Archives for posts with tag: teenagers

Last night I had a vivid dream. It stayed with me all day: I had been invited to spend the day with a group of teenagers. They were unknown to me (meaning that they were not friends of my own three teenagers). Their intention was to show me The Ways of the Future.

They put me in a classroom (it actually had a whiteboard!) Then they started telling me how working with ancient gods and goddesses is no longer good enough. We need to actively create the gods and goddesses of the future. If we do not do this, we will continue to create a future shaped and delineated by the past.

As I have a very great love for (and intimate relationship with) many ancient gods and goddesses I felt some resistance rising. I felt I had to speak in support of  of those ancient deities. The teenagers laughed and gently pressed me down on my chair again.

It is simple! They said. The future will not resemble the past. We young people live in a time of unheard of opportunities and dangers. We need gods and goddesses that patrol the internet. Gods and Goddesses invigilating social media. Facebook needs a Face Goddess and Twitter needs a Bird Goddess. We also need a True Face God and gods in charge of the drugs that teenagers use at parties… As our concept  of reality expands (reality has never been what we think it is anway!) ever more gods and goddesses can enter and fill our consciousness. We conceive them just as they conceive us!

I am feeling dizzy. Here I thought I was progressive in the way I teach and work. The teenagers proceeded to draw faces on the white board. The face of gods and goddesses. They proceeded to name them and invoke them, welcome them.

They said: gods and goddesses are shape-shifters and Reality is the greatest shape-shifter of them all!

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.


Altar 2016

I have been using some tried and tested  techniques from shamanism (the most ancient spiritual practice known to humankind) to support my eldest son through his GSCE exam period (general exams for all 16 year olds in the UK). Yesterday the thought occurred: what about writing a blog about this topic. I can’t be the only parent in search of a “spiritual toolkit for exam periods”. As the author of the upcoming book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life (using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages), maybe I am the right person to write this?!

So what have I been doing with my son?! Here are some very basic things anyone can do:

Powering up!

When we start a new day of life or before we do any spiritual work we power up, meaning that we greet our allies and helping spirits and align ourselves with beings more powerful than ourselves in the other worlds. My son knows how to do this for himself (for him this means calling in his power animals: e.g. his Clan of Monkey Spirits). Before he leaves the house I always stop him in his tracks for a moment: focus, call in your allies, wipe all other concerns from your mind for the next few hours…

However, my son has also asked me to do some work on his behalf. At 8.45 am on school days you will find me standing by my altar: drumming, rattling singing. (Not only for him, also for family members, clients, students and colleagues who have asked for spiritual support).  Next I make the procedure a little more specific: e.g. my son had a Poetry exam recently, so I call in the full “society of dead poets” and ask them to watch over his shoulder and guide his hands. For an exam in mathematics I call on the great mathematicians of all time. For Newtonian type of physics they study in secondary school I call in Isaac Newton and others.

And so it goes…. I always get the feeling that these great spirits love being of help. The essence of those great minds lives on outside time (one of shamanism’s great teachings) and you may call on them –  in my experience there is always an instant response. – And isn’t that cool, seeing your son walk up the Hill in his school uniform accompanied by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and a veritable society of long-dead poets? I love the teachings and potential of shamanism!!

A few more pointers:

“Revision Parties” & Extra attention on your son or daughter’s emotional life

For most parents unconditional support is a given at any time in a child’s life. However, as they grow older (and taller than us, very independent and opinionated!) there can be a tendency to get busier with our own personal and professional lives and miss those little hints that something isn’t quite right. That lovely boy who used to drop in three times a week – why hasn’t he been here for nearly two months now? Have they fallen out? Has something happen in their friendship group?? My own son’s first serious girlfriend broke up with him (after 17 months together!) just before the exams started. He was feeling rough and in the end we hosted a “Revision Party” with unlimited supplies of chocolate and crisps. It was really a getting-over-the-girlfriend party but we couldn’t call it that! A posse of teenagers came, dressed up in animal costumes (that I keep around the house for workshops), played four-handed piano and actually studied some physics. My son was his normal self after that. Equilibrium had returned, phew!

