Last night an old friend came to me in a dream.He has been a genuine soul-mate, both before and after his earthly passing.Our affair of the heart was stormy, but in matters of spirit he always drew me to my best self.I blocked him out for many years, but for a while now have been aware of his benevolent and supportive presence.And he is not the only one.On the periphery of my awareness there is a veritable cloud of witnesses, as one sacred text refers to those who have crossed over.I don’t seek them out so often as I simply know them to be with me and part of me.
Not unlike contemporary Pagans, ancient Egyptians had a complex set of ideas about the afterlife which often look like contradictions without study and reflection.After the weighing of the heart in the Hall of Maat one might ascend to the sky as an “imperishable star” along with other ancestors.Or one might face defeat by the monster Ammit should the heart be out of balance.Most Egyptians simply hoped to live in comfort and happiness in a new world beyond.Those of a more religious ilk imagined detailed journeys through the Duat, including encounters with all manner of beings and neteru (gods).They understood this trip to be an alchemical sort of transformative process, describing the path of spiritual development.
We stroked his head and ran our hands along his body. He purred. We looked at him directly in the eyes and we sang songs. He purred. We told him of mice and birds and long summer days that would not end. He purred. We held him close, so very close, as the needle pierced his skin. The purring stopped.
The last few days have been filled with tears and with fond remembrances of our dear cat, Bear Claw. He lived for almost twenty years. I have children that have never known a time before Bear Claw. Simply put, he was part of our family.
I spent the last year of his life as a care giver of sorts. As his health failed, I cleaned up after him. I helped him up to his favourite perches around the house. I carried him out into the warm sun on my shoulders and made sure his "apartment" was warm and comfortable. He and I spoke about how and when his life would end. We had an agreement that when the good days were outnumbered by the bad days, we'd part ways mercifully and quickly.
It's Faithful Friday, and we have a cascade of articles on how faith — Pagan, Heathen, polytheist, or Christian, Muslim, Buddhist -- affects our lives, our planet, our societies. Theology of Ebola, What Would Krishna Do?, introverted Paganism, honoring our ancestors, and a Pagan Time Capsule fill this edition. Enjoy your weekend!
Is sickness an indication of divine wrath? It's not a trivial question, as demonstrated in this article from Slate on how the Ebola outbreak in Africa is influenced by belief in the omnipotence of the Almighty.
Lugnasadh, or Lammas, marks the end of the grain harvest, the time for celebration as all the crops are in. Yesterday, I walked in the Cotswolds, and I saw a great many ripe but un-harvested fields. In other years, I’ve seen it all come in well before Lugnasadh, and I’ve also seen the harvest fall much later. In wet summers, the crops can fail, and there is nothing of the grain to celebrate.
For me, this highlights an issue of Pagan disconnection from the Wheel of the Year. We celebrate the grain harvest at Lammas (the name means ‘loaf mass’) but most of us will not have been involved with the harvest, or even have an inkling as to when it happened in our locality. Not all areas are grain growing either. Does it even make sense to celebrate this festival if you live in an upland area that grows sheep, not corn?
Many of us have the opportunity to honor lost loved ones on this holiday. I myself lost my beloved grandmother on Memorial Day weekend in 2010. It was always striking to me that she chose then to go, considering that she was a proud DAR sister who would always enjoy the parade. One year she helped scatter flowers from the bridge to float down the Fox River, in remembrance of veterans lost. I recall attending some of the parades when I was very small and we would go to visit. We would line up in folding lawn chairs along the sidewalk in from of her house, as that was where the parade would march past. I remember getting very riled up when I would hear the first booming of the bass drums and the rat-a-tat-tat of the crisp snares as they approached. I would be hopping from foot to anxious foot, waiting for them to get right up in front of us so that I could be enveloped in the wall of sound and lost in the rhythm of percussive thunder.
If you are one of the fortunate ones who do not have to work on this particular weekend and can get away with friends or family, a tribal drum circle can be a fun and empowering way to bond and raise some major energy. I have employed this at some Memorial Day family gatherings in the past and it proved quite effective. First, make sure that you let everyone attending know in advance to bring noisemakers, hand drums, shakers, maracas, what have you. Bring extras of your own if you sense that guests are in short supply. You can fashion a homemade shaker out of an empty plastic bottle filled with popcorn seeds in a pinch. Ideally, this is an activity best performed after a good feast and everyone's tummies are well-sated. Make sure that everyone has beverages to stay hydrated. Sometimes drum circles can take awhile before they are ready to settle down! If you are able to drum near a lake or other body of water, it can prove very inspiring. My favorite time to start is right at dusk, when the sun is turning the sky to magic time and the moon is on her rise. One year because of various planetary phenomena, the moon was a brilliant shade of pink that I don't believe that I have seen since.
We were lucky this time, here in the southern highlands of Appalachia. The punishing winds and the ice and the sleet passed us by, as surely as if we had daubed the doorjamb with lamb's blood. What we got was a lazy eighteen-hour snowfall.
From the snug window, we watched the small light flakes pepper the landscape, relentless, implacable. There were separate periods of light or no snow and then the snow-globe world would return. The streetlight reflecting on the snow made the front room almost as bright as day.