One of the earliest intuitive abilities I recognized in myself was the ability to interact with the dead. As a child I was terrified of them. They woke me from sleep, made noises in my room, touched me, gave me visions. Nothing in my belief system had taught me how to communicate with them well, of the graphic ways in which they can communicate, or even about what death is. As an adolescent I realized not all spirits I saw were products of a completed life in form. Some were spirits of trees, living animals, or beings that have never been in form, though nonetheless influenced the lives of those of us in form. In forty years of communing with the world in this way, several universal messages have been conveyed. The unifying concept in these messages is that what happens in consciousness stays in consciousness, and I distilled them to six general observations:

    • How we live now is the state of the afterlife. While the body ceases to be, the mind and soul carry on. The state of our consciousness in life is the state of our consciousness in death. If we foster worry and anxiety now, that’s our mode of operation after. What we don’t reconcile in life follows us into death. By focusing on negative or hurtful aspects of life, we stew in them in death, causing consciousness to stagnate. If we are mindful and live in the present in life, in death we continue to broaden consciousness, further opportunity to make choices to support that awareness.
    • There is no magickal place of punishment or reward. This insight garners strong emotional reactions from many people. Most of our world religions are built on the idea that regardless of the plight of our lives, we are destined by our actions to spend everafter in torment or joy. Again, what the dead indicate is that what comes after is based on our perspective in life. How one behaves in life is what one experiences after life. Embodiment of spiritual truths determines whether they are true. It’s not just a matter of belief.
Real Wyrd - A Modern Shaman's Roots in the Middle World by S. Kelley Harrell
  • Everything lives on. In some guise, form, or unform, the essence of every thing remains and becomes some other manifestation of itself and All Things. This is animism.
  • Spirits aren’t wise or moral just because they are out of form. Our culture perpetuates a myth that upon death souls become penitent and/or enlightened. In my experience, wise deceased were so in life. Souls that were confused, frustrated, angry, etc, are so in death. Those who reconcile their baggage in life become well Ancestors in death.
  • What we don’t heal in life stays with us in death. Thoughts, habits, or beliefs that don’t support us or undermine us, such as lying, using others to further ourselves, or denying our true natures do not magickally vanish when we leave form. For this reason, when we seek to release harmful dynamics from our lives, we are also assuring peace in death. We assure ongoing tranquility.
  • Working with trance states affects knowledge of how to die. By accessing the imagination via ecstatic trance, dreamwork, or other method of altered consciousness, we experience life without the ego. In this pure space and consciousness, we catch glimpses of what it feels like to be out of form, to be our undaunted wild selves.  The more we connect with our true nature our quality of life improves.  The better we live, the more comfortable we are with the truth of mortality.

While my experiences with the spirits now are more balanced than those of my childhood, the prevailing message is that spirits do affect our lives. By living well we die peacefully, which means that we have no need to disrupt the living. By living well, everyone’s experience of consciousness is improved.

If you love reading true stories of the wyrd, every year for the Samhain season I share several in my column, Intentional Insights.  Check the archive there under the ‘Samhain’ and ‘paranormal’ tags.  If you want to learn more about shamanism and deathwalking, visit Soul Intent Arts.