This is obviously a very tricky area: some teens want to talk and others feel the last person they’d ever speak to is the weird creature commonly known as a parent. The trick is to be available but not in their face. They will talk to you when it suits them  – not when it suits you. In our house this means me settling down again for a long midnight conversation when I was just heating a mug of milk for bed at 10.30 pm. Losing sleep (daily, large amounts of it!)  is definitely the lesser evil when compared to losing touch with the emotional life of a teenager…

This brings me to the following points:


A Spiritual Toolkit for navigating Tempests created by Teenagers

I have discovered that the general principles of shamanism (and shamanic healing) work perfectly well for the dilemmas that this age group runs into. With my son I am reinforcing the following core principles@

  •  Fair Energy Exchange – in all of your relationships/friendships observe how energy is flowing. Does it freely flow both ways? Do you support your friend and does he or she support you back? When it becomes one-sided, something tilts out of balance. A heaviness sets in. Time to renegotiate?!  Example: my son has been going to parties but he is very anti-alcohol at the moment (“I can’t afford to lose brain cells when I want to get into a good university long-term!”) This meant that at parties his friends get drunk but he gets involved in cleaning up vomit and seeing them home safely etc. He does not find this role totally enjoyable. In the end I have said to him: when a friendship starts to feel like “social work” you may just want to reflect on the energy balance. He took that on board.
  • Reflection on what we can control and can’t control Change the things I can and accept the things I cannot change (the Serenity Prayer is very useful here, I will paste the first part below) – My son has a heavy dose of teenage idealism, meaning that he doesn’t always see clearly where the line goes between “what we can control”, “what it not worth even trying to control” and “where we can actually make positive changes by shifting our own perception”. Lucky for me he has always been a talkative child. He processes things by talking them through. This means I am on an intensive course in understanding the world of teenagers (because I work in a professional capacity with them as well, meaning I see a wider range of expressions, boys/girls, all ages…)

God/Higher Power grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

  • Inner Work with Noticeable Results Around Us – When we cannot engage with something “externally” (meaning: in the world around us) we can always work on things internally. We can put focus on things, we can hand issues over to spirit allies for safe keeping or resolving, we can ask our power animals to go talk to the other person’s power animal and ease the way between us and so forth. There are always more options that we commonly realize when we get frustrated. (Teenagers often feel frustrated: they have the bodies of adults but not yet the freedom of choice and lifestyle that adults have).
  • You remain responsible for your own choices and actions, no matter what another person does!- My son has been on quite a journey with this one. He is a little hot-tempered and has an over-developed sense of fairness. So he gets upset when people break promises or mess around with the feelings of others in any way. On a few occasions I have had to invite him to express his anger (safely, without directing it at anyone) but then think long and hard: what kind of person do I choose to be? Do I choose to meet this person on their level of functioning or do I set my own code of ethics for how I behave and respond? On reflection my son will agree that he needs to actively choose his own actions. Meaning that he is acting, not re-acting to others the whole time.
  • When we set strong intentions, energetically speaking we set events in motion. E.g. my son felt he needed to to talk to someone in private who was blanking him in school. I helped him formulate a strong intention for what he actually wanted most of all: meet up privately, after school, and discuss whatever is going on. My son didn’t believe for one minute that this would produce a result. He said: “OK Mum, we try this and maybe by the end of the school year something will happen” (this was in March). The next day he came home from school and reported that this person had approached him and asked to meet up after school.  My son was suddenly very much impressed by “the stuff shamanic teacher mother is peddling”!
  • Calling on the ancestors: I often light a candle for our ancestors and speak to them. We even have an area in our house we call The Ancestor Gallery, where all photographs and names are up on the wall and there is cupboard for heirlooms and mementos. In this period I especially call on those ancestors who share the same talents and interests as my son. After all they were passed down the bloodline, they didn’t come out of nowhere! I thank them for watching over him and nudging him in the right direction during exams. And I have no doubt that they do this. They are only too happy to be asked!

Last but not least:

Teenagers are fully fledged sexual beings…

I could go on and on – but I won’t! However, one final thing I want to say is this: by the time young people are 16 years old, they are fully fledged sexual beings. The statistics tells us that young people are sexually active at an earlier age than we ourselves (perhaps) were. However you privately feel about this, it is a fact of modern life. With my own son I recently made some comment that my child-bearing days are in the past and that any babies arriving in our family might just be courtesy of son #1, one day. Grandma (my own mother, who happened to be visiting) was aghast and accused me of “promoting teenage pregnancy in my house” – am I mad or what?!

