As someone who wrote a book about Seidr, people often associate me with working with the dead. Mostly this is the ancestors but quite often I also work with the recently passed. My practise can take various forms including mediumship, communication, and shamanic journeying to the realms of the dead.
However, where necessary, I also perform “Death Doula” rites.
This, to me, means inviting contact with recently deceased spirits to help them understand and come to terms with their death and support their next steps, whatever they may be.
This doesn’t always involve death, sometimes I’ll be asked to work with those who are still alive but unable to communicate in the conscious way. That could be people in comas or other unconscious states.
Often people aren’t aware what’s happened to them, particularly if they entered that state suddenly. By either journeying to their consciousness or requesting their higher self to come to me briefly I can explain and help them find their way back to life.
It’s important to recognise in death doula work, you’re not making any demands on the spirit, instead you’re simply helping them understand their situation and guiding towards their options.
I find work with recently deceased spirits to be vastly different to working with ancestors.
The distinction for me is not just the amount of time that person has been dead for (although this often plays a factor) but the amount of their mortal self which remains.
Working with ancestors and the dead takes a certain amount of intuitive belief. There’s no way to study exactly what happens to a soul at death or even the nature of what the soul is. Many cultures have come up with their own beliefs and systems.
I couldn’t begin to tell you what you should believe. Unfortunately, this subject by its very nature needs to involve a level of fluffiness and lack of solid facts and research.
But here’s the way I perceive it.
Death falls off in layers, starting with the mortal body. We then begin to shed the fears and anxieties of our personality centred life. When someone I love passes, I can almost feel these anxieties and fears as they fall. I catch them as worries of my own – concern for loved ones, reminders of possessions I might have forgotten about, and replayed discussions.
After the fleeting energy layers slide the humanity of the person starts to recede. Those crazy emotions we sometimes consider to be flaws and the jumbled human inner monologue.
Sometimes people say, ‘the dead don’t get wiser on death’ and that’s true, but wisdom can come from sloughing off the part of us concerned with the mundane and every day.
As the people we love and remember start moving on and/ or dying themselves less of the personality they associated with us remains.
Our core, the energy which made up our essence re-joins the bubble of soul energy it burst from. Strong characters make strong ripples. Firmly felt memories create shadows. Sometimes a soul will have made such deep connections in this life it joins a different soul mass to the one it sprang from.
We view the ancestors as faces of a pool of soul mass and as we’re reborn we come out of the bubble with the markings of all the ripples and shadows within it whether that part of the soul energy is removed and reborn or not.
Working with the recently deceased feels very distinct to working with the ancestors.
Sometimes a disaster will leave the veil between the worlds of the dead and living slightly thin for a while. There are natural times of year (for example the period between Samhain and Remembrance Day in the UK) where the veil is thinner.
At present we’re living through a time where the levels of death are consistently high for a sustained timespan.
The veil isn’t so much thin as shaped into a new form.
Working with the recent dead is an important job. It provides comfort for those who are grieving their loved ones but also for the dead themselves.
However, with so much death around it’s hard for those of us who work with spirit to use the same techniques and rites we normally would.
I’ve chosen during these times to step away from death work and to focus on ancestors instead.
If you need or want to continue working with the dead during the pandemic however, here are some tips:
Be specific – work with one soul at a time and reach out to them directly (inviting rather than commanding of course)
Instead of communicating between the living and the dead, focus on helping the living to forgive and process the memories the dead spirit is holding onto. Allowing those on this plain to slough off those human emotions also helps the dead move forward.
Use lots of barriers, whether that be circles or other ritual protection. Make it clear where your boundaries are and who is welcome to cross (and not)
Keep your aura and personal warding strong. Creating a link with the dead shines a light on your abilities and existence. Time is not the same in death as it is in life.
Ask for energy from deities and ancestors, but if you’ve been designated death doula for your group within this time don’t be afraid to ask directly for extra energy from them too.
Avoid open mediumship type events and refuse all contact with spirits during times you haven’t ritually designated as working space.
Invoke ancestors to take on some of the support work for you.
Not only are we living through a time with high numbers of deaths; we’re also dealing with a process which reduces the ability to say goodbye.
Covid sufferers may not be able to see loved ones before they pass. Funerals are small and exclusive. The steps which allow the dead to feel seen and important and heal are not always available.
For funeral celebrants this involves more creativity to find ways to allow the release of energy associated with the dead from the living.
This could take the form of burning candles or releasing biodegradable ‘wishes’ into the wind. You could encourage the family to spend longer before the funeral collecting stories from loved ones to use to create a longer eulogy or memory board.
Whilst humanity has lived through pandemics before, we live in a different world to the one our ancestors knew.
The way mediums managed death work during, for example, the First World War, would have had different focus. It was more important to let loved ones know of the death than to ensure a community goodbye for example.
The adjustments we make within our death doula work can only come from us. There’s no historical precedent in existence to use as a guide.
We must use intuition and support each other during these unusual times.