Book review – Natural Born Shamans

naturalbornshamansLLast November I attended the Gatekeepers Trust Conference that’s held in Pewsey annually. As always there were wonderful speakers over the two days, including Peter Knight, my geomancy teacher Patrick MacManawey, authors of ‘The Spine of Albion’ Gary Biltcliffe, poet Jay Ramsey, traditional traveller folk-song collector Sam Lee and others. One of the others was the shamanic practitioner Imelda Almqvist, who I knew from social media and publicity and advance notice of book releases sent to me by the publisher Moon Books.

Imelda’s subject was “Gods of Portals, Life Transitions and Liminal Spaces”, where she explored (quoting from the Gatekeeper Trust website):

‘Liminal places are where ancient gods await and human beings are touched by the Divine. What is the function of such places in the landscape and how can we open sacred space intentionally to facilitate healing, rites of passage and to breathe new life into the teachings of the ancient mystery schools.’

The talk was wonderful and was accompanied by samples of her spellbinding and amazing artwork. It was without doubt one of the highlights of the entire weekend.

By coincidence, later that day I found myself sitting next to Imelda and we spoke for a while, including a short discussion about her recent book ‘Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages.’ I had to confess I hadn’t read the book as it seemed that it wasn’t something that I would find useful. After having listened to her talk and  our later conversation I was inspired to go out and buy a copy to see what wisdom there was within.

The book is written from the point of view of a shamanic practitioner and a mother of three boys, whose experiences in bringing them up led her to insightful practices that resulted in her forming the group called ‘Time Travellers’. She writes:

‘The notion of teaching shamanism to young children and teenagers seemed overwhelming (where to start?!), but I created The Time Travellers programme in London, UK, and it is still running four years later.’

Eventually, with much prodding from her own spirit guides, as well as other parents and shamanic practitioners working in the same field, Imelda came to realisation that there was a need to share her work, and so allow others to benefit from her experiences in working with her own group. Again, to quote from the book:

‘I have received many emails from colleagues asking about my shamanic work with children and teenagers. They have referred many people based all over the world to me: parents, grandparents, teachers and professionals in other fields. People tell me that they need pointers, ideas, tried and tested session plans. I gradually realised that I perhaps I was sitting on material and experiences that could be helpful for others.’

The book is set out in three distinct parts; the first covers the foundations of the work she is covering – subjects such as:

  • what is shamanic parenting
  • shamanic basics
  • working with children – fears and prejudices
  • parental consent

and so on.  Here there is much wisdom to be found, and the wealth of Imelda’s experiences shines through, giving those who may enter this area of teaching some confidence that they are learning from someone who has ‘been there and done it’. Refreshingly there are parts where she lets us know where the best laid plans can go wrong, and so we learn from those mistakes without having to discover the pitfalls ourselves.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a section which will teach you to be a shamanic practitioner – it assumes some considerable depth of understanding, knowledge and training in the practice of shamanism, so if you are looking for a book covering those aspects, this isn’t the one for you.

In part two we are offered a detailed array of practical session plans that can be used and adapted for use once you set up your own group work with children and teenagers. It defines each session in some detail, giving guidance on from and structure, what to say, where to hold the work and how to follow up each session. There is an introduction to the subject of each session, followed by teaching notes, preparation guidelines, the session itself, and where appropriate further notes that may be useful.  The topics are wide and varied, covering from the playful to deeper work around subjects such as bullying and death. While these sessions are aimed at a range of ages, from the relatively young to those in transition between childhood to adulthood, they are a wonderful inspiration for those who may hold regular shamanic sessions with older individuals, and with a little adaptation could well be used to bring out the childlike innocence that many adults have lost. Play and laughter and plain and simple fun are wonderful tonic to the soul and spirit whatever our age!

Part three is entitled ‘Rites of Passage’ and gives a detailed and experiential view of the way ritual and ceremony can be incorporated into the lives of children and teenagers. It covers just about any aspect of transition that we are likely to come across, and doesn’t shy away from the ‘difficult’ areas which modern society attempts to hide away in the shadows. As a ceremonialist as well as a shamanic practitioner, I found this section really enlightening and useful and once again, with a little work, everything here could be adapted for other age groups. We as a culture ignore ceremony too often, and to re-awaken the need for ceremony within our own communities can be a wonderful gift of service; for that alone this book is worth buying.

My understanding of working with others, especially with children and teenagers, would have been the poorer had I not been inspired to buy and read this book, and I am deeply grateful that synchronicity brought me to that Conference and to find myself sitting next to Imelda. This is a wonderful book or anyone who regularly works with others in their shamanic practice, and particularly good for those who find themselves working with young people. I highly recommend it.

Almqvist, Imelda. Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages – John Hunt Publishing 2016