However, my son looked quite pleased to be acknowledged as capable of fathering a child but he said: “Not for years and years Mum! I still remember vividly what it was like when my baby brother (son #3) was born and I want to enjoy my years of freedom before I embark on any of that!” So he and I were in total agreement and he gave me a lovely smile. I knew that we had understood each other. Only grandma (aged 77 1/2) nearly had a heart attack. A different generation and my mother has always been “elderly” in her approach to life. I doubt that this is going to change as she sails through her 8th decade on the planet!

If you like the sound of using shamanism in parenting and you do want more, I invite you to check out my book….. The date of publication is 26 August 2016 but the book can be pre-ordered on Amazon. I have been told that most likely you will receive your copy on July if you do. And it has been listed as “a hot release in shamanism” with the potential to reach best-seller status…. How did that happen?!

Imelda Almqvist

Imelda Almqvist is a teacher of shamanism and sacred art based London UK. She teaches internationally. Her paintings can be found in art collections all over the world.

Imelda’s courses take place in the fertile place where art meets shamanism. The focus is on engaging in innovative ways with Mystery School material. Her 2 year sacred art practitioner training will run in Philadelphia in 2017/2018.

Imelda pioneered a shamanic program for young people called The Time Travellers. It offers safe group space for children and teenagers to develop a viable spiritual toolkit.

Her book “Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life”, (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) will be published by Moon Books this summer.  Imelda is currently recording a series of radio segments by the same title for Shamanic Life Radio with John Carosella.

She will appear on the Shamanism Global Summit hosted by The Shift Network in July this summer and The Shift Network will also host Sandra Ingerman interviewing Imelda about her work with young people. (Those links have not yet gone live).

Imelda has three sons. She loves travelling, learning foreign languages, playing the cello and making short films. The most extreme thing she has ever done is assisting with eye surgery in a field hospital in Bangladesh! One of the most life-changing things she has ever done is teaching art and design  to slum children and teenagers in Lima, Peru.










When our eldest son was three years old, he once told me that there were two kinds of people in the world:

  1.  The friends you have already met
  2.  The friends you have not yet met

Another day he told me that “Once you love someone, you cannot un-love them. The nature of love is that it is never-ending!”

That same eldest son is now 16 years old. He and his first serious girlfriend broke up last week. They had been together for 17 months, almost a lifetime, at that age. It was her decision, not his, and he felt extremely rough for a few days. I figured I needed to do something to lift his spirits (and get his focus back on the imminent GCSE exams) so I agreed to a “Revision Party”, meaning he could invite friends over to study maths, physics and biology together – with party food thrown in. It was really “Getting Over The Girlfriend Party” but of course we couldn’t call it that.

The friends arrived and they actually did some serious work (as well as munching shocking amounts of crisps, chocolate and swigging KA). As a shamanic teacher I keep animal costumes around the house and at some point we had teenagers in bear suits playing  “four-pawed piano”. They were playing this piece by Yann Tiersen:

My son seemed his normal self after that but “it wasn’t over yet” from his point of view. He cornered me at 11 pm in the evening (his favourite time of day for talking to me about Life, though I often struggle to stay awake!)

Mum, I need to talk to you about marriage…

Well as you are single again maybe you don’t need to worry about it just yet?

Mum! I am trying to have a serious conversation with you!!


I want you and Dad to work harder on your marriage. The thing is I am a teenager and whatever happens in my life doesn’t affect my children  yet because I don’t have any. But I am worried about the way too many people around us seem to be splitting up and divorcing…. There is something I just cannot work out, about that.

What do you mean?

People obviously liked each other enough to fall in love, once upon a time. And then they loved each other enough to have children together… So why can’t they work on their marriages rather than destroying them?

Well… I think many people do exactly that but then discover that their differences are irreconcilable…. and then they go their own way. It is not great for children to live with parents who argue and fight the whole time.

Nah…..  but I still think it is a matter of EFFORT Mum! At the end of the day I think that if you are both determined to work hard, you can make a marriage work and it is SO MUCH BETTER FOR THE CHILDREN! The thought of meeting my Mum’s new boyfriend or Dad’s new baby with his girlfriend is intolerable Mum. Here is the bottom line as I see it: You can make it work if you really want to make it work because you made it work before!!

