Intersections: A Pagan View of Modern Culture

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Twelve Healing Stars: Scorpio, Death, and Justice

Twelve Healing Stars is a yearlong project in cooperation with the Temple of Witchcraft that explores social justice through the lessons of the 12 Zodiac Signs.  This is part two. To see previous posts, click here.

You don’t have to be a witch, or even care a whit about astrology, to feel the death and darkness that permeates Scorpio. The dying energy of the sun as it slips toward the winter solstice has become undeniable.  We begin to turn our headlights on as we drive to work, and we have less time to walk the dog in the afternoon.  The land around us, especially the trees, has begun to give up its life force as it prepares slowly but surely for its annual death.


We tend to avoid all thought of death in our culture.  Most of us die in hospitals, where doctors do little more than pronounce the time we crossed, advise loved ones to make arrangements, take off their latex gloves, and move on to their next patient.  Bodies are transported by professionals, stored mostly out of our reach.   Cremations are done in secret in an effort to protect us from pain.  When my grandparents died, they were carted away by strangers, and their ashes were scattered at sea. They requested no funeral because they wanted to protect us from grief. I know that story isn’t unique.

But when you deny death, you deny life.  This study, published by the Society of Personal and Social Psychology, suggests that those who contemplate their own mortality end up living happier, more satisfying lives.  They make better diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.  It’s also good for the world.  Greater death awareness, says the research, “Can motivate increased expressions of tolerance, egalitarianism, compassion, empathy, and pacifism.”  In this sense, just preparing for and discussing your death with your loved ones and helping others do the same.  It creates change both within and outside you.  It is an act of magick.

Reverend Elsa A. Elliott, a High Priestess and the Scorpio Lead Minister in the Temple of Witchcraft, sees death from both a practical and magickal point of view.  “Part of the work,” she says, “is to inspire us as humans to contemplate our own deaths and communicate with our loved ones about how we want decisions made regarding medical care and other end of life concerns.”  By doing so, we are interacting with the touchy subject of death in a real-world way that can stimulate a happier life while we are living.

At the same time, says Elliott, we must work on the inner planes.  She emphasizes that, “Another aspect is spiritual and magical,” and advises “doing meditative pathworkings to journey to the underworld and interact with the ideas and inner landscapes that are related to death.”  That way, we are prepared and fully conscious of death’s reality on both the physical and magickal planes, living a higher quality life in both realms.

Death and social justice

In my last post, I shared a personal spiritual belief of mine that most of us on a Pagan path will probably resonate with on some level.  In my view, and in my experience working with my own ancestors, we all return to some place of spiritual unity - a common source - after death.  Differences in life cease to be important.  It doesn’t matter whether you were Christian or Muslim, witch or atheist, the source is the same.  We share experiences, learn lessons from each other, and wish the best for our descendents.  All of life’s illusory separations disappear, and all souls return to a shared space in the other world.

Imagine living in that eternal source, understanding that all of our separations are false, if you were a person who lived a life of anger or injustice.  How do history’s most awful, selfish, or ineffective people feel once they have to wander through eternity knowledgeable of how they wasted their time on this planet?  Perhaps if you believe in reincarnation, they have the opportunity to learn and grow in their next existence.  Healing those souls is social justice for the future of the world.  If you don’t believe in reincarnation, then perhaps healing them can inspire you to live a more just and effective life the same way that contemplating death can make your life more fulfilling.

Further, there are those who have died in the name of injustice and those who have died as its victims.  In the fight for racial equality, there are names such as Medgar Evars and Martin Luther King, Jr., among many many others.  In the fight against homophobia there are people like Matthew Shepard and the ancestors of Stonewall.  Whatever the cause you believe in, there are people who have either dedicated a full life or died to defend it.  Working with them can be a source of greater inspiration for a path of justice in your own life.

At the same time, healing those who died to advance the cause of injustice is equally necessary.  Elliott works as an “unconditional mediator” for the dead, helping even the perpetrators of injustice cross over and “incorporate their experience.”  Hopefully, this kind of work allows those souls to learn and heal, so that in their return to this world will be one filled more with love and less fueled by narrow minded barriers and harmful actions.  “It is not the mediator/psychopomp’s job,” she says, “to cast judgment.”  

Part of working with the dead for social justice is to heal those who were the most unjust in their lifetimes.  It may be unpopular, but it’s a powerful practice that holds the potential of long-term healing for the people of the earth and the planet as a whole.  Ultimately, don’t we want the causes we cherish to last beyond our own lifetimes?

Physical and magickal action

Since we know that facing and preparing for our own mortality can inspire us to live better lives here on earth, this time of Scorpio is a good time to start really thinking about what you want for yourself after your death.  Talk to your loved ones about your wishes. What do you want your loved ones to do with your remains?  Some forms of body disposal are extremely damaging to the environment.  Standard burial involves a spectrum of chemicals that harm the ground, to the extent that graves are lined with cement partially to keep them from seeping into the ground.  Elaborate coffins add to the problem.  Normal cremation pollutes the air.

Elliott offers a number of resources to explore as you contemplate your final disposition.  Consider a green burial in a biodegradable casket.  There are other options.  Turn yourself into a gemstone or an ocean reef that helps feed living sea animals, or bury yourself at sea to return yourself to the ecosystem.

In the magickal realm, Elliott suggests journeys to the underworld.  “Walk with psychopomps” and “experience the path your soul will take when your body dies.”  Psychological research agrees, emphasizing that, "the dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.”  Any good life includes an element of working to better the lives of yourself and others.  

Build up energy for this intense work.  Consider taking a vow of silence for a day.  Be alone with your thoughts and truly contemplate your life’s path and which of the world’s many wounds you wish to heal.  Explore your ancestry and ride the waves of their previous work or staunch the bleeding of any injuries they caused.

As always, once you’ve completed your magickal work, you meditations and inner healing, bring it enthusiastically into the physical world.  As Rev. Elliott says, “Contemplate your own death. What do you want to be remembered for? Go and do that!”

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I am a teacher, theater lover, and witch who loves both reason and magick. I believe that all things are connected, so I strive to write about connections between Paganism, pop culture, science, and the arts. My work was published in the Ancestors of the Craft anthology and in Finding the Masculine in the Goddess’ Spiral.  


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