rites of passage

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 Books 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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A Shamanic View

January, 2014

Rites of Passage and Social Acknowledgment

Our family stays up to keep an all-night vigil for the longest night of the year at the Winter Solstice. We drum in the sunrise and then have a breakfast feast. Our children tried their best to stay up all night with us. Inevitably they crashed, one on the floor and one voluntarily taking to bed. But they were both too tired to get up and join us at sunrise. Next year we’ll have to remind them that they’ll have to go to sleep sooner if they want to participate in the morning.

But I think what it came down to it they were wanting to do what the adults were doing. I certainly can’t fault them for that.

In a recent conversation, a friend pointed out that other than alcohol, there’s only so much that really marks a social acknowledgement of adulthood. There are fewer and fewer things that create clear social distinctions of adults from children. At eighteen we can vote. But not everyone does, and generally that only matters once a year at most. At sixteen or so we start driving, but we’re still in high school and people don’t treat us differently just because we can drive (except maybe some younger siblings…). But, “when you’re an adult you can drink.” It strikes me as both odd and disappointing that that seems about all most youth have to look forward to as distinguishing events.

There are some cultures that still have important rites of passage into adulthood. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are the examples that come to my mind, at least. These are really cool events, attended and acknowledged by friends and family. These are ceremonies that, from my outsider view, seem to be taken pretty seriously.

So how do we, as Pagans, mark when adulthood begins? Do we? Do we treat our adults differently because they are adults? Personally, I tend to think we should. I believe that children need more nurturing than adults do. Note I say more. I certainly don’t mean to imply that once adulthood starts the nurturing switch gets turned off!

But I know my expectations of adults are different. The responsibilities, in my view at least, are different or should be. My children are ten and seven, so I do have some time to figure it out for me and my family. But Winter is a time for introspection, for figuring out what to do differently in the coming year, and therefore in the future. So now seems like a pretty apt time to be discussing it.

If you’re a Pagan parent, maybe you have a path with some built-in rituals for coming of age. Maybe there are some you’ll choose to borrow from another path. Maybe you’ll invent something.

But even if you aren’t a parent, there’s the question of do we treat adults differently? How do we recognize or identify that difference? Maybe we need to start by recognizing it for ourselves, and holding ourselves to a standard of adulthood. I’m sure it’ll be different for every one of us. But if we haven’t taken the time to think about it, I think we all should. What you decide is for you, obviously.