You can say this because you have been fortunate enough not to live through a divorce and new partners. Many children simply are not given that option.

Yeah…. I hear that Mum….  but do you promise that you and Dad will work even harder on your marriage please?

I promise will talk to Dad about this – can I now go and get some sleep, it is midnight? Basically it is already tomorrow!

I guess…..

So this week I discovered that the idealistic 3-year old lives on inside the stressed-out 16 year old whose physics teacher recently said: “If you have a life at this point, something is wrong!”  It is not easy being 16 and drowning in mock exams. It is not easy being dumped by your girlfriend. And it’s not easy to wrap your head around divorce… or marriage….

Imelda Almqvist
Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) will be published by Moon Books on 26th August 2016.  


“A daughter is your daughter for life – a son is your son until he takes a wife”.

When our three sons were born over a period of four years, people often told me manyvariations on this adage. What they were really trying to to do, or so I felt, was trying to provoke a reaction from me on giving birth to a son every time. Doesn’t every mother secretly yearn for a daughter to share girlie things with?

And I will admit that I would love to have had a daughter, but the bottom line (and best reply) surely is: “Babies are a Divine Cosmic Gift – thankfully having babies is not a ‘mail order system’ where you tick a box to express a preference.  Imagine if that were possible – think of China and the ‘One Child Policy’ – it would have created a whole generation of men never finding wife…. ”

My own mother often said: “Once you have boys, it is only a matter of time until the girls arrive, all by themselves. There is absolutely nothing you need to do, other than welcome them with open arms!” She was referring to teenage boys dating and bringing girlfriends home.

For many years this was a very abstract concept and in truth it worried me a little: how am I really going to feel when our tall and handsome blond firstborn son brings home a girlfriend?

There were many years in our house when girls were ‘yuck!!!” and pink was ‘the most vile colour on the planet’. My boys would not wear anything that had a hint of pink in it or on it, anywhere.

But this Autumn we had our very first flirtation with the notion of being ‘parents-in-law’ one day. Eldest son announced that he had a girlfriend – but she is not in any rush whatsoever to meet us.

They seem to be great friends most of all. They walk up the hill to school together every morning. She waits for him by our garden gate but does not press the doorbell. Only last week I happened to open the door to water a plant and I chanced a wave. I got a wave and a big smile back.

They are such an ‘item’ in school that they are now referred to by a joined name. Like Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) but different…

However, the most wondrous thing is that our son has gained immense maturity and charm overnight. He is more patient with both younger children (such as his own brothers) and indulgent and  protective with both his elderly grandmothers. He voices sensible opinions on a wide range of matters. A year ago he sported a rather frightening cowlick of blond hair – but he now agrees to sharp haircuts, daily showers and he likes a crisp ironed white shirt to go with his school uniform. Maybe most importantly he is more even-tempered and pleasant to be with.  (His 15th birthday is at the end of this month, at the time of writing he is technically 14).

These are great gifts we are receiving from a short girl with long blond hair who is too shy to meet us, just yet!!

The other thing my wildest imagination hadn’t bargained for is how this Young Love brings back memories of our younger selves. Of walking hand in hand and having a wide open future. Of sitting in cafes in Amsterdam and Stockholm (in our case, we were older) and talking for hours. The cares of the world not yet on our shoulders. Healthy parents, sound sleep and hours of leisure time a day something we took for granted.

We have had to set a budget for gifts and dates.  He bought her a dream catcher necklace for Christmas (and I was allowed to wrap the gift!) The memories of our own first dates have suddenly returned in technicolor and there are moments we feel decades younger. We exchange secret smiles when we see her appear by the garden gate and we observe Eldest Son tripping over his own feet to get out of the front door.

So it seems that my mother was right…. Your son is your son for life – and if you are very lucky he takes a wife!

Why did no one tells me this? It seems that ‘first girlfriends’ are a well kept secret in more ways than one.  Hush!

Imelda Almqvist


So what about giving people our PRESENCE rather than our PRESENTS for Christmas?!

The Winter Solstice is just around the corner and I hope it will be a turning point for many people individually and for our whole world. It is time to rethink many of our habits, thoughts, actions and roles in our families and communities.

