostly attributes added); the exception being Aylee, who, due to being a shapeshifter, has a far more amorphous soul.
Soul "bodies" are also material if they enter a spirit world. Ghosts seem to be souls left behind in the normal material dimension, where their bodies are incorporeal. (Yes, incorporeal bodies. This kind of thing is why notions of a soul can be so confusing.)
The principle characters of DDG are all disembodied souls, this leads to a certain amount of both voluntary and involuntary shapeshifting
Souls play an important part of the plot of Archipelago. The Big Bad seeks to free himself with the souls of the descendants of the six heroes who imprisoned him. The Dragon collects the souls by tearing them out of bodies with his magic mechanical arm. When a soul is removed, the body remains alive, although it loses its personality and becomes an Empty Shell that obeys simple orders but mostly sits around. The souls themselves remain in the physical world, wrapped in a layer of protective magic. They are small, weightless, retain the individual's magic capabilities, and are extremely cute.
Off-White: All spirits are shades of gray, except that each species has a single White Spirit and Black Spirit to keep the balance between the other spirits. The White and Black Spirits at least can be reincarnated, and even the bugs have spirits.
according to the character pages and story material in The Daemonslayers, Soul (AKA Mecha) an immortal lycan-fae, joined the other Daemonslayers when demon prince Lord Saragon (whom Blackjack had dissed earlier by killing his lover and torturer, Aster when he tried to recruit him back into his armies by holding his comrade and lycanthrope, Shade, hostage) tore out part of her soul to return to his lost demon lover. Still alive, she was saved by Blackjack and Shade before the prince could kill her, and now looks forward to the day she can kill Aster and reclaim what was hers.
Shadowhunter Peril focuses on souls quite a bit. There exists a creature called an Ushubaen, which boils down to a human imbibed with demonic energy. Normally this would kill the human, but if the human is also imbibed with enough souls to counteract the corrosive demonic energy, then they become a perfect mix of the two (in contrast to faeries, which are half angel half demon, but aren't perfect mixtures). Unfortunately, because they have multiple souls in them, and demonic energy taints the mind as well as bestowing powers, all Ushubaen are insane, genocidal monsters who want to destroy everything they can. They can even kill angels.
All demons don't have souls, instead they have Pure Energy. This grants them life, but not a place in the afterlife. Umbra's desire for a soul is pretty tear jerking. No matter how hard he fights against his own kind and tries to protect innocent humans from the wrath of other demons, if his physical body is destroyed he will be sent straight to Hell and have to force himself back to the surface to fight for the humans all over again. This later gets rectified, as he gains a soul and turns into an angel.
The Simpsons: Bart loses his soul (or just thinks he does, depending) and loses his sense of humor, his breath can't fog glass, and animals fear him (not to mention that he doesn't activate automatic door openers). He and Milhouse seem to believe that a soul is essentially a get-into-the-afterlife-free ticket. In a dream, Bart imagines the soul as a duplicate individual to interact with; since he sold his, the other Bart joins the two Milhouses.
And just in case you forgot the robot souls thing, Transformers offers sparks. Note that only transformers have sparks. Humans do not. And at least in Transformers Animated it is possible for a Transformer to still live and function without their personal spark.
Humans don't need Sparks. A Transformer's spark physically functions as their heart as well as a soul. We don't need them, we have hearts. Only Transformers have sparks, meaning their souls can be transferred into a different functional body, by dint of being manifest. But by the same token, they can also be directly attacked, while a human's spirit cannot by dint of being an intangible force. See, a Transformer's Spark is a combination of soul and heart. If a Transformer's spark is extinguished, then without divine or MacGuffin intervention they're doomed.
In Transformers Animated they even seem to have an afterlife, the Well of All Sparks. While it's existence has been proven, virtually no properties have been established for it.
A similar concept in the Beast Wars series called the Matrix seems to exist, it being the place where the sparks of the departed commune. All these sparks being there is what makes the Matrix what it is, though, rather than it being an otherworldy place that may or may not exist and you'd have to die to find out. This concept is also called the Allspark until the movieverse made its Allspark a MacGuffin - since then, it's been called the Well of All Sparks.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender souls exist, and are reincarnated seemingly forever but with different minds and identities. The most interesting example is that of the titular Avatar: which is a human soul twinned with a powerful light spirit. The previous lives of the Avatar also stay in the spirit world in order to lend the current Avatar their power in the Avatar State.
In Ugly Americans souls are physical objects resting in the stomach, and are enlarged by good deeds and shrunk by bad ones. Mark's soul is dangerously engorged, to the point that it's pushing on his other organs. They can be removed and sold to demons, although this can cause feelings of emptiness, which can be counteracted by medication.
In the My Little Pony multiparter "Bright Lights", several ponies and other beings have had their shadows stolen. They start becoming sick and tired, with no explanation or cure. The long-term victims are half-alive and zombie-like. Galaxy, The Empath, even states that it's not just the patch of obstructed light that's missing.