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Psychopomps and Psychopaths: Children in the role of psychopomp or soul conductor
Children are generally not afraid of death the way many adults are. Possibly because they have not been on the planet too long and often remember (even if vaguely, only in their dreams) where they were before they were born. My own middle son used to call this place Yellow Land (a land made of pure bright light) as a toddler. I once made a painting titled The Before Life (as we focus too much on the afterlife, but that is only one half of the coin!). In the summer of 2016 I made a short film about the young people in my shamanic program for children (The Time Travellers in London, UK) sharing their unique perspectives on death and dying. The title of this film is Psychopaths and Psychopomps because the children in my program have been known to confuse the two terms! If you type in my name and the title on YouTube, the film will appear.
Let me tell you a secret: Death and dying is one of our favorite sessions in the Wheel of the Year for the Time Travellers, yet I can barely drum up registrations for shamanic death and dying courses for adults. We live in a culture that is in denial about death. Death is feared and hidden from view, not embraced as the ally and the great teacher it really is.
When I was a child (growing up in the Netherlands in the seventies) I did a lot of work in other dimensions at night. Often the spirits would appear and say: please come and talk to this newly dead person. He or she is not really paying attention to us, but maybe they will listen to a young girl; you are closer to the world they have just left. So, I would go and spend time with the person concerned. I would explain that they were dead (they did not always realize this). I would show them around the spirit world and explain that there are compassionate beings (who may not look human) waiting to take them to the right destination in the other world. I would accompany them some of the way. Then I would hand them over to those beings and watch them "walk through a portal into the light." I would return to my bed in everyday reality and go to school the next morning. To me, this was as normal as brushing my teeth! I never really talked to my parents about this. I think my mother only found out about this forty years later when she painstakingly read my first book (Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life) using an English-Dutch dictionary!
Today, I am a shamanic practitioner and I teach shamanism and sacred art internationally. Working with children has become one of my specialties. Over the years I have seen many children in private shamanic practice who are psychopomps. In this chapter I will share my experiences of this: what forms this can take, how it can affect family life, and what to do when such a child becomes overwhelmed or frightened.
Children as Psychopomps
I have come to believe that children are soul conductors or deathwalkers for many reasons. Some children are our future shamanic practitioners (or shamans) and this calling is already written into their energy signature.
Children come from the light, from outside time; sometimes they still radiate this divine light. Often they have not suffered the amount of soul loss some adults have, so energetically speaking they are very luminous, especially when they are loved greatly and well cared for. That can add power to their energy field.
Then again, children may also end up conducting psychopomp work for the opposite reason: trauma can "open children up" in the sense that they do not acquire healthy psychic boundaries in early life. This can leave children vulnerable to happenings in other realms, both in a good sense (sensing a loving grandparent watching over them and staying close) or in a negative sense (dissociating from pain and trauma by fleeing to other worlds and not being fully present in their own lives and bodies). This is a condition many people carry into their adult existence.
Other authors in this book have explained why the death process can be compromised, meaning a soul doesn't make a full transition away from the Earth realm. Such restless souls (for lack of a better word) are often found wandering between the worlds. For them, the bright energy signature of a "shaman child" is like a beacon. They are attracted to that light. They may even take it for the divine light they are seeking.
Some children (like the younger me) walk the worlds effortlessly, guided by spirit allies who have been their friends from well before birth. I was never afraid, even when presented with challenging scenarios. However, my brother went through a period in his late teens (he was seriously ill at the time) when ghosts and spirits were appearing in his bedroom. He'd often wake up because people were sitting on the edge of his bed trying to get his attention. For him, this was a frightening and unwanted experience. It stopped when he recovered and he certainly does not feel called to engage in psychopomp work today.
Effects on Family Life
When a child copes well and is rested enough to face the challenges of this world in the morning, there is little parents need to do other than (ideally!) becoming aware of this and being available if a child needs to talk or process. The problems start when children are flooded by nighttime occurrences or experiences they cannot handle. Those children may start avoiding sleep (by trying to stay awake at all costs and this, obviously, affects their health and ability to concentrate in school). They may become frightened and call out, getting their parents up several times a night. Those parents may not always understand what their children perceive, and saying "There is nothing in your room. Go back to sleep!" just is not adequate. Parents need to be aware that there may well be unseen visitors in a child's bedroom; those are real, even if you yourself cannot see or sense them!
In the worst case scenario (which, thankfully, is rare!) nighttime visitors may start wandering around the house trying to get everyone's attention, meaning strange things might occur (noises, lights flashing on and off, sudden changes in temperature) that unsettle (or frighten) the whole family.
