Pagan Paths

Profundity, profanity and frivolity; the business of serious thinking and joyous expression through the wisdom and traditions of the Celts in the company of Kristoffer Hughes, Head of the Anglesey Druid Order.

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When the Last Leaf Falls - Betty's Funeral

Betty Powell was a Pagan, she made me laugh, well, not just me, she brought colour and spectacle, bewilderment and perplexity, joy and laughter to many a life. 

Betty was a Pagan, and a damned good one at that. But, two weeks ago, Betty turned her face from this world and crossed over to the edge of forever, she was 83 years old.

Her story began over 8 decades earlier. As the sun rose, warm and bright on the 27th of May 1932, a babe cried with its first breath and took in the air of our world. Her first breath was to be the first of a million breaths that would last for 83 years. From that day on the Universe had a new set of eyes and senses by which to experience the many wonders and joys of life on Earth. She grew up, fell in love, mothered children and became a grandmother. In life she could never settle, her myriad homes were always at the ready for packing. Invariably her life would be a series of boxes and removal vans, but she found such happiness and joy in the simple things, nature, flowers, walks, her dogs and her love of being a Pagan. 

She led a colourful life with her musician husband Roy who played piano, whilst Betty sang. They trawled the scene for years, travelling abroad and performing to audiences all over Europe. She was a mother, a friend, a colleague, a grandmother and later she was a Pagan. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to know her. 

Betty came to Paganism later in life, around the age of 68. She loved the ritual and drama, she adored long moonlit nights on the beach, with a small company and a fire. Each Samhain she would be the crone, a part she played so well and she would speak words of wisdom that rose from the darkness of winter - 

"I am the crone, 

I am death and destruction, 

I am pestilence and plague, 

War and terror, 

I am the dark face of the mother, 

I am corruption and decay, 

But from decay comes regeneration, 

I am the crone, 

You may fear me, but also love me."

We had adventures, oh gosh we had adventures, the memories of which make me smile, and yet they are also touched with melancholy. The last 5 years were not easy for her, and she could no longer attend our gatherings. She moved 50 miles away to be nearer her family as she grew older and her health declined. And yet, she was never too far from our thoughts. Eventually she was no longer able to drive, and inevitably things started to slow down. She developed vascular dementia and slowly but surely the decline took hold, until broncho-pneumonia caused the falling of her last vibrant leaf, and she left the experience of being Betty. 


It has been a strange day, smiles of memories and yet tinged with the sadness of her loss. The sun shone brightly as we followed her coffin into the crematorium to the voice of Damh the Bard singing 'Lady of the Silver Wheel'. I led her funeral, she lay in her robes (the very same one she is wearing in the picture above) in a coffin painted with sunflowers, it was the gayest coffin I have seen in a while, a fitting receptacle for her. As the company left the crematorium I took to the back, behind the scenes to help propel Betty into the purifying flames that would consume her mortal remains. It felt done, as if I had tucked her into bed, and bid her a fond farewell. 

Her family gave us bags of her possessions, a wand, athame, her collection of books and pagan jewellery. Bags full of memories.  It felt so peculiar pulling each item out from the bags, each one holding its own unique memory. 



I write these words, as Betty's body becomes the beautiful flame, and I am aware that the eyes that read these words probably never met her. But I am different because of her, I am changed because of her, and it is the sacredness of relationship that brought about that change. We impact on each other, we all affect one another. There is magic there, so much magic. 

Betty Powell was a Pagan. She was bonkers, eccentric and touched by fabulousnes. She will be missed. 

What is remembered lives. 

May she be remembered. 

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Kristoffer Hughes is Head of the Anglesey Druid Order in North Wales. He is an award winning author and a frequent speaker and workshop leader throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA. He works professionally for Her Majesty's Coroner. He has studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and is its 13th Mount Haemus Scholar. He is a native Welsh speaker, born to a Welsh family in the mountains of Snowdonia. He currently writes for Llewellyn Worldwide specializing in Celtic studies and death and bereavement.


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