The seed-idea for blogs I write often comes from questions asked by students and clients. When I feel that the answer is of relevance to a larger audience – and if time allows – I will write a blog based on my answer (stripped of all personal dialogue or details, to protect the privacy of the people concerned).


One important question I received this week is about Northern or Nordic prayers and/or rituals that can be used as an alternative to Christian templates. The number of people who no longer feels any resonance with the teachings of the Christian Church is increasing steadily.


Important side comment: I personally separate Christianity off from the teachings of Jesus Christ – Christ was neither a Christian nor a member or founder of a “church”. I would just like to acknowledge that today there are many people who work with Christ Consciousness and Christ Light in beautiful ways, without involving themselves in the Church or following doctrines created by the early Church Fathers (who had their own agenda).


When a parent, loved one or family member dies we suddenly come face to face with a vital (possibly overwhelming) question: do we actually want the Christian-style funeral of the dominant cultural tradition in our society – or would a different ritual be a better fit for the deceased, on the level of soul and choices they made while alive?


The key thing here is to always honour the wishes of the deceased. If your brother was a practicing Christian in life, his needs will not be served by you giving him a Pagan funeral that reflects your own life choices and spiritual belief system!


This principle can work the other way as well: if you are a practicing Christian but your partner, parent or child was a committed Heathen or Pagan, giving them a Christian burial may be tempting, “bringing them back into the fold” and easing your own anxieties (about eternal life and destinations in the afterlife) – but it is not right on the level of free will and honouring other people’s soul choices. It is simply not respectful (and it could upset the trajectory of a person's soul in the Afterlife!)


I am aware that over the centuries the Church has operated rules around this: some people were excluded and (tragically) buried outside the walls of the graveyard (e.g. suicides, the excommunicated, unbaptized children and lunatics). This caused unbearable stress to those who loved and survived those people – because the church teaching was they would now not make it to Heaven. So much for the core Christian teaching of compassion – a less indoctrinated person might well say… - My own Roman Catholic father organized an emergency baptism for me after my mother came close to dying in childbirth. He was haunted by the fear of his newborn baby girl dying, forever banned from Heaven, and he could not sleep until “the deed was done”. The local bishop (a close friend of my grandmother's) took care of it as a "spiritual emergency".


However, if the deceased person had a Pagan or Heathen orientation (and/or ancestry) and you wish to honour that as part of their final journey – you are going to be looking for prayers and guidance.


When Death sneaks up on you unexpectedly (as is often the way of Death) you may have to make crucial choices and suggest viable alternatives (to the priest or religious officiant) at very short notice indeed. You will be operating under a lot of pressure, wedged between your own need to grieve (and to keep on breathing!) and social pressures from key players in the life of the deceased (who may well try to hijack the proceedings based on a different belief system or cosmology).


Now I cannot make it my business to offer advice on all possible traditions but what I can do is to present some material from the Nordic area.


Quick factual and geographical explanation: Scandinavia refers to only three countries: Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The (larger) Nordic area also includes Iceland, Finland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The ancestral wisdom teachings of Northern Europe that I study and share with students come from this larger area!


If you are (somewhat) familiar with the key texts of Northern European traditions one options is to search the following key sources for words or passages that speak to you:


-   The Poetic Edda

-   The Prose Edda

-   The Kalevala


Below are some stanzas (only an extract, not the full text) from “The Death of Lemminkainen” from The Kalavala.


The Kalavala consists of ancient Finnish songs and poetry collected and woven together by Elias Lönnrot. It immediately became the national epic of Finland (especially the area Karelia where most of the material originated). It was instrumental in the development of a cohesive Finnish national identity. This ultimately played a role in Finland’s independence from Russia in the year 1917. The version most commonly known today was first published in 1849 and consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty folk stories (Finnish: runot).