If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, please contact a local shamanic practitioner and have them run a check on what is happening. They can provide a range of helpful services from visiting in person and opening portals (moving on those "visitors" by doing psychopomp work) to explaining to your child what is going on and taking measures to stop the problem. One way this is commonly achieved is by programming a quartz crystal to act as a waiting room between the worlds, meaning the uninvited callers move into that dedicated safe space and stay there awaiting assistance, and then emptying that crystal at regular intervals. Personally speaking, I receive such crystals in the post, clear them, re-program them and send them back. Some families have two: one crystal on active duty and one change of guard, so the child is free from disturbance at all times. Some families have several members with a talent for psychopomp work. In that case it is worth placing crystals in strategic places around the house. Again, a shamanic practitioner can offer advice on that.
A Word of Caution!
You must have the crystals emptied/cleared at regular intervals or they stop doing their job!
Putting "any old crystal" in a child's bedroom will not help – the crystal needs to be programmed specifically, monitored and cleared by a professional (and cannot have any other purpose).
Younger siblings or family pets must be prevented from touching the crystal or walking around with it. Put it out of reach, perhaps high up!
I have invited parents to death and dying, and psychopomp workshops which I teach (the idea being that the parents could learn to empty the crystals themselves) but the uptake has not been great.
Children and Death
I was very pleased when Laura Perry (the coordinator of this anthology) invited me to write about children as soul conductors because it is an issue that can cause upheaval in family life (and serious stress between parents and children, if the issue is not understood). Following on from that, I want to say a few more things in general about children and death.
For children, the veil between the worlds is often thinner than for adults, meaning that it is not uncommon for children to see glimpses of (for instance) dead grandparents or angelic beings. I remember getting ready to take my own three children to school one morning and observed them all gazing at a point next to our front door saying: "Mum, there is a an angel standing by the door and he is much taller than you are!" It is of crucial importance not to ridicule or ignore such comments. (If you do, your children will shut down and not feel safe sharing such experiences in the future!). Parents need to make an immense effort to truly listen to their children without their own fears or prejudices getting in the way. Instead of saying "Don't be silly!" or "Such things do not exist!" try to say: "Please tell me more ... I cannot see it myself. Would you please draw for me what it looks like?" That way, the channels of communication stay open and a foundation is laid for a spiritual dialogue lasting throughout the teenage period even, and well into the young adolescent years.
If you have very young children (say under the age of five) you could also gently ask some questions (without leading them or freaking them out). If you are reading a book in which, for example, angels appear, just ask lightly: Have you ever seen an angel? After a grandparent or loved family friend dies (or even the family guinea pig), rather than being totally absorbed by your own grief (perhaps thinking that children are too young to be aware of such things) use those occasions to have important conversations with your children. Essentially such sad events are gifts and great learning opportunities.
Explore where your children think people and animals go after death. Try not to cut off all dialogues by saying, "They are in Heaven now!" (FULL STOP). Heaven is a highly simplified concept promoted by Christianity. I once invited my Time Travellers to make a journey through the other worlds and visit Heaven. They discovered many exciting and amazing locations but they did not find "the textbook realm of Heaven." (For more about all this, I invite you to read my book.)
One of the greatest gifts you can bestow on your (grand) children (assuming you have them) or any child (if you have access to children professionally speaking or in other ways) is to talk to them from a place of not fearing death. Death is hugely important in our cosmos because death feeds life. Without death everything would stagnate; there would be no renewal or rebirth. Help children become aware of the seasons and cycles of life. Host open-minded conversations about this so they see it is okay to talk about death and ask questions. A life lived without fear of death (or in denial of death) is the only way of living any human life to the full.
As one of my Time Travellers once summed up: "Weall get recycled!"
How to Find a Practitioner or Teacher
If you need help with some of the issues described in this book, your first port of call is to contact your local shamanic practitioner. If you decide you wish to undertake training in this work, you need to find a death and dying course that includes psychopomp work, offered by an experienced shamanic teacher.
A great starting point is Sandra Ingerman's website: Shamanism Teachers and Practitioners. It offers a global listing of practitioners (organized by location) as well as many courses in shamanism and related subjects offered by shamanic teachers who have trained with Sandra herself. Some other good resources are The Society for Shamanic Practice, Shaman Links, and the Foundation of Shamanic Studies. These offer listings of shamanic practitioners and teachers who can help you.
