My mother’s parents are in the process of dying. I say ‘in the process of’ because that is what it is. This is no tale about going to sleep one evening and being found the next morning. Nor is it a tale of gasping breaths, tethered to a machine. They are simply leaving this world, more slowly than they entered. At the same time, just recently a friend lost his mother in a series of complications arising from something that should not have been lethal. She wasn’t even 60.

Kristin Madden’s Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying has been on my shelf for months now, and I finally pulled it out and gave it the attention it deserves. This book is far more than a guide to the process of dying; it is also a guide to living. We are reminded, gently and with compassion, that that death is not an end but a more of a "change of address".

The Shamanic Guide . . .  is filled with useful meditations on such things as how to contact someone who has died, how to access information about your past lives, and how to cope with grief in a society that is consistently at a loss when confronted with negative emotions. There is clear, practical information about how to prepare for your own death.

Madden provides the reader with a complete system of meditations, exercises, rituals, and ceremonies to use to help loved ones through the “gateway” to the next world. She stresses the importance of understanding other people’s worldview, so as not to cause them undue stress at this critical time. Succinctly: “the modern shaman must be able to understand and communicate between varying belief systems. No longer is everyone in our communities of responsibility part of one shamanic culture. Shamans and shamanic practitioners are often called to heal and guide people with radically different views from their own.”

As always, the writing is concise and easy to follow, very much like having a conversation with a good friend whose been there before. Along with Ashleen O’Gaea’s In The Service of Life, The Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying is highly recommended. Get them on your shelf.


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Kristin Madden

Spilled Candy Books, 2005 (rev. edition)

$19.95, pp. 320