shadow work

Book Review: Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life by Imelda Almqvist

April, 2018

Book Review: Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages by Imelda Almqvist

In 2008 when I set out with my co-authors to write a book about doing shamanic ceremony with children and families, there was almost no literature on the topic–save Starhawk’s landmark “Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions.” Since our book was published in 2012, many more authors have been responding to the immense need for these resources, thankfully. When I discovered Imelda’s book “Natural Born Shamans,” I was thrilled to see another shamanic practitioner working with children and youth who was also dedicated to adding to this body of knowledge responsibly. Throughout the book, readers are warned of some of the pitfalls in doing shamanic work with children, as well as, how to work around those thoughtfully and with respect for both the child’s sensibilities and the family culture. Indeed, I use Imelda’s book as a reference today for my own work with children and families. This book achieves its stated intent:

All existing societies and cultures were preceded by shamanic cultures, where people lived in close relationship with the Earth, the ancestors, and the Spirits of Place. Connecting with Spirit is our own birthright and the birthright of our children. As I hope this book will demonstrate, it can give young people an exceptional spiritual toolkit for life in the 21st Century.”

Imelda explores key spiritual concepts and tools in ways that children and families can understand. Some of these include: shadow work, death and change, shapeshifting, dreaming, forgiveness, divination, and taking one’s power– learning to wield it responsibly. Imelda brings her substantial experience working with children of all ages to this book. I’ve worked as an educator for two decades; it’s easy to see how certain activities can be adapted to children at different developmental stages. Parents who have raised children through different stages will, also, likely find this easy to do. In addition, Almqvist speaks at length about the importance of offering rites of passage ceremonies to children to support them in the many transitions they make during childhood. She, also, describes the adult’s role in guiding children on their spiritual path:

If we do not offer Rites of Passage, children will either fail to complete crucial developmental stages or they will place themselves in risky situations trying to create communities and initiations for themselves, such as through street gangs, joyriding, drugs, crime or alcohol.”

This book provides a compassionate and extensive look at issues facing parents and children in today’s world. It offers ideas for how to look at these challenges through a shamanic lens, introducing new possibilities for transformation that are holistic, healthy, and healing. Imelda’s approach enrols children in their own healing and shows them how to become more confident in who they are at their essence. Through Imelda’s personal stories, parents receive understanding and wisdom from someone who has guided her own children through spiritual and developmental transitions. If you are a shamanic practitioner interested in working with children and families, this book is a “must have” for your resource collection! It is full of great ideas and links to the work of other shamanic authors that inspire her work. It will spark your own imagination and creative juices! “Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life” is published by Moon and widely available online. International shamanic teacher, Sandra Ingerman provides a wonderful foreword to this important book.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

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For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Finding Our True North

April, 2018

“The person we choose to be … automatically creates a dark double
— the person we choose not to be.”
– Thomas Moore in The Care of the Soul

I was the presenter for the Super Blue Blood Moon on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True recently. One of my missions for years has been creating opportunities for the voices and visions of young people to be heard by the world. On the Big Night I was joined by a “surprise co-presenter”: my 13-year old son Brendan, who took the global audience on a journey to a very special place on the The Dark Side of the Moon!

Right now the theme of young people speaking up for themselves and for the world they are going to be Earth Keepers for – long after we older ones leave the planet – is looming very large. I am proud of young people all over the world speaking out against all that is imbalanced or hurting in our world. May we all listen to the wisdom of young voices and bright visions!!

For me personally this winter has truly been a period of sacred Darkness. What I mean by this is that I faced a potentially serious health issue and some dark nights of the soul – in an entirely good way. For me it proved that “the illness IS the soul medicine”, as some authors claim, because the pickings (learnings) have been rich beyond measure.


When the spirits call us, we embark on a spiritual quest. The one thing that is for sure about the journey that unfolds is that there are no end destinations – just the journey. The spirits will always ask us to take the next step (usually “the thing that frightens us most” or  “the thing that forces us to leave the comfort zone”).  Some people call this finding our True North. For me my True North 
is literally found in the North.

TRUE NORTH is the North according to the Earth’s axis
as opposed to the Magnetic North (when you use a compass)


My own recent journey has been about owning and recalling many parts of myself that had been pushed away. To find the essence of those things I had to walk “the shadow lands”. I had to own the fact that I cannot discount (for instance) my Roman Catholic upbringing – the saints literally “came marching in”! I had to acknowledge how years of training in core shamanism have only awakened an urge to follow my true (and first) calling: Norse shamanism and the Norse gods. For that reason the focus of my courses is changing: I will continue to teach courses in sacred art and specialist courses (such as shamanic work with children – the Natural Born Shamans material described in my first book – and advanced ancestral healing work), but my main focus will shift to offering courses in Norse shamanism. Courses that reflect the indigenous ancestral path of Northern Europe.

