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When I was a kid I was obsessed with fairy tales and mythology. My public library was a wonderful resource of Greek mythology in particular, and I spent countless hours reading and identifying with the themes contained within.

In a lesser known fairy tale (I believe it is German), Death becomes Godfather to a small boy. His father had many children and wanted his child to have Death as a Godfather because he was fair… and could help his son to become a famous physician. As is the case in most fairy tales, the child grows up and eventually deceives Death several times, resulting in him being taken to the Underworld and being shown the candles of each person alive. How much was left on that candle was how long the person had left to live, and Death ends up snuffing out the candle of his godchild to teach him a lesson.

For years after reading that fairy tale I looked at people and could see or sense that candle. How much light that person had, what sort of spark they had… When I got older, I could actually see the fire, the flame.

Although I realize this sounds a bit odd, what I was realizing at that early age was basically how much energy or life force the person had within them. The difficulty with this is that there was no way to sort of test my understandings or what I was seeing. It is also true that with modern medicine that someone can have their life prolonged far beyond their “candle” being near its end. When I worked in hospice I saw this quite often. There also was that inevitable “spark” near the end when the candle is nearing the end of the wick.

I also saw when I worked with depressed patients that it would appear that their candle was near its end, although it was not– it was more like there were clouds and smoke and candle wax covering the flame so that it couldn’t burn quite right.

When I started doing psychopomp and Spirit Release work more heavily, I found that I was having trouble adjusting to the work. Not because of the nature of the work, really… but because when I completely immersed myself in the dead and the spirit realms that I had trouble adjusting to the living. I have a tendency to become really immersed in what I am doing and what I am learning for a period of time, which for working with spirits can be quite unhealthy. It took me quite a while to find balance with the work, and to learn how to have both a “regular” life as well as a “spiritual” life (yes, they are the same, but I need to go out to movies and go to the grocery store and if you are immersed in death-type energies that can be difficult).

But one of the oddest things about this time period is that I began to see death masks in people. This only happened to me in flashes, and I know that some people have this ability consistently (and mine flickers) but I began to occasionally see the death masks in people, as well as the possibility of them passing. This would be like a quick flash when I would look at the face of someone. The “death mask” is essentially what a person will look like when they pass– how their face would look, basically, in a state of death.

I do realize that this sounds morbid to probably quite a few of you reading, but it just puzzled me when it happened. A Spiritual Teacher I was working with told me about death masks, which helped with the confusion, but it did not answer the “how” or “why” it happened. Especially because this was not (and is not) a dominant ability of mine. This ability has since waned since I no longer work in hospice and have a bit more balance in my life (I am thankful for this, actually), but I have now worked with a few people who see this on a more consistent basis than I do or have.

Even more commonly people can see or sense death.

This can be the archetypal “Death” figure, Grim Reapers, and other beings/spirits/animals (such as vultures and crows) associated with Death. Because we live culturally in such a fear of death having a spirit guide that has to do with death tends to be rejected by people (even though we are in dire need of people who can work in realms such as this) and it is extraordinarily rare with such a focus on “lightwork” that people want to consider anything such as working spiritually with death.

On the other hand, there are people that tend to be a bit obsessed spiritually with death. Not because it really calls them but because it is “edgy” or different. There will always be people who want to shock– we actually need them in our culture.

There are also “lightworkers” who talk about death and death practices but make up all sorts of puritanical and odd rules about it which is not really that helpful to anyone. The subject of death, or our own personal death, still creates a lot of fear of the unknown in people, so a fair amount of the new-age movement is either focused on creating a lot of illusion about death and how wonderful it is because the person writing about it knows everything about what will happen when we die (my cardinal one rule for spotting a fake teacher is basically them saying they know everything about a specific spiritual subject… no matter how much we have explored we only know so much, and will realize that if we truly are exploring spiritual realms rather than trying to make ourselves feel better)… or they will come up with practices that make us “immortal”. Sometimes the same teacher does both, which I always find interesting. They state that we are not supposed to fear death, and move into it consciously, and then in the next breath will talk about how we can become immortal.

But anyway, there are others out there that can see and sense death. Either as a sort of sudden realization when looking at random people, in dreams, or seeing images like a filmstrip of the passing of others… either specific individuals or dreams or realizations about natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and so forth.

This can naturally be quite disconcerting for people, because it tends to happen randomly. This ability seemingly is not something that can be “trained” like most abilities, and there can be a few reasons why people have it.

  • Like myself, they can be naturally highly sensitive and be immersed in spiritual practices that allow this ability to arise
  • It can be a natural result of being sensitive/psychic and having death as a trigger– basically someone in your family has died, or you have come into contact with death fairly regularly and begin to see this. I talked about this with a hospice nurse once who was not terribly psychic but she sometimes saw death masks in people
  • It can be a call towards “dark” work– meaning doing psychopomp work, healing work- such as hospice or working with death in some way, work with nature, work with spirits
  • It can be a one-time occurrence associated with being in a sort of liminal space when a relative/family member passes or is going to pass
  • It can also be a one-time occurrence if you are in a sort of weird state where you are processing a lot of shadow-type work

So for this ability generally I am not talking about one-time occurrences. Sometimes I get emails from people stating that they knew that their (insert family member/friend/pet here) was going to die and when once, and they are wondering what it means. If you study the energetics of death and dying anyone who is sensitive will sense about two weeks before someone is going to pass that their time may be close. Other people who are more sensitive might even have an understanding of when and where. This is true especially for someone that is close to you, and is often a random one (or possibly two) time occurrence for people.

What I am talking about here really is an aspect of clairvoyance that is specifically focused on seeing death… with an aspect of precognition thrown in (which tends to be a clairvoyant faculty).

It is the looking at people in a supermarket and being able to sense that they will be in a motorcycle accident soon. It is the seeing of the “death mask” of people randomly on the subway. It is looking at that candle in someone and realizing that it is a bright flame or that it is near the end of its cycle.

It is an ability that tends to come and go and can be troubling and difficult for the experiencer. It can be a sense of knowing (claircognition) but is, when it comes through strongly, a faculty of precognitive clairvoyant faculties.

There can be training and skills that can be developed for those of you that experience it, in some regards. Even though it can be quite random there is at least understanding to be had.

But more than that there is peace that can be experienced through this ability. Death is really one of the (if not the) greatest fears that we have individually and culturally. It holds us back in a lot of ways. People who experience this can transcend this fear of death. Most people who have this ability tend to freak out (and rightfully so, even if it just has happened once) and close down this capacity, but it really can be understood and is an opportunity for the individual to release one of the biggest fears that most of us have.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are interested in working with psychic abilities, I suggest my book, Managing Psychic Abilities. I do not answer emails unless they are about my books or programs.