For every Christmas that rolls around I feel less willing to ‘play the game’: buying presents I don’t want to buy, receiving presents I don’t need or want, receiving Christmas cards that make me think of the trees that were felled to produce the paper…

As a mother of three boys I can’t escape Christmas or Christmas presents altogether. I am Dutch and in the Netherlands we celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) on December 5th. Children receive presents from the Saint and grown ups exchange presents too and write funny small rhymes. Often the present is disguised as something it is not. For instance you are giving someone a book but you use paper mache to make it look like a horse, or an airplane – or anything that wrong foots the receiver about the true nature of the gift but reflects some obsessive interest they have! Then you rib them in a funny little rhyme – but only gently and affectionately!

What I like about Sinterklaas is the fun, the creativity, the together time with family, the hot chocolate and the marzipan – but the gift is the least important thing and it is rarely of great financial value (not in my family anyway!)

My husband is Swedish and in Sweden people do put Christmas presents under the tree – just as people in England do. So, as I recently said to my mother, I can hardly swim against two dominant cultures all by myself, considering that my three Dutch-Swedish children live in London, not the Netherlands!

So our children will receive some Christmas presents in Sweden next week, under a tree harvested from a forest belonging to the family friend we are staying with. (Come boys, let’s step outside for just a moment to get the tree!)

The word PRESENCE jumped out at me late last night (in a post on FB) and again first thing this morning, in a newsletter a colleague of mine sends out. And this got me thinking about the power of words: two letters difference can make a WORLD of difference!

Many of us are so good at being on the run from ourselves’ that we are hardly more present to others than to ourselves. Just look at the way people are using their i-phones: always plugged, always tapping and punching, in the street, in shops, in the doctor’s surgery….. As soon as my clients arrive I ask them three questions: 1 Can I take your coat? 2 Would you like to use a bathroom before we start our session 3 Have you switched off your phone?!

And all that 24/7 ‘so called availability’ means we are barely present to those around us and to All That Is around us: the air, the trees, water, music, clouds, birdsong, crying toddlers, dancing Autumn leaves, elderly people in need of  smile…. and so forth.

So what if we made a PRESENT of BEING PRESENT? Of giving our full and undivided attention to all that surrounds us.  And over Christmas: giving our full and undivided attention to the people we are with?

Speaking as someone who has family visits lined up in two different European countries (with thousands of kilometers of driving between) I know I myself am I going to be tempted to mentally absent myself from what is going on. Daydreaming, my i-pod, a good book, long walks in the forest or on the mountain… And all of those can and will have their place. But my intention this Christmas is to give loved ones the present of being present and also to be present to anything else that presents (Do I need to express love in some way or form? Ar the ancestors asking for something? Other unspoken requests? What are the trees in the forest asking for? How can I honour Mother Earth at this Dark Moon Winter Solstice time? What will my children need from me in 2015 as they grow older and more independent?)

Those are some of the questions I will be contemplating – but isn’t presence the best present of all?!

Imelda Almqvist




A dear friend of mine is the manager of a restaurant.  I bet she sees a very wide variety of human behaviour… There must be a very fine line between restaurant manager and sociologists, come to think of it!

Recently she reported that a mother brought in a toddler in her push chair for lunch. The toddler was knackered. The mother scrolled through the menu asking the child what she wanted for lunch: fish fingers? A hamburger? Something else perhaps? I was not present but as my friend told the story, the child was too exhausted to make up her mind and the mother kept reeling off more options.

Why would a parent do this? In the ‘good old days’ when my three sons were all aged four and under I remember reading some parenting books and one golden rule for very young children was: give them a limited choice. Meaning: would you like to wear your red top or blue top today (but we are not pulling everything out of the closet). This was to give the child a sense of independence yet contain the situation. Being offered too many options makes (tired, young, excitable) children feel overwhelmed! (I mean: I feel overwhelmed with choice just shopping in the local Sainsbury’s Super Store – how am I going to choose from a whole aisle full of different types of olive oil?! I am not even into cooking!!)

My friend’s intuition told her that this mother had read a lot parenting books too and had possibly started living in “fear of therapy”. And let’s face it: at the rate parents (and read ‘mothers’ in particular) are being blamed for all that goes wrong in a child’ life and development these days, I can see how you’d decide to ‘play safe’. But where does that leave us?

This young girl would (probably) have benefited greatly from a more limited choice: fish fingers or burger – and then down for an afternoon nap. Like my friend I observe a trend towards ‘discipline failure’ around me. “Give the poor child what it wants so I don’t blamed for it in therapy later”.