I had the incredible privilege of doing powerful work with two groups in Philadelphia recently. One group came together to study the Anatomy of Soul through the lens of ancient Norse cosmology. They were a dream group and it was a thought-provoking day! I was obviously asked questions about how Norse shamanism is different from core shamanism. Answering those questions it dawned on me that core shamanism presents simplified models for certain things. (One obvious example is the claim that “there is no underworld, only a lower world”. Many of us will know that this is not true: when we move through dark nights of the soul, initiations and periods of dismemberment we make the pilgrimage to the underworld (and the underbelly of our own consciousness). We spend time there – just as the Sumerian goddess Inanna made her Descent to The Great Below!)

In Philadelphia I took my sacred art students through an enactment of this ancient Sumerian myth. You could say that we all participated in a mystery play. It was challenging but it was also eye-opening and life-changing. My own life changes every time I do this work with a committed group!! (And the same thing is true for ancestral healing work, which I taught in London last week, with another dream group: my current Circle of shamanic practitioners).

Another issue that came up in our “Soul” group was the question of black magic and all things dark. Some people translate the word “seidr” as “sorcery”. I do not agree with that translation as I feel the original meaning relates to both the old customs (sed in contemporary Swedish)  and spinning the lines of Destiny (here think of the figure of the V?lva or Völva and the Norns).

I look around me today and it is very clear to me that for all of us to truly and effectively counter the shadows being enacted on the world stage – we can no longer study spiritual material without studying its darker applications and manifestations. Not to practice it, NO!! – But to understand its workings and deepest recesses –  in order top formulate an adequate response to it.

If we do not personally and collectively embrace the need to do this much-needed shadow work, it seems possible that our shadow taking physical manifestations (in corrupt politicians, greedy corporations, terrorists and so forth) will decide the future of The Human Family on Earth. That cannot be right –  let’s wake up, step into our power and dream (co-create) a different outcome together!!

I said to my shamanic practitioner students in London last week: I am not really a “Love and Light teacher”, I teach from a place of profound willingness to find the treasure in darkness: the dark time of the year, my personal darkness, our collective darkness. That is where the treasure is hidden.

 

 “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.”
– C. G. Jung

In Norse shamanism the forces of Chaos are often linked to the Giants. The god Thor is always busy in the East fighting the Giants and keeping them at bay. Yet the ancient texts also inform us that the giants walked the Earth long before human beings did. That makes them our ancestors, especially the primordial giant Ymir from whose body our world was created!

For more information I invite you to watch my brand  new art video,

Ymir and Orion, First Ancestor, First Shaman

 

My own allies are urging me to drop ever deeper into my connection to the goddess Skaði – The Winter Goddess – and her (our!) giant lineage. They have also asked me to state publicly where my spiritual home is and from what place within myself I teach. Just so people who believe that all we need is “love and light” will not choose me for their teacher. This article meets their request.

May you too find your True North!

 

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist

If you’d like to be added to Imelda’s mailing list and receive soul food and updates on courses and events, please drop her a message through her website!

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

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www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

The Dark Night of the Soul

October, 2017

 

 

 

The concept of the Dark Night of the Soul is one that is experienced at specific times during the work of those on a spiritual Path.  It is described as a state of utter loneliness, despair and the sense that the Divine has forsaken you. It is a moment that stands the test of true “faith” for in that hour of disconnect the realization of separateness and the intense yearning for union with the Divine are brought to the forefront of the experience.  This descent into a type of abyss is what serves to strengthen the resolve and conviction of the human and releases the vestiges of ego and personality that do not serve well the spiritual nature.

A Lesser form of this test of faith and spiritual strength can occur when we initiate the work of the coalescing the energies of mind and heart as a way to shatter the faulty foundations of our “ivory towers” or preconceived notions of what spiritual and magickal practice are and our individual power in those settings.  The intensity of energetic response that occurs when pure mind and informed heart struggle to collaborate and become co-creators in creating a more enlightened state of being tests the seekers entire system of beliefs and understandings.  Overwhelming darkness, depression, doubt and inertia are the natural byproducts until surrender to the process reveals the greater light of our true magickal nature in its most illumined and enlightened form.

