Ancestor of Place

Dec 31st, 2017 | By | Category: Articles

By Imelda Almqvist

Without our ancestors we would not be here. – This is a very simple truth, but one we forget or gloss over in Western society. For indigenous or tribal peoples the honouring of ancestors is at the very heart of of community life. Without the gifts and blessings of our ancestors we would not have any of things we enjoy today. Their blood runs in our veins, they passed their talents on to us, they gave us the gift of Life, they are our family tree, the roots of our very existence.

Our society has, largely, lost this awareness and sacred art.  I urge all my shamanic practitioner students to embark on a great quest to research their ancestral roots. This work brings surprises, moments of great beauty and a sense of belonging, a sense of being deeply rooted in something larger than our personal (individual short-lived) selves.

This week my husband and I decided to take things one step further and visit an Ancestor of Place. In 2016 we bought a house in Sweden (in a very remote forest location) and the local farmer (our next door neighbour who lives about one kilometer down the road) has been telling us about the history of our property. His own family has lived in the area for generations so he is the self appointed Memory Keeper or Local Historian .

He told us that a man called Conrad  farmed our property until his death in 1966 (the year my husband was born, as it happens). Apparently Conrad loved wood carving. He had a small workshop in an outbuilding (which is our bathroom and sauna today). He also loved water (our house is near a lake) and I understand he loved carving small wooden boats.

The local farmer told us that Conrad is buried in the local graveyard of B√§linge Church. On Boxing Day my husband woke up in the morning and said: why don’t we try to visit Conrad’s grave today and pay our respects as the current inhabitants of his beloved farm.

For some reason it felt important to make this small pilgrimage at nightfall. Perhaps because the veils between worlds are thinnest then. However, the Scandinavian Midwinter dark rapidly descending early afternoon  did not help with reading inscriptions old ancient and heavily eroded grave stones!! Miraculously, or so it felt to me, my husband did find his grave. Over Christmas many people had places candles and wreaths on family graves. There were  marschaller. (outdoor torches) burning all around us.

We stood by Conrad’s grave. The grave stone even has the name of our house on it. We paid our respects. We said prayers. We gave Conrad an update on what is happening at his farm in the year 2017 (soon 2018!) in the 21st century.

We decided that we will return another time and bring a candle or torch for his grave.

He is not a personal family ancestor but to us he is an Ancestor of Place. We have fallen in love with this place. Owning an old house and land here has made us guardians of place in the everyday world. This means that where possible we honour the ancestors of place.

We did invite our three teenage sons to join us but they felt we were taking things too far: visiting the grave of a man we never met, who died before we were born? Nah, thanks, we will stay at home and eat gingerbread….

We still set an example and I hope that one day they will remember and perhaps do something similar in a place where they settle or raise their own families. Outside Time these things have a habit of rippling out in mysterious ways…

Imelda Almqvist


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 Books 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. She is currently working on her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism)  (website)  (blog)  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)  (Year of Ceremony)

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