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Death as our Ally

Lady Death Watercolour art by Roberta Orpwood

Shamanic Medicine Painting: Lady Death

When did Death become so alien to us?

When did Death become something we all must fear?

Why do we perceive Death as a Taker and not a Giver?

What does it mean to live with Death as our Ally?

Maybe the answer to this question is never to be answered but rather to be ‘Lived’ and experienced through the Spirit of Life!


I propose that it is time to build a new bridge to make peace with this Spirit. I also propose that maybe, just maybe, we have misunderstood this vital and natural force that we call Death.

She is the initiator. She is the Mother. She is the Darkness and the original Spirit who accompanies not just a few but all of us through the Gateways of Change.

She doesn’t just visit when our Souls move on from Earth; she’s there as an Ally from before we are born all the way through Life to Death and Beyond. The Little and the Big Deaths.

Do you not recognise her energetic signature?

She was there at your birth, guiding your Soul from one world to another. She was there when you entered puberty; she was there when your heart was broken, through the dark night of the Soul, through all misty and fog-filled days, job losses, moments of losing one’s mind, loss of self and soul she sat quietly and patiently gifting you with lights and pathways to follow.

She never shoved you, pushed or cajoled you to ‘change’, to move on, to transform. No, the natural evolution of your Heart has always known when to shed your old skins and become brand new. The responsibility has ALWAYS been with us. I find it curious that we as humans perceive that Death comes to STEAL us away, to rob us of what was ours, cutting us away from everything we know.

We demonise Death as a Thief.

When did we abdicate this responsibility, believing that we are at the mercy of some terrible dark force that has no care for our well-being but only a pungent dark smell, a spirit longing to cause us harm and mal-intent, laughing in our faces as it reels with pure pleasure from its terrible deeds stealing souls?

It doesn’t make sense to me, nor has this image ever visited me in my ‘meetings’ with Death.

My painting shares a vision I was gifted by Lady Death herself. She is the ancient eye, an Elder that guides and grants you safe passage. You’ll see two doorways in the shape of the holy Mandorla, the almond shape to her left and to her right. These are the Spirit Canoes, her choice of Safe Soul Transportation. The Mandorla is also named Vesica and is the intersection between two whole circles. It is the Unity point, a doorway that is symbolic of the intersection between the Divine and the material world.

The stairways within these canoes allow you to question where these passageways lead to.
Are they entering or exiting?

All Spirit Gateways, in my experience, have guardians of keepers. In this case, not only does Lady Death stand as a space holder for these sacred doorways upon her shoulder, but you’ll see that a Spirit Crow rests. Crows have been honoured in many mythologies as Psychopomp beings (Guides who escort Souls to the other side). In my own dance with Death, Crow has played a vital role in gifting me with messages to call out when it is time to ‘move on’ or ‘let go’ of something in my intimate circle.

And whilst we speak of Psychopomp Beings, for the years of actively participating in Shamanic Psychopomp ceremonies, where I am able to assist souls of the deceased to their rightful Home, I have very often been met by the Spirit of Honey Bee. The Bees often used their medicinal Honey as a balm to soothe distressed souls before showing them a pathway Home. I have witnessed the reflection of Light that emanates from the Spirit of Honey in the Light that emanates from the Soul of a Human Being. My painting couldn’t have been created without honouring these ancient and wise spirits who also assist us in making that pilgrimage Home to ourselves again and again and again.

And where would Death be if it weren’t for our beloved physical friends of the insect kingdom? The ones who literally decompose dead matter. Upon Lady Death’s cloak, Insectoid creatures are hard at work doing what they do best. These beings are symbolic of the same process that happens on the energetic level when we go through a process of transformation, an initiation that forges us in the fire, birthing us into a new form. These little critters are the additional allies we can work with to dismember and decompose what needs to be transformed.

These can be worn-out ways of being, outmoded belief systems, dissolving our clingy grip upon our ‘formed’ identity – our ego. At every stage of the big and little ‘Deaths’, you are not only met with the one Great Guide, Lady Death but also the small ones who act as the ‘gentle-munchers’ quietly and slowly getting to work on all those things that you have declared you are ready to release! As I say, the responsibility is always ours to CHOOSE to transform… and we can do so the easy way, or the hard way.

This is where I believe the misunderstanding about Death comes in.

We have simply forgotten that WE ARE NATURE. We are here to evolve, not just forward but outward. That means a continual expression of expansion. I don’t think I have EVER seen a human Being defy that Law of expansion and evolution. It is part of our very nature to be in the Spirit of Change ALWAYS, which means are we not masters of the Spirit of Death already?

If Change is our constant, then the Spirit of Death, who is indeed the Harbinger of Change, is, in my experience, one of our closest confidants on our Soul’s journey through not just this life but the next. She is perpetually giving us a Gift of release and renewal.
The more we resist her gifts, the harder this sacred pilgrimage is perceived because we are standing arms folded with eyes closed, choosing to be blind to what is so natural to the very nature of the Human Soul.

Hence, the Labyrinth that Lady Death holds near her heart. The Path of the Heart is a symbol I have spoken about in one of my previous paintings. It represents the one and only path that you will never be lost upon, eternally returning Home to your Heart again and again.

The candle she holds is yours. This Sacred Flame is symbolic of your Soul’s journey here, with a little nod to our human-crafted perception that ‘Time’ actually exists. Time is cyclic in nature, which is why Lady Death shares a strong message, requiring fierce faith in that which we cannot see: a deep inner knowing that when it is ‘our time’ to move on from this form, she who knows the ancient lullaby of our ‘Homecoming song’ will ultimately be the one who lights a new candle again, making sure that the continuation of our Holy Flame actually never goes out.

Same Flame, different candle. Same Soul, new life. Same body, new consciousness. Same Heart renewed Spirit.

There are many more elements in the painting that I would love to ramble on about, but I feel that this is a good place to close so that I may leave room for the next doorway to be opened for a similar yet different topic.

This painting is not just an honouring of this sacred spirit but also dedicated to all Souls out there who are choosing to show up to their sacred appointments of Life, holding their heads high, feeling the challenge and doing it anyway. To the ones who are grieving for lost loved ones, for old versions of themselves, and the ones who are only just starting to get a glimmer of who they truly are.

May this painting be a reminder that Death is not something we are to fear or resist but a strong Ally that we are to embrace as an Elder of our Clan, one who knows how to navigate difficult terrain and, therefore, one who may be our eyes through liminal spaces, gracefully making sure we exit as one Whole Spirit.

I would love to hear how you perceive this painting and what it evokes within you.

With all my love and thank you for reading,

***To clarify, this personal sharing of my own awakenings is not an elevation or worship of Death but rather a sacred call to consciously revisit our personal relationship to the Spirit of Endings and, indeed, beginnings. If we are able to open our hearts to the possibility that actually, we are masters of transition, then maybe we will, in turn, embrace Life more fully, knowing that there is nothing to fear and we are never alone.