Another such a trend is to be a Trendy Parent and claim that your son or daughter is your ‘best friend’. (Ideally get interviewed for some lifestyle magazine in matching outfits, if you can manage it!)  Now I don’t hold with this at all. My youngest son will sometimes try to annoy me by calling me ‘Imelda’ instead of ‘Mum’. My reply is, unfailingly: “I am Mum to you and I have not invited you to call me Imelda”. It is by really shouldering the responsibilities that go with the role of parent, that we make our children feel safe. They will kick against the rules and complain vociferously but their world will be secure and predictable – or at least as secure and predictable as we can make it in an uncertain world.

Somewhat to my dismay I overheard my 10 year old son discussing “cyber bullying” with a 9 year old friend recently.  They were both well informed and very eloquent on the subject. When I was 10 years old – the internet did not exist. I cycled around town by myself, my parents didn’t drive me everywhere. I did not own a mobile phone – mobile phones didn’t exist then. It was a different world. Cyber bullying certainly wasn’t a concern – but being bullied on the way to school was a real problem.

And so today’s parents have the challenge of parenting children in an era that offers almost unlimited options for communication and education. At age 17 for me there were three real choices: Art School, Medical School or Music School? (I chose Art School) but my 14 year old son has started his GCSE’s and a bewildering array of future choices is now open to him. He communicates with his friends in ways that I don’t even comprehend. He does own a smart phone. I have asked him not to bring it to family meals because every time a friend messages him it tweets like a songbird in the pocket of his school blazer. And those ‘tweets’ are about as frequent as a human heartbeat.

So the point I am really trying to make here is that I think we do more harm by overwhelming a child at too young an age than by offering an appropriate selection of choices for every age range. And if we invite our child to call us ‘Jim’ or ‘Kate’ and to be our mate – we rob them of a parent. We rob them of the words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ and the way young people anchor and tether and define themselves by referring to their Mum and Dad. We even rob them of the ambition to ‘not be like my Mum or Dad’!

My children will go ‘Aw Muuuuuuuuuuuuum!” when I draw the line about something – but I hope that I am teaching them how to draw certain lines for themselves in the future. How to make good choices. How to say ‘no’. How to say ‘my Mum’ with that classical mixture of annoyance and affection.

And my take on therapy? Well, I did write another blog recently, about shamanic healing and therapy!

I do not believe that children arrive as ‘blank sheets’. On the level of soul they arrive with their own unique purpose and sacred dream – and also with a wish list for learning to do here on Planet Earth.

As a shamanic practitioner and mother I do not believe we can protect our children from all pain and harm – but we can teach them how to dance with life’s challenges by embracing the challenges that come our own way in ways that might inspire them.

I cannot say if my children will ever need therapy or not. That will be for them to decide. I believe that all of us are on a journey to wholeness on the level of soul. And that seeds for great healing can be found even in very unpromising situations.

Maybe one day one of my own children will write a blog about parenting – I hope I live to see that day, even if I might not like all I will then read!

Imelda Almqvist







Anubis 2013 Pentax

Have you ever taken a moment to contemplate the difference between the words innocence and ignorance? Maybe take a few minutes now  to meditate on this and feel the change in energy?

Jewish people will observe Yom Kippur soon.

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.[1] Its central themes areatonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue service  (from Wikipedia)

The reason that I find myself writing about this subject today is because I have been getting into discussions with friends recently about the question: “Can you do wrong, even harm others, without having any awareness you are doing something wrong?” To find the answer to that we only need to go back to World War II, I guess. Much has been written about people claiming “they had no idea what was being done to the Jews” (I have even heard – read – people claim that concentration camps never happened).

A  dear friend (Vicki Semo Scharfman) recently put it like this: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!”  That is a great quote and it says a lot with few words! Another dear friend (Sony Baron) was telling (and teaching) me about Yom Kippur recently.

To me there is an even more ‘insidious issue’ lurking in the jungle’ here.  Earlier this summer I wrote a blog titled FORGIVENESS. It sparked off some very interesting discussions on Facebook (I occasionally think it is a shame that what people write on FB does not make it into the comments section on either Facebook or Youtube, or wherever material is officially shared – this means that many people do not get to benefit from the follow up discussion. But that as an ‘aside’!)

