The Moslems fancy that it is necessary, when a man is bow-strung, to relax the rope a little before death occurs to let the soul escape. The Greeks and Romans seemed to think that the soul made its escape with life out of the death-wound.
Vital spark of heavenly flame, Quit, oh! quit this mortal frame.
Soul, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, is represented by several emblems, as a basket of fire, a heron, a hawk with a human face, and a ram.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894