Gratitude for Death

Jan 30th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Books for Shamans

 By Imelda Almqvist 

Gratitude for Death

Our youngest son Brendan published a book in 2014, when he was 9 years old.  He loved nothing better than writing and drawing. His big dream was to be a published author.  On his ninth birthday received a big box for a present: full of copies of his own book. The title of this book is “The Love Hall, Brendan’s Travel Guide To The Best Places In The Spirit World”.

Some of the entries in that book I wrote down verbatim after conversations with him (when he was still a bit younger).. Other entries he wrote all by himself. Once such entry bears the title: Gratitude for Death. This dialogue took place in March 2013.

Brendan (aged 9, quite sternly):
‘Mum, you have no secret notions of living forever, I hope?’
I: ‘Well no, but I hope to live long enough to see you grow up Brendan, and maybe meet your children!’
Brendan; ‘Yeah, yeah… but Mum do you realise that if you were the only human being in the history of earth that DID manage to live forever, it would be a terrible fate indeed!’
I (curious now): ‘Why?’
Brendan: ‘Because everyone you ever knew would die. And one day the Sun itself will die by burning out and swallowing up the Earth and the Moon. And all living things will long have moved on to other realms and other universes. But Mummy, if you managed to be immortal, you’d be this sad little creature floating all alone in an empty universe. And you would feel a great cosmic loneliness you have no comprehension of today. And therefore Mummy, you should be VERY GRATEFUL of the CERTAINTY THAT YOU ARE GOING TO DIE ONE DAY!!!”

The painting that I have chosen to illustrate today’s blog was made by me. The tile is Dismemberment and  it was inspired by a passage in the Bible:

In Judges 14, Samson kills a lion and leaves the body there. When he returns a swarm of bees has taken over and he now finds honey there:

Dismemberment  is a key concept in shamanism. It means being taken apart. Our spirit allies will often do this during a dream or shamanic journey and it is a great form of spiritual cleansing because it reaches all ‘forgotten dark corners’ so to speak.

Tribal shamans are put through severe ordeals and initiations by their shaman elders in the community. This completely changes their energy signature – it re-wires them. If they survive, they become shamans for their tribe. They have lost their fear of death and learned to walk between the worlds.

In any human life periods occur where we face a great crisis or ordeal that is ultimately transformative and life-changing. For me the honey in this painting represents that process, the evolution of human consciousness. Given time and support, we can make honey even from our greatest mistakes and most bitter disappointments.

Even today I feel that my son made an important point: in our culture we avoid Death and hide it from view wherever possible. Morticians even put make up on dead bodies to make them look prettier and more life-like! (Though grandma never wore orange lipstick in life!)

A great book on this subject is “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes And Other Lessons From The Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty.

We short change ourselves and our children when we cannot acknowledge that Death is a great ally and great teacher – if we can meet it without fear, or the illusion that we will live forever.

Living forever is not a blessing – it is a curse – as one nine year old boy pointed out to me so eloquently!

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. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Art Meets Shamanism will be published in the Autumn of 2018.  (website)  (blog)  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)  (Year of Ceremony)


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