What it expresses so well for me is that the building blocks of our physical body have been, at one or another, (part of) every conceivable thing: the water that makes up our blood has been rivers, clouds and oceans. Our bones have been earth, shells and pieces of rock. The air that passes through our lungs has travelled all over the world. The cellular building blocks of our body hold ancient memories of being winds, animals, mountains and stars! It gives me great comfort to think of the physical matter that makes up my body being set free and returning to being all of those things again!


(You may want to edit out the reference to the realms of the wicked Hisi – but please remember that older gods and spirits were often demonised by the new religion – that being Christianity in this case – so we cannot take these references to “wicked demons” as a fact. Another option is deleting the word “wicked” – follow your own intuition and spirit guidance on this please!)


Taking courage Lemminkainen
Spake these words in supplication:
"Ukko, thou O God above me,
Thou Creator of the heavens,
Put my snow-shoes well in order,
And endow them both with swiftness,
That I rapidly may journey
Over marshes, over snow-fields,
Over lowlands, over highlands,
Through the realms of wicked Hisi,
Through the distant plains of Lapland,
Through the paths of Lempo's wild-moose,
To the forest hills of Juutas.
To the snow-fields shall I journey,
Leave the heroes to the woodlands,
On the way to Tapiola,
Into Tapio's wild dwellings.

"Greeting bring I to the mountains,
Greeting to the vales and uplands,
Greet ye, heights with forests covered,
Greet ye, ever-verdant fir-trees,
Greet ye, groves of whitened aspen,
Greetings bring to those that greet you,
Fields, and streams, and woods of Lapland.
Bring me favor, mountain-woodlands,
Lapland-deserts, show me kindness,
Mighty Tapio, be gracious,
Let me wander through thy forests,
Let me glide along thy rivers,
Let this hunter search thy snow-fields,
Where the wild-moose herds in numbers
Where the bounding reindeer lingers.


One Norse prayer that can easily be found on-line is the (so called) Viking Prayer.


“The Viking Prayer

“Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother,
and my sisters, and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people,
Back to the beginning!

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!”


Please note that there are a number of issues with this: the Viking Age lasted from (roughly, give or take a few decades) the year 800 to the year 1100. Therefore a prayer from 100-110 AD (assuming that the dating is accurate – the original must been written in the runic script of the Elder Futhark in that case), cannot be called “A Viking Prayer” by any stretch of the imagination! It could also be that the dating is wrong or that someone made a mistake typing in the date, somewhere along the line).


The second issue that in the Northern (or Nordic) way of thinking people do not all go to the same place after Death. There is not “One Heaven” for all souls. Valhalla (the correct spelling is Valholl in Old Norse , with a "hooked o" or so called "o caudata", so here we have another superfluous Latinized “a"!) is Odin’s hall for the slain, the warriors who die on the battle ground. It is not for people who die a “straw death” (meaning of old age) in their own bed. Therefore it is unlikely to be a good fit for your elderly parent, aunt or uncle…


Having said all that, it captures the human desire to be reunited with loved ones after death. It is a beautiful prayer that can be amended to suit your loved one, for instance (the substitutions are mine - please try your own!):


“Old Nordic Prayer” 

(with substitutions)

“Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother,
and my sisters, and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people,
Back to the beginning!

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,

In the Halls of the Vanadis!

Where the big-hearted may live forever!”


One issue with Norse Cosmology is that the goddess Hel is said to receive a large number of dead people in her Hall. The Christian Church appropriated her name to create the dreaded realm “Hell” and for that reason her name strikes terror in her minds until today. This is a form of cultural appropriation or theft and the goddess Hel has nothing to do with Christian depictions of “Hell” as a place of eternal damnation. - Having said that, I can’t imagine many pagan or heathen funerals, in a culture drenched in Christianity, where the word “Valhalla” is substituted by Hel, or her realm Niflhel.


Here it is worth mentioning that other Norse goddesses had halls too:


Fensalir is the Hall of Frigg (please note not Frigga, as that is a Latinized version of her name, not true to the sources. For the same reason it is Hel and not Hela).

