Pagan Paths

It’s a common thing to hear that there’s a difference between our magical lives and our mundane lives. In reality, we have the ability to step into ritual and devotion each and every day.

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Why Rituals Matter - My Public Grief

It was Monday, January 5th, 2015. I was working on a blog about daily practices when my brother sent me a message on Facebook. It simply and succinctly said "If you want to see dad, you better come now". If you've ever gotten that call or email, you know that life completely slows down and goes really fast all at the same time. I've tried to describe the feeling to folks that haven't had this experience and the closest thing I can compare it to is suddenly finding yourself underwater trying to have a conversation with a world full of people that are still on dry land.

The next twenty-four hours were a blur of phone calls and airports and moments of snatched sleep and worry and sitting awkwardly between two strangers and hurtling through the air at several hundred miles an hour. When I finally breathed fresh air again, I was seven thousand miles from home, in New Zealand, and just like that winter had turned to summer and the east was in the west and the moon was upside down.

Over the next five days I sat vigil in the hospice. I held my father's hand. I gave him water. I talked with him. I said goodbye to him. I said it each time I left his room. Sitting with my father as he was dying, witnessing him engaged in the process of his own death was not easy. And then, inevitably, I said goodbye one last time.

Mythically speaking, I felt like some modern day Orpheus, suddenly thrust into the world of the dying and the dead. During my time in New Zealand I posted updates on Facebook. Those daily messages became ritual. Each status update transformed into a spell connecting me to the Land of the Living that I'd left behind. Each response was a confirmation, maybe even an affirmation, that I would make it back some day but until then I was supported, held, and remembered. The symmetry of the situation wasn't lost on me; I was held as I was holding.


There were other rituals too. Each morning, about six, I'd wake up and make myself a cup of tea. I'd find a spot outside and sit. Leaning back in the chair or stretching out on the earth herself, I'd feel the early morning summer sun warming my skin. Those few moments of silence, of solitude, of sun reminded me that my journey to the House of Death was to be only a visit. I had work to do there, but it wouldn't be a long stay. 

Another ritual was the re-telling of family lore. You see, our family has strong Romany roots, and there are certain traditions that I've always known about, concerning births and deaths. For years I've carried these rituals forward but wasn't entirely sure if they were really part of our family heritage or just one of my father's "Big Fish" tales. Turns out that my uncle and one of my brothers have also been carrying on these rites as well. My uncle heard the stories from my grandfather, who in turn heard them from his mother and my Great Aunt. In the remembering of these tales we ensured that these rites don't disappear with us. We connected back to and honoured our ancestors long dead and to my father who was about to become an ancestor himself. 

A couple of days before my father died, I headed out to the Kaweka Forest with my youngest brother. We were making the trek to the volcanic hot-springs at Mangatutu and then hiking down to the Mohaka River several hundred metres below. Mohaka derives it's name from the Maori phrase "a place for dancing". We went there because it is beautiful. We went there to be alone. We went there because my father loved being out in the wild places of New Zealand. I did a full ritual there, called on the Spirits of Place, cast a circle, invoked the Elements, reached across the veil to Ancestors and Allies - The full on Witch thing. Much of that rite will stay private, at least for now, but I will say that I fully and totally leaned into that ritual. The familiarity of the words and actions were a great source of comfort and, if I'm being completely honest, it was a way to step into the flow of a situation where I had no control and give myself permission to cry and scream and make sense of what was happening around me and thus, transform my fears and anger and pain into something useful, something healing.


I've chosen to share my grief publicly, through this blog, through social media and through public ritual. In most cases, we in the modern day western society, have no professional mourners. We do not keen. We no longer wear black for a year. There are few social markers left that say to the world at large "Hey! I'm grieving here." We often tell people that are grieving, and I've certainly heard this recently that "it will be alright in time" and the agreed upon time limit seems to be roughly the three-days bereavement leave from work plus or minus about two weeks. Anything beyond that allotted time and the person is on the verge of being self indulgent.

I can tell you that my grief does not work that way. My step-father, who I was extremely close to died more than 20 years ago. A song will come on the radio or I'll be in some place that he was in and suddenly all of the grief comes back and I'm in tears again. I imagine it will be that much the same with my father's passing, but who knows, grief is not linear nor predictable.

Rituals and daily practice helped me navigate through the pitfalls and perils of arguably one of the toughest weeks in my life. For more than two decades I've created rituals and practices and for much of the past decade I've shared these practices with others. I relied on them heavily, where I expected to and in places that were completely unexpected. In those still, quiet moments in the morning, I thought of my teachers and my teacher's teachers and those that have joined me in ritual. I leaned on them them too.

Rituals matter. Practices matter. 








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I've been a practicing witch and ritualist within the Reclaiming Tradition since 2003. I love being in service with this community of witches and world changers.   My own practice, my own way of changing the world is through devotional practice. It's my belief that we can re-enchant our lives by re-framing the so-called "mundane" as sacred and divine. By imbuing the familiar with a sense of wonder and infusing daily life with acts of magic, we choose to consciously make all of life devotion. Whether we engage in large, public rituals or sink sumptuously into the pure ecstasy of eating a delicious meal by ourselves or meditating at sunrise, our daily rituals can draw us back into harmony with the world and each other.  


  • Pixie
    Pixie Friday, 30 January 2015

    My partner was in hospice and died in November and I'm also attempting to make death/dying and grief more public, so I made a cremation urn that is in an art show and I'm printing a zine about watching him die. It's hard. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Sunday, 01 February 2015

    Oh Pixie, it is hard isn't it. I simply love that you've taken the urn and made art from it. Talk about transformational!


  • Natasha Kostich
    Natasha Kostich Monday, 02 February 2015

    Thank you so much for sharing your grief publicly. I lost my wonderful father five months ago and while I am a Pagan I have chosen to honor him in our traditional Serbian way and wear black for a year. Thank you for the affirmation!

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Monday, 02 February 2015

    Natasha, I think honouring him in the traditional was is so wonderful.

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