I think that we all like to think that on a great cosmic level, things balance out somehow. Evils are righted, forgiveness is obtained, negative energy is transmuted and so forth. But to forgive, or transmute something, the person responsible needs to realise they did something wrong in the first place.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt terribly hurt by something someone did, yet they seem blissfully unaware of this and not  remotely awake to any shift in energy between you? I guess that this is part of the human condition! I can’t interview all people alive today but I guess a large number would recognise what I am talking about.

So how does forgiveness (or repentence, atonement) relate to things we are not aware we have done – or failed to do?

The word innocence refers to a pure and almost childish quality. It implies a “not knowing” but also a “maybe growing into knowing” by getting older or more mature. Children are often called innocent.

The word ignorance implies a “lack of knowing” but in a sense of “should have known. Should have made the effort. Should drop their blinkers” and take some responsibility

And so I have found myself wondering what  happens on a spiritual level when we are ignorant, or when a childish innocence turns into a more regrettable adult ignorance.

Ignorance can incense! It can arouse extreme anger and indignation!

From doing ancestral healing work I know that whatever the ancestors haven’t resolved is passed on to future generations. Energetically speaking there is a debt, a challenge, something that seeks to come alight, something that “floats up for healing” (depending on how judgmental you want to be!)

I also know that as my life progresses, I sometimes find myself thinking of people I knew (or even met briefly) years ago. Because something has just happened to me and and in retrograde I wish to send them understanding and empathy: NOW I know why you said this, or acted that way twenty years ago…

(An example of this is a man I was thinking of earlier today. I do not know his name or where he is today. Over 20 years ago he told me that he had spent his whole live caring for children and stepchildren and felt he had lost out big time on ‘freedom and space for his own interests’. The day I met him he had just heard that his son was expecting his first baby and expecting ‘granddad’ to provide childcare to he and his wife could continue to work. This man said he loved children dearly but he had had enough of the day-to-day care and grind, after DECADES of it…. He actually burst into tears as he said it. At that time I did NOT have children and it seemed a little….. exaggerated? Aren’t kids great? Is this what we want to hear when we tell Granddad the happy tidings?! However, today, writing as someone who has done a lot single parenting over 15 years, I understand EXACTLY what this man was saying. And today the solution seems pretty obvious: tell your son you are thrilled become a granddad and of course you will be there for them in emergencies, but you cannot provide the day-to-day childcare because you have some dreams to live yourself…. Tough love….)

So today, outside time, I sent a message to this man (a T Mail – a telepathic message!) “I understand completely now. I hope you did indeed take time and space for yourself!” Does it make a difference? \Is he even alive today?  I can’t say for sure. But I hope that some loving encouragement somehow reached him outside space and time.

So how can we avoid ignorance? Can we avoid ignorance?

For me it all goes back to “shadow work” (as it is called in both shamanism and psychology). Don’t just monitor your own thoughts and actions – but also monitor what drives you mad in other people. Those things are likely to be pointers to things, aspects, you hide from yourself. Reclaim them and own them!

If you are really and truly very brave: ask others how you drive them mad! And don’t punish them for the priceless information they produce!

(If you are married you probably get the “goods” free of charge, without even trying…. )

As I said at the beginning: Yom Kippur is soon, the Day of Atonement. If others forgive us – are we free of the need to atone and repent? I would say not. I think that in hurting others, we hurt ourselves at the same time. And even if we receive forgiveness for every thoughtless or unkind (or even malicious) deed – we are not automatically in harmony with ourselves. Not deep down. I am not Jewish but I think having a Day of Atonement is a good practice. Having a designated, and dedicated!, day, also means that many people are doing this tough internal work all at the same time. And that creates a large cloud of energy shifting, of doors opening and healing possibilities occurring. Personally, inter-personally and generationally (back to the ancestral healing work I mentioned earlier).

And what about innocence then: innocence implied a ‘lack of guilt’. Found “not guilty”. The word is often used too in the context of crimes or war zones: innocent people lost their lives.

“Innocent until proven guilty by a Court of Law”…. but ” there is no smoke without fire” are everyday idioms that touch upon this issue.

