As “The Trump Card” was played on the world stage last week I wanted to respond with beauty.

Shamanic teacher colleague and friend Susan Rossi gave me the phrase “Dire Beauty”, coined by astrologer Caroline Casey. It describes the times we live in: times of deep grief and even horror – yet seeds of beauty can grow from this soil. I am also aware that many people feel called to respond with words (uplifting words, words of outrage, words of hate) and most of us can only read and absorb so many words a day. Pictures, images, paintings can often “short-cut” all that and travel directly to our heart, our solar plexus, our soul.

I used to run a “Painting of the Day” series on Facebook. Then I got busy with other things. Last week I noticed that my paintings got double the amount of likes compared to my “words only” posts. In other words: there is a need for uplifting images – and I happen to have a large collection of those. Half a human lifetime’s worth (I am 49 and I hope to paint for 49 more years!) However, whatever is posted on Facebook, Twitter or other social media “sinks”from view pretty quickly. Soon there is another post. And another!! So then I thought I’d start a series of Art Blogs based on these paintings, so the information is stored for future reference. (People do read “old” blogs).

The painting above this text was made in the year 2013 after I had a powerful dream where I found myself in the Desert with only my cello for company. A woman appeared and was in great need of shamanic healing. As there were venomous snakes and scorpions crawling all around us, the only safe healing room I could offer her was my cello case. She fitted into it perfectly. While I worked my cello danced around us making music. Using sound to pull this woman’s life back into the perfect vibration, healthy resonance with the larger Cosmos, the Music of the Spheres. (The word universe means One Song!)

The week following this dream, I did a shamanic healing session with a small autistic boy who had no speech. He walked straight up to my cello and plucked the strings. The cello agreed to give voice to him. I understand the voice and language of my cello. I could help the mother understand her son. It was a life changing session, for all of us present in the room.

Last week my colleague Susan Rossi and I offered a tele-seminar together for our sacred art students in the U.S. We explored how both traditional hunters and string musicians use a bow. And how the bow is a bridge between worlds. Much depends on skill and “bowing technique”. Essentially this insight takes us into the sacred zone where Death, Life, Music and Healing all meet. There were more profound insights around The Hunt (as a Great Mystery in shamanism), blood mysteries and rites of passage. (There are strong links here to the way tribal people initiate teenage boys).

I believe that current events invite all of us to do our inner work i this zone. We have been given a political situation (an instrument) – much will now depend on our bowing technique… Can we make music with the materials we have been given??!

We may need to be like the “Cellist of Sarajevo” and play deadly beautiful music surrounded by a scene of devastation…

Vedran Smailović (born 11 November 1956), known as the “Cellist of Sarajevo”, is a musician from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet.

He played in the Sarajevo Opera, the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Symphony Orchestra RTV Sarajevo, and the National Theatre of Sarajevo.

Regularly playing his cello in ruined buildings during the siege of Sarajevo, most notably performing Albinoni‘s Adagio in G Minor, Smailović caught the imagination of people around the world. In his honour, composer David Wilde wrote a piece for solo cello, The Cellist of Sarajevo, which was recorded by Yo Yo Ma. Paul O’Neill described Smailović’s performances as the inspiration for Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 by Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Folk singer John McCutcheon also penned a song in his honour, In the Streets of Sarajevo.


My question today is: are we willing to be those brave musicians and make music from horror and despair? From screams and the whistling of bullets?

The Cellist of Sarajevo shows us the way…..

Our teleclass THE COSMIC DANCE OF SACRED FEMININE AND MASCULINE was recorded and is FREE for anyone to watch in their own time.

Imelda Almqvist

About the author:

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 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.