Interview with... Imelda Almqvist
Originally published August 2016
Name: Imelda Almqvist
What authors/ books influenced you in your early days of being a Pagan/following your spiritual path?
Robert Lawlor: Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime
Sandra Ingerman: Medicine for the Earth and Soul Retrieval
Mircea Eliade: The Sacred and the Profane, The Nature of Religion
Simon Buxton: The Shamanic Way of the Bee
Vicki Noble: Shakti Woman: Feeling Our Fire, Healing Our World: The New Female Shamanism
Odette Leroux and Marion E. Jackson : Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset
And many MANY other books about anthropology, rock art and indigenous peoples!
What drew you to your path?
Dead people appearing at night asking me to help them cross over. I do not remember a time in my life when I was not doing this work, even as a very young child. I was about 25 years old before I learned there name for this role: psycho pomp or soul conductor.
(In adult life, after finishing art school:) The spirits of dead children appearing to me, asking me to paint them and to pass messages between them and their families. (I had no idea that doing this work came under the heading "shamanism").
While my three children were very young I managed to "keep the lid" on my calling (I could not face more demands or even more broken nights!) However one night the spirits came and ordered me to do shamanic training. They said I had made a soul commitment to do this work before I was born, and now it was time to remember and commit to this. So I found my frist shamanic teacher (Simon Buxton) and the training process kicked off with a life burial. My youngest son was three years old at the time. It was a wild ride.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
My first book is going to be published in August and I have only just started my second book. So I do not have books (plural) to my name yet!
I love writing about what I know! I am a teacher of shamanism and sacred art and I teach all over the world. This means that I have a large number of students from very different backgrounds as well as individual clients I work with. Many of my blogs or articles were written in response to questions that students/clients ask me, or inspired by correspondence from all continents. Within my field there are certain areas I am seen as a bit of an expert on (such as using ancient shamanic techniques with young people today). So the never-ending flood of questions and emails proves to be a fertile ground for ideas to write about...
How did you become an author? Was it something you intended to do or was it by accident?
As a child I loved writing stories and illustrating them. I did dream of writing a book one day. At age 18 I started art school in Amsterdam (I am Dutch) and painting became my "first language". It remained that for three decades as making art became my profession (and still is today!)
The idea of writing a book returned when colleagues and other people started asking me: when are you going to write that book about young people and shamanism? I am keen to start a children's group myself, I could do with some ideas and pointers here! Etc.
So one day I set down behind the computer and wrote a tentative list of contents, just to see what such a book would need to address. After that it was simply a matter of writing it one chapter at a time. It felt like this book mostly wrote itself, at tremendous speed (this 336-page took 10 weekis to write). I felt strongly guided by my spirit allies every inch of the way. The on-going shamanic work I do with children kept throwing up brilliant and fresh material as well. It felt like it was my sacred duty to act as a scribe for these talented young people. Through working with them we see glimpses of the future of our planet (and the future of shamanism!)
What do you feel makes a book worth reading?
I guess this depends if I am reading for relaxation for for learning!
I am always on a treasure hunt tracking down books that address references that come up in my work. We actually have a library in our house in South East London! My students love it and are constantly taking books off the shelves and recommending other books.
For me the most highly rated books are books that help me arrive at greater level of knowledge or higher level of consciousness in some way. I collect books on a large variety of subjects: rock art, anthropology, shamanism, the art and mythology of tribal peoples, comparative religion etc.
Courtesy of the Dutch education system I learned 6 languages in secondary school. I have added a few since! Today I read books and articles in about 10 languages. I prefer to read sources in the original language wherever possible. I sometimes read material in two or three languages at the same time to spot where the translater has shown a bias or personal interpretation. It is amazing what snippets you find, working this way!
Are you working on a new book right now and if so what is it?
I was teaching Seidr in Sweden two weeks ago and every time my colleague Anna Kjellin and I teach that course our students ask when we are going to "write the book". There are plenty of books on this subject on the market but not all authors were able to read the source material (such as the Eddas and Icelandic sagas) in the original language. There is some very fresh scholarship being done all over Scandinavia just now. There are also many excellent (older) books and texts that have never been translated into English. So my/our joined vision is to write a book that is true to the sources, the Eddas and Old Norse languabe, yet incorporates the material that remains inaccessible to anyone who cannot read Scandinavian languages. I/we also want to make this a very practical book, based on years of teaching student. How do you actually get started? What are tried and tested (and safe) ways of engaging with this material that has the power to change your life?
My/our students are callling for a professional shamanic practitioner training in Norse Shamanism right now. This book would act as the textbook for such a course. Large number of people, especially in the USA and Canada, as well as Europe, have Scandivavian ancestry and Viking blood. As a shamanic teacher I observe a slight move away from core shamanism (classic practices from all over the world bundled together and originally presented by Michael Harner) to people feeling called to work within a Tradition that reflects their ancestors and ancestral land.
Do you write part or full time?
I definitely do not write full time! My day job is being a teacher and painter! Writing is something I do in the evenings, on airplanes or on days I block out for writing.
What's the hardest thing about writing?
Dealing with the all the interruptionons that occur when you are tryign to do it! Same as with painting - people around me mistakenly think that writing or painting time is "free time" meaning I am available for phone calls or cups of tea. So I make a point of never answering the phone on painting and writing days.
I have also become very good at writing in short bursts without losing focus. Write... deal with a child needing something.... write for another 15 minutes... cook dinner.... write for another hour before a resident teenager wants his midnight conversation etc.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just do it!
On the first day of art school (in Amsterdam in the late 1980s!) my own teachers "disabused" our whole class of some lofty notions: "Sitting by an easel waiting for inspiration to strike is not going to give the world any great paintings. A commitment to painting means showing up every day, getting out your paints and dropping into a process that can be very challenging and frustrating (even infuriating). There will be good days and bad days - but all of those days are going to be painting days".
That was good advice I always pass on to my own art students. I approach writing in exactly the same way.
Another good piece of advice is: write all limiting beliefs you hold about your own creativity on a piece of paper and then perform a ceremony where you burn and transmute those beliefs. (Ideally drum or rattle, have someone witness this, call on spirit allies to power the process etc.) Release those beliefs for once and for all!! Repeat the procedure if more negative beliefs float up over time...
There are tons of pagan books on the market, what do you think makes you stand out from the crowd?
My upcoming book was written in repsonse to the following two questions from people on all continents:
- Why does a book on shamanism and children not exist?
- And when are you going to write it?
So eventually I did and I discovered last week that Amazon has listed it as "a hot release in shamanism" with "best seller potential". I guess this means these people (I wrote it for!) are now pre-ordering their copies. I nearly fell of my chair when that notification popped up on my computer screen.
Which one of your books are you most proud of?
My one and only book so far::
Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages).