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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in death

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Words for Loss

My mother died early this morning, following a long illness and a rapid recent decline. In her spirit, I offer these words, taken from the Portland First Unitarian Church service last weekend. It's important to remember that all life passages are holy, and all are a cause for celebration, and honoring.

 

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Dear Susan, I am so sorry for your loss. If you feel the need/desire to talk, call me 888-724-3966. I lost my dad and mom as a yo
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you, Anne....
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you, Natalie. I appreciate it....
  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    So sorry for your loss - may your mother's journey to the Summerlands be swift and joyous.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

the south altar, dressed for the wake

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    And bless you, my dear, for always being there to do what needs to be done for your tribe. "The owl flew low tonight. The hare kne
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Priestessing really is a service industry. :>) Thanks, dear one. Your kind words--and beautiful quote--brought a few tears.
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks, dear sister. May she be well remembered.
  • Hec
    Hec says #
    May the Goddess guard her. May she find her way to the Summerlands. May her friends and family know peace. http://www.youtube.c

The air is cool, the mists swirl, and the veils are thin…its the time to listen to our Ancestors as we honor our departed ones.

Many seekers of different paths honor the life/death/life process and venerate their Ancestors. Traditionally we honored our Ancestors to maintain familial relationships and heritage and also to learn-divination is performed at Samhaim and during the Day of the Dead so that we might get insight on the year ahead.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
And so it begins

I've written before here about how, in our household, Samhain starts early.  For us it begins at the end of September, during the week when we've repeatedly lost beloved pets and on the day when, two years ago, I pledged my service to the Wild Hunt.  This year, that day was marked with an inadvertent bloodletting when the Hunt, not satisfied with the efforts I had made thus far on their behalf, aided me in slicing open the knuckle of my right index finger almost to the bone with a pair of sewing shears.  (Followed, of course, with a expensive trip to the emergency room and several weeks of limited ability to do anything--including typing and crafting--with that hand.  The Hunt does not play.)  

It continued the following week when I made a trip to one of the city's oldest cemeteries (and bear in mind that here on the west coast, "oldest" means the 1800s, and the most ancient looking monuments, crumbling with apparent age, are not truly ancient at all but merely rain-damaged).  I brought with me home-brewed mead and bone meal, to feed the dead, and locally harvested apples for Sleipnir, Odin's giant eight-legged steed.  (Eight legs, by the way; have you ever thought about that?  Why does He--the horse, that is--have eight legs?  Spiders have eight legs.  So does a casket, when borne aloft by four mourners.  Sleipnir is, indisputably, a horse of death, a steed to carry one to the land of the dead--which, throughout the Norse myths, is exactly what He does.)  I discovered an area devoted to the Civil War dead, which startled me because it seemed the wrong coast for that, but the monument statue of a soldier in uniform and the plots of the military dead exuded an aura of welcome for me, a kinship with the "once human" contingent of the Hunt, with Odin's fallen heroes.  Here was succor and support, and so it was here that I marked the stones with my blood, freshly drawn from my finger (not the one with stitches!) using a lancet.  (The dead were especially interested in and enthusiastic about the mead, by the way!)

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    Another excellent post! I'm looking forward to both our celebrations, and I'm thinking that splitting them up as we have this year
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    I found a small pomegranate at the store this weekend and bought it, so I should do something. Just no idea what. Some of it is be

 

O, yes, it is nearly Samhain. Oya is crashing north- and westward, Her winds clearing the path, driving the waters ahead of Her. And I am composing an invocation of the Morrighan and have purchased a perfect, fat pomegranate. It is so tempting to tear it open and taste the sweet wild seed-fruits, to quench my thirst as Persephone did and doom myself to a dual-life. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
"Death came suddenly and it was mercilessly painful. You are aware you have passed: you can hear the keening of the women in your family, taste the metal of the oboloi in your mouth. You are no longer cold, or hot, and there is no pain. Sensation is for the living, and your memories start to fade already. You are no longer part of the living. You are dead, and your guide is waiting for you. 
 
Hermes Psychopompos, the winged guide of the newly dead, descends and takes your hand. Below you is the ocean: Oceanos' divine body. You used to watch it glisten in Helios' bright rays, but today, everything is dull and lifeless. You are speeding west, guided by the blessed Immortal. Below you, you can see land again and a mighty river. The land draws you down, and you stand on the ground without feeling it. It is here that Hermes Psychopompos leaves you, in the capable hands of Kharon, on the bank of the river Acheron. 
 
The ferryman looks old and ageless at the same time. He holds out his hand, but you can't understand what he wants from you. Then, his hand closes around a coin, and he steps aside to let you into his boat. Without moving, you are suddenly on the boat, looking to the shore where shadowy figures of the dead gather, longing to make the journey with you. But they have no coin to hand over, and are forced to wander the bank of the Kokytos river year after year, until the ferryman takes pity on them. Today is not their day.
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Two fascinating insights deepen our understanding of death and Samhain, which honors its sacred dimension.  In one of his essays on nature poet Gary Snyder made a point I have never forgotten. 

An ecosystem is a kind of mandala in which there are multiple relations that are all-powerful and instructive.  Each figure in the mandala – a little mouse or bird (or little god or demon figure) – has an important position and a role to play.  Though ecosystems can be described as hierarchical in terms of energy flow, from the standpoint of the whole all of its members are equal.

   . . . We are all guests at the feast, and we are also the meal!  All of biological nature can be seen as an enormous puja, a ceremony of offering and sharing.

As I was finishing a chapter in my forthcoming book, Faultlines, I encountered a compatible observation by Carl von Essen regarding what he called the “hunter’s trance.”  Von Essen wrote 

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