Introduction to Deathwalking Class | Soul Intent Arts, Kelley Harrell

The Dead Time

Since I began blogging at Intentional Insights in 2004, I’ve shared personal spirit encounters as a lead-in to the Dark Time. In many earth-based spiritual traditions, the progression to the darker time of the year is a seasonal observation of Shadow, death, rebirth, and Ancestor Tending. It is Nature’s reminder to tend the roots, the lesser obvious aspects of our lives, so that we reconcile what we must to live well.


I kind of stay in this end of the pool all the time, though this time of year I share more of the more challenging experiences to ground deathwalking and soul tending into reality. These aspects of soul tending aren’t thoroughly covered in most soul healing discourse, and often when they are it isn’t with the needs of the unquiet dead at the fore. It isn’t with the understanding that the time of the year in which Nature is the vessel of sweeping out what’s no longer needed. When we remain disconnected from this time of year and its symbolism of death, we remain stuck in the gap of the Broken Path, which means we will keep breaking it.

As someone who has done this work for almost 25 years,  I can say that working with the dead is not just an option but is required to keep life in balance. What we don’t release grows to smother us.  Deathwork isn’t something our Spirit Allies can do for us . This is a human rite that must be done, and part of the human story that must be told. When we don’t do our deathwork, when we don’t talk about shadow and darkness, we ignore that we are already in relationship with them. If we don’t get our part of death rites done, the dead are never released to the Spirit Allies and Ancestors who can help them fully move on to what comes next. Once we become active in that relationship not only are the dead free, but we release patterns that oppress us and the systems we live among.

These writings are some of my experiences with unquiet dead, busy Nature Spirits, amazing visitations, and unpleasant bumps in the night. It’s not always clean and neat. I didn’t always handle it well, and that’s part of why I share these experiences every year. We need to know how to respond to the dead in need, so that we can help them rest well, and so that we can create a life that allows us to die well.

Just as this is the season of The Wild Hunt, of Nature sweeping out the dead, so it is a time to let go of the dead of our lives. As you read my experiences in deathwalking, consider your own.

  • What were you most afraid of in your own experiences?
  • What can you let go of now?
  • What can you help move on from them?
  • How can you hold space in your own life for the cleansing power of darkness?

Get updates on my upcoming book, Eldering Well – Rewilding the Broken Path

If you like these stories, find more in Real Wyrd.

Real Wyrd - A Modern Shaman's Roots in the Middle World by S. Kelley Harrell


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S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div.

I’m an animist, author, deathwalker and death doula. For the last 25+ years, through Soul Intent Arts I’ve helped others to ethically build thriving spiritual paths as fit, embodied elders, who upon death become wise, capable Ancestors. My work is Nature-based, and focuses soul tending through the Elder Futhark runes, animism, ancestral healing, and deathwork. I’m author of Runic Book of Days, and I host the podcast, What in the Wyrd. I also write The Weekly Rune as a celebration of the Elder Futhark in season. Full bio.

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