Monday, December 03, 2007

Dying In The Dark Of The Year

It may be only me, but I think that a huge part of being a witch is confronting, meeting, teasing out, having conversations with, engaging, dancing with, negotiating with, and making love to your Shadows. Reading Jung is, for me, reading religion. My brilliant friend S., before she moved (reluctantly, Goddess, how reluctantly) to California, used to really help me to confront my Shadow. But this time of year is, I think, perfect for -- this time of year demands! -- confronting, engaging, meeting, staring at your Shadow. Right now, the winds are so strong here in Northern Virginia, that they are literally sucking at and pulling at my windows, trying to open them, trying to get inside and make me face what the cold and dark mean to me.

Well, the cold and dark mean to me precisely what I imagine they meant to my Swedish many-times-great Grandmothers: wildness, ecstasy, purity, and, death. I know in my bones that more than a few of my foremothers died due to cold, died trying to fend cold-hunger-crazed wolves from the cave, died coughing and hungry in the long starlit nights, died asleep and bleeding in the deep, dark cold of winter. But I also know in my bones how many of my grandmothers thrilled to those incredibly clear stars on these bone-chilling evenings, how many of my grandmothers laughed wildly skiing, skating, sledding over the frozen snow (solidified emotion), found ecstasy in the Aurora Borealis, danced under the light of the full moon on snow, made love under the long dark skies, conceived brave sons and daughters in the ice cold. That second group of grandmothers came to my aid when I was doing chemo; nothing made me feel better that winter than ice cold air, gulped as if it were, as it, indeed was, a restorative. I gulped it in like a life-giving elixir, the colder, the better.

And, as my v. brilliant friend E. recently remarked to me, "Well, this is the time of year for dying." S.'s beloved father died a few days ago, causing her to re-confront some of her own Shadows. My wonderful friend, R., aka the best cook in the world, called me last night to talk about a mutual friend, a witch, who is facing Death, that Shadow of all Shadows, and worrying herself beyond reason over its possible arrival. Then, we talked about the Day of the Dead ritual that she led this Fall. Thorn is confronting the death of a dearly-beloved cat. And, today, I was confronted at work with a colleague whose parents are dying, will he or nill he.

There are two things that we witches could do a better job of: helping young witches to access their religion and helping old witches to die. Odd, how we've got the middle part more or less figured out, but, the beginnings and the endings, not so much. Vague notions of the Summerlands. Vague notions of reincarnation. Occasionally, a real attempt to help a beloved elder cross over. This is not how a real religion deals with death. Here, in the long winter nights, I am calling for us to do a better job.


Art found here.

1 comment:

Anne Johnson said...

When my dad was dying I told the doctor to administer liberal doses of anti-anxiety meds and painkillers and all those worry remedies. In his last days of life Dad was seeing faeries everywhere. He was not unhappy. I take comfort in that.

Other religions have highly-trained professionals who deal with the dying, often giving great comfort where it is most needed. Witches either need to start their own school to train Pagans in these techniques, or we need to suck in our pride and go learn it from the Xtians and just apply our own rituals in place of the memory verses.