Folkvangr is Freyja’s Hall and Freyja is the Vanadis (the great goddess of the Vanir tribe of gods).

Søkkvabekkr belongs to Sága.



On my current 2-year program in Seidr, in Sweden,  I have one participant, Valarie Budayr who recently gifted our group a magical evening of “rune and Kalevala singing” and she played the kantele for us. The YouTube video below shows someone (not Valarie) playing the kantele:

 "Säkkijärven Polkka" played on a five-stringed kantele:



Valarie literally transported us to Finland – it was extraordinary! I asked her for a prayer and here is her reply, reproduced with her permission:


There is a Karelian rune song which is based on Aino dying and transforming.  This song is sung or recited when one is remembering one’s mother. It is sung when a mother dies and leaves her children. Regardless of how old the children are. We are never ready for our mothers to leave us. This song doesn’t mention the Kalevala specifically but is one of the songs that has evolved from it. This song is also sung as a lullaby from a mother to her child. This is a song about transformation whether a transition to the next life and world, or a warm welcome into this one.

Here are the words in English:


If I knew


If I knew you walked in front of me.

I would run, I would run after you.

Oh, if only I knew you were in front of me.

I would run, I’d run so fast after you.


If I knew you came, you came behind me.

I would sit and wait, I’d wait for you.

Oh if only I knew you came behind me,

I would sit and wait, I would wait for you.


If I knew you were here, here beside me.

I would go and stand, I’d stand beside you.

Oh if only I knew you were here,

I would go and stand, I would stand beside you.


You are in my hair while I eat.

You are in my heart while I drink.

You are under my foot, in my sleeves.


And I feel when you come from the front.

And I feel when you come from behind.

And I feel you by my side.

All I know is you are in my mind.


Additional credits from Valarie:

Thanks to Keith Bosley for the translation into English and a very special thank you to Sari Kaasinen. 


This is a vast topic and I have only scratched the surface in this blog. If you happen to know any beautiful Nordic or Scandinavian prayers or sacred texts – please write in and I will add them to this blog so people can find them at their critical time of loss and need.

Below is a Norse-inspired prayer I wrote myself:


May Jord, our Giantess Earth Mother

Receive your body with tenderness

May Sol or Sunna, the radiant Sun

remind people of your authentic light

so you see, in all realms

May Freyja embody your passions

be an ambassador for all the love you gave

and received

May Baldr reflect your beauty and brilliance

anchor the teaching of rebirth and resurrection

May Bragi, god of poetry

sing your praises

weave incantations to guide you home

May Thor guard you on your travels

in all realms

May Heimdall watch over you

as you cross Bifrost, the rainbow bridge

May Frigg unlock the door

to the Divine mysteries and Homestead


Whenever we pass a body of water

We will see your face reflected

In Mimir’s Well

The Well of Wisdom


Hail “name”!

Received by the gods

Loved and missed by us humans

Remembered and honoured

As an ancestor from today


And last but not least: here is a video I made in Sweden in 2017:


On one level this short art video is about the Dreaming of a Mother Bear. On another level it is about dissolving separation between humans - animals, self - other, ancestors - future generations, inner world - outside world and so forth. In the final reckoning this short film is my living will as it communicates my wishes for my own death and beyond.

Imelda Almqvist, London 2 July 2019


Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Sacred Art and Seidr. So far she has published two books: Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) in 2016 and Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism) in 2019. She has presented her work on both The Shift Network and Sounds True. She recently appeared in a TV program titled Ice Age Shaman, made for the Smithsonian Museum, in the series Mystic Britain, talking about Neolithic arctic deer shamanism. Her third book comes out in 2020.

 Imelda divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She has just finished her third book “Medicine of the Imagination: Dwelling in Possibility” and has started her fourth book "Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation". Her students are currently urging her to write a book about The Runes!