Embracing the Shadow Self

To continue this stream of thought and in keeping with the refinement of energies and forces as we move forward on our path, we see these dynamics held within the “hidden path” of our own shadow/dark nature.  It is on this path that a Dark Night of the Soul is replicated at a Higher Level of refinement and offers up test once again of the faith and accumulated knowledge that has been worked upon as result of gathering together the courage to release and cut away what no longer serves in a manner that is both merciful and just in its selection. This is the call to the final surrender of personality and ego to enter the place of communion with the Higher Mind and the resultant creative outpour that is infused and informed by our Higher Selves in dialogue with Divinity. It is at this juncture that the shadow or darker nature of the self is met and aligned with its polarity of Light.

This surrender to the dark nature held within is a means of opening to the greater Light. And, this great light is ultimately the way of illumination on ascent through a state of balance and integration of the parts of Self, which culminates in union with the brilliance of the Divine. The pain of this endurance is at once physical, spiritual and mental and it is at the point of the darkest hour when the darkness seems most pervasive that the ultimate reflection of our Higher Nature illuminated by the brilliance of Deity that points the way.

Facing the Shadow

At some point along a spiritual path we must also encounter what is often called the “shadow self”.  This is an important milestone towards forward movement, and it is at that juncture that we have come upon the divergent path that offers choice of either embrace or retreat. So, what exactly is this shadow self?

According to Carl Jung, there are within the human experience and consciousness several highly specialized archetypes that define the human psychological experience. These archetypes are closely linked to our physical nature and are often brought to the surface through the varied preconditioned responses that we have gathered from our environment of both instinctual and mental learning. These become the patterns that play out in our lives in a continuous thread until some upheaval of either a conscious or unconscious level brings out what has lain hidden within our psyche.

This often plays out in the form of projection; or seeing the negative traits in others we encounter that are actually in resonance to those same qualities within ourselves, albeit latent and for the most part unacknowledged at a conscious level.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Beginning shadow work can be a bit like going down the rabbit hole.  It is not the most comfortable process and what may be lurking at the base of that unknown can be daunting. Ultimately, it can be one of the most rewarding types of work. Many times what you thought to be true for yourself will be challenged and tested as you reveal some of the underlying reasons for the way in which you move through life.  We all wish to be seen in a positive light and the work of exploring our shadow self can provide clues and greater understanding of those qualities we wish to enhance and accentuate, those that we hold in reserve for the appropriate times and those that serve no useful purpose in this lifetime other than the fact that we are now more aware of those characteristics in a way that is informed. Additionally, this is a journey that only you can make with only your own resources, experiences and inner knowing as guides.

The Mirror of SELF

To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light… Carl G. Jung ..

As the quote above beautifully states, embracing those parts of yourself that are not usually brought into the light of day can, nonetheless, open the doorway to the greater light that ever burns within our being.  If we think in terms of polarity and synthesis than we must acknowledge that the darkness only appears dark because we know of the polarity of light.  Each gives validation, support and energy to the other in an, albeit transparent, way. Each, relying on the other’s existence to support and enhance the expression and work of its own existence. This becomes the point of synthesis and understanding that within this process  of give and take, each must contain a portion of the other within itself as they move through their dance of cohesion and balance.

The Midnight Sun

If we hold these principles as viable occurrences within a natural order of being, then we could also say that in the darkest night the sun is still brilliantly shining whether we can see it from the perspective we are aligned with.  But, with a shift of geographical coordinates, we move into its light and what was night becomes day.

This concept is useful when approaching our darker nature. Despite what we may find lurking in the darkened corners of our personality, there is still shining that inner light that connects us with our higher state of being. When we learn to accept, acknowledge and embrace those parts of ourselves that we consider unlovable or undesirable we open to having conversation with those aspects and strengthen the potential to modify, change or completely transform that energy.

The nature of the work and the feelings and sensations that are often brought to the surface are not easily dealt with on your own; regardless of your own personal level of experience. To set foot within the scope of these energies is arduous and often painful and could do damage to the psyche if not approached slowly, carefully and with the utmost of respect. It is best to do a little research first rather than diving right into this type of work as it can dredge up past memories and experiences that may cause unproductive discomfort. Be gentle with yourself and approach this work slowly and with reverence, affirming the best results for your highest good.

And, as with each spiritual endeavor, always be mindful that the greatest journey we take is that which is the path leading back to ourselves as beings of Dark and Light that will return us to our Divine nature.

Next Month a Pathworking to meet the Shadow Self and becoming the Hermit

Excerpted in part from: The Inner Chamber: Volume Two- poetry of the Spheres (Qabalah). R.Fennelly

 

 

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About the Author:

 

 

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author. She is the author of:

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

 

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the spheres

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen, Volume One

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

 

 

Her books are available on Amazon or website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Facebook and on Instagram