Imelda Almqvist's book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books on 26 August 2016. She is based in London, UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. You can find her online at shaman- healer-painter.co.ukCHAPTER 2
Midwife to the Dying: The Post-Tribal Shaman's Role
Immortality is composed of equal portions of life and death. — Grandfather
All of us will die. This is certain. For some it will be sudden and unexpected, but for most of us, it will be a gradual process, coming at the end of a long life. Yet, in spite of its universal nature, death is perhaps the most taboo subject in our Western culture. So much so that many doctors still hesitate to let their patients know when they have a terminal diagnosis. Even family members, coming to say their last goodbyes, often avoid talking about why they are there, out of fear of the discomfort that arises when addressing the specter of death – discomfort that is more on the part of those who will survive than on that of the dying. This leaves the person going through the process of departing life without real support or connection through this difficult transition. One of the important roles of the shaman in our culture is to provide this support and to help the client develop the connections necessary to allow death to be a natural and peaceful passing from one state to another.
In traditional tribal culture, as a person nears the end of their natural lifespan, they begin to pay more attention to the spiritual – to those parts that will remain after their bodies are gone. They become closer to their ancestors and begin to loosen their hold on the physical world. But even for those who die unexpectedly or die of disease while still young, there is the expectation and awareness of a larger existence than what is experienced in this life. There is an understanding that there is more to them than their individual identities, bodies, and minds. In most of these cultures, the soul is seen as having different parts: One that comes from the ancestors; one that comes from the stars; one that is born with and dies with the physical body. There is a sense that, while part of us dies with the body, part of us continues as well. When you consider that in our modern Western culture it is the physical and mental elements of ourselves that we are most focused on, giving little to no attention to the spiritual aspects of self, it is unsurprising that we would feel fearful when looking at the end of life.
Most in our culture view the process of death as something primarily dealt with by the living. We grieve for the loss of those who have died, and reshape our lives around those losses. But from the shaman's point of view, those who have already died are integral to the process as well. Since we regularly interact with the ancestors through our work, we do not share the idea that the world is populated only by the living. It is our ability to Journey into the underworld – the place of the Dead – that allows us to be of service to those who are dying, even after death. As shamans, we Journey into the other worlds regularly, returning safely with healing and information for our clients.
Essentially, three types of shamanism are practiced today. Indigenous traditions, maintained and practiced by existing tribal peoples also include practitioners who have been adopted into these cultures, or reconstructionists, who base their practices on what is known, believed, or fantasized about a particular culture's shamanic practices. Core shamanic practitioners use what they see as universal practices of the indigenous people. Finally, there are those in the modern Western world who have developed their practice based on their connection with and initiation by the spirits. Post-Tribal Shamanism falls into this latter category. The teachings I pass on to others are those I received from my own spirit ally, Grandfather. In most cases, these teachings have much in common with those of other shamanic traditions.
The definition of shamanism we use in Post-Tribal Shamanism is much the same as in other traditions. A shaman is someone who goes into a trance state at will, to communicate with and interact with spirits, in order to bring about changes and retrieve information in service to others.
In Post-Tribal Shamanism, we understand the human soul as having multiple components. The Ancestral Soul includes all of a person's bloodline and is communal in nature. The Celestial Soul has lived many prior lifetimes and will go on to other lifetimes after we die. The Egoic Soul is our thinking, self-identified part. Grandfather teaches that at death, the ancestral soul and celestial soul generally leave the body, while the egoic soul tends to stay with the physical remains until it gradually dissolves into the natural surroundings. For most of us, there are representatives of our ancestors awaiting us as our souls emerge from the body at death. They are usually people we knew while they were alive and with whom we have a strong, loving connection. They then serve as guides as we travel into the lower world. This journey, which the Tibetans refer to as the bardo, affords us an opportunity to address unresolved issues from our recently completed lifetime.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deathwalking"
Copyright © 2017 Laura Perry.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Psychopomps and Psychopaths: Children in the role of psychopomp or soul conductor Imelda Almqvist 12
Midwife to the Dying: The Post-Tribal Shaman's Role Kenn Day 19
Deathwalking with the Living; A shamanic healer's perspective Yvonne Ryves 26
Reality, Spirit, and Death Elen Sentier 31
Deathwalking with Reluctant Spirits Dorothy Abrams 38
Hindu Last Rites Vani Neelakantan 45
Dealing with Misplaced Energy: Examples and practices Janet Elizabeth Gale 50
Deathwalking: Three encounters with death Lucya Starza 57
A Path of Song, a Path of Light: Guiding the dead in the Celtic traditions Danu Forest 62
The How Not to Do It Chapter Laura Perry 68