As a young  teenager cycling home from school I was once attacked by two girls who truly believed I had racially abused them the week before (I had not but I discovered I had a lookalike in the area). They put a knife on my wrist and said they cut my wrist unless I apologised. At that point a man happened to be passing on the cycling path and he intervened – allowing me to escape from the situation.

Was I innocent? Yes, I had definitely not shouted racial abuse at these girls the week before.

Was I ignorant? Yes, because at age I lived in a predominantly white city in The Netherlands where my understanding of racism was lacking and far from what (I hope!) it is today.

And though I pray my own teenage sons will never be held at knife point (I shudder to think of it!) I admit that these teenage girls too have stayed on my mind over the years. They will be middle aged women today, like me. What they did was undoubtedly wrong, but today I realise that being black in a predominantly white city and culture must have been extremely challenging for these teenage girls. I think they truly believed they had captured their tormentor. So today I would like to send them a T mail saying that I understand much better now why they acted the way they did. Today I do shadow work. I root around in the fertile soil that “everything I don’t like about myself” (rich soil indeed and there is plenty of it!) This is not the same as saying teenagers can pull knives on the people that annoy them!!

So my suggestion is that most people could benefit from a Day of Atonement. If all of us do it together – maybe we can shift some of our ‘cultural shadow’ (i.e. the things that all of us together choose to stay ignorant about)? And it would be very interesting to observe such shifts “with our eyes closed” – in the invisible world, the other world, the spirit world.

I am dedicating this blog to my dear friends Sony Baron and Vicki Semo Scharfman – who both got me thinking about this issue very seriously. Thank you ladies!

Imelda Almqvist


The title of the painting above is THE WEIGHING OF THE HEART CEREMONY (but my understanding is that it is the Jackal God Anubis weighing the heart, not Osiris!)

From wikipedia


Weighing of the Heart

The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony

Weighing of the HeartThe ancient Egyptians believed that, when they died, they would be judged on their behaviour during their lifetime before they could be granted a place in the Afterlife. This judgement ceremony was called “Weighing of the Heart” and was recorded in Chapter 125 of the funerar text known as the “Book of the Dead“.

The ceremony was believed to have taken place before Osiris, the chief god of the dead and Afterlife, and a tribunal of 43 dieties. Standing before the tribunal the deceased was asked to name each of the divine judges and swear that he or she had not committed any offences, ranging from raising the voice to stealing. This was the “negative confession“. If found innocent, the deceased was declared “true of voice” and allowed to proceed into the Afterlife.

The proceedings were recorded by Thoth, the scribe of the gods, and the deity of wisdom. Thoth was often dipicted as a human with an ibis head, writing on a scroll of papyrus. His other animal form, the baboon, was often depicted sitting on the pivot of the scales of justice.

Weighing of the HeartThe symbolic ritual that accompanied this ritual was the weighing of the heart of the deceased on a pair of enormous scales. It was weighed against the principle of truth and justice ( known as maat ) represented by a feather, the symbol of the goddess of truth, order and justice, Maat. If the heart balanced against the feather then the deceased would be granted a place in the Fields of Hetep and Iaru. If it was heavy with the weight of wrongdoings, the balance would sink and the heart would be grabbed and devoured by a terrifying beast that sat ready and waiting by the scales. This beast was Ammit, “the gobbler“, a composite animal with the head of a crocodile, the front legs and body of lion or leopard, and the back legs of a hippopotamus.

The ancient Egyptians considered the heart to be the centre of thought, memory and emotion. It was thus associated with interlect and personality and was considered the most important organ in the body. It was deemed to be essential for rebirth into the Afterlife. Unlike the other internal organs, it was never removed and embalmed separately, because its presence in the body was crucial.

If the deceased was found to have done wrong and the heart weighed down the scales, he or she was not though to enter a place of tourment like hell, but to cease to exist at all. This idea would have terrified the ancient Egyptians. However, for those who could afford to include Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead in their tombs, it was almost guaranteed that they would pass successfully into the Afterlife. This is because the Egyptians believed in the magical qualities of the actual writings and illustrations in funerary texts. By depicting the heart balancing in the scales against the feather of Maat they ensured that would be the favourable outcome. The entire ceremony was, after all, symbolic.

Following the Weighing of the Heart, the organ was returned to its owner. To make quite sure that this did happen, Chapters 26-29 of the Book of the Dead were spells to ensure that the heart was returned and this it could never be removed again.