Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

cup of death

Death and I have always held a peaceful relationship.  The presence of his symbols, so frightful to so many others, have always been for me, a salient reminder of  the ephemeral nature of life. I am going to die.  That truth brings me no fear.  There are many ways of dying that fill me with dread, but what comes after that is a mysterious wonder.  While I hold a general belief in reincarnation and in an afterworld, I remain open to the possibility of being totally wrong.  Perhaps those with a pantheistic viewpoint are correct and one day my decomposed bones will return solely to the earth.  I see no reason to stress upon something that I can’t possibly know until the day comes.

What I do know is life is short.   My great aunt was 88 when they found her lying in bed, a book left open on her chest, a smile on her face.  She’d lived a long and beautifully-filled life.  But she wasn’t able to finish that book.  Which is yet another reminder that I will never be able (at least in this form) to do all I wish to do.  Books will go unread.  Films unseen.  Foods untasted.  Places unvisited. Things undone.

What I can do is prioritize.  I don’t see any reason to make myself finish a novel that I’m not enjoying.  Those are put aside to perhaps be picked up another day when I might be in a different mood.   Forcing myself to finish a plate isn’t going to help any starving child anywhere.  If someone invites me to do something that I really don’t like, I tell them honestly that that just isn’t my kinda thing, but thank you very much, perhaps we could do something else together another time.  Rather than forcing myself to do something out of a false sense of obligation, much better they take someone who might actually enjoy the experience.

Time is precious.

Never will I waste it on any of the various inane debates that exist online.  If people can’t accept what works for them may not for everyone, that is their problem.   My ego isn’t so fragile that I need to explain or justify my life choices in order to receive an “okay” from complete strangers.  Instead, I’ll be laughing with Sam Vines and Granny Weatherwax (thank you Sir Terry Pratchett, and RIP), studying language, diving deeper into the paths of Tarot, taking a stroll enjoying the hot sun on my skin. Rereading Wuthering Heights or Carmilla or Little Big.  Or maybe I’ll be just sitting back watching  my son smile as he plays with his fascinating fingers.  Because that’s one of the best things of all.

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Walpurgis Night- observed on April 30th in Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Estonia, Sweden and elsewhere.  A night when children light candles and play tricks on their neighbors.  A night in which Catholics honor Saint Walpurga.

Celebrated by modern day pagans as the night of witches.

“Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.” ~ Bram Stoker, “Dracula’s Guest”

Gustav Meyrink's Walpurgisnacht

“WILD HUNT (Ger. wilde or wüthende jagd; also wildes or witthendet heer, wild or maddening host; nachtjäger, night huntsman, etc.), the name given by the German people to a fancied noise sometimes heard in the air at night, as of a host of spirits rushing along over woods, fields, and villages, accompanied by the shouting of huntsmen and the baying of dogs.” from 1900 The International Cyclopaedia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge, Volume 15.

Occuring exactly six months after Samhain, Walpurgisnacht is considered to be, the “other Halloween”, as it is also a time when the veil opens between the worlds of the living and the dead. It is on this eve that German witches were said to meet upon the Brocken.  This, the highest of the Harz mountains,  famous for casting enormous shadows of a person into the mists below.   There they would pay honor to their “devil” and celebrate the coming of spring. It is also on this night that the Wild Hunt ends. The collected souls, taken by the Goddess Holda into the earth so they may be reborn.

it is a time for speaking to those on the otherside.  Of divination and magic.  Of daring a glimpse into the dark.

Goddess Holda wild hunt

Walpurgisnacht- A lovely time to call upon Hecate as she has also long been associated with the Wild Hunt.  Roaming the nights with her sacred black dogsGoddess of the crossroads, the moon, sorcery, and ghosts. She who rules in the underworld, earth, and heaven.  She, Queen of the Witches.

hecate

Goethe’s Faust: “To the Brocken the witches ride…” (“Die Hexen zu dem Brocken ziehn…”)

The lovely DD who runs a wonderful blog (which you should definitely check out) recently wrote this post: http://fillingspaces.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/do-you-believe-in-ghosts/ which inspired me to write of an incident which occurred a few years after my nana’s mortal death.

Before I write of that incident, one should know the kind of woman my nana was.

In a word, she was a class-act.

One memory which sticks out very much happened during one of my visits home. Which incidently, was the last time I ever saw her.

During a family gathering, she was introduced to two female friends of my sister.

Driving home, the conversation proceeded as such:

“X and X are such lovely girls,” said nana.
me: “Yeah, they’re really nice.” (pause) “They’re a couple.”
Nana: “Yes, I know.”
me. “I mean, they’re not just friends.”
Nana (turning to glare): “Do you think your Nana is stupid? That she doesn’t know what goes on in this world?”

To say that shame instantly filled me is an understatement. Here was a woman who’d lived through the Depression, saw her husband go off to fight in World War II, raised a little boy alone until he thankfully came home, worked as a secretary in a school for the blind, saw presidents assassinated, men walking on the moon, the civil rights movement, womens sexual liberation, Vietnam, Korea, black and white t.v. with one or two channels expanding into cable. The Hays Code to All in the Family to HBO. Walls built, and Walls torn down. The fall of leaders, and the rise of the internet.

But she might not realize someone is gay??

Really!?

Yes, I’d insulted her.

But luckily, she wasn’t one to hold grudges.

Since she has passed, she’s come to me often in dreams. She rarely speaks, but just her presense is a comfort.

Your own thoughts many would say. But I don’t care what others think. I know.

And she’s come to me in other ways.

Some years ago, after coming home and having dinner with my husband, he broke out with “Uhm, uh….btw…uh, when you were out….uhm, that music box of your nana’s started to play on its own.”

me: “What? My nana was communicating from beyond the grave, and you’re just telling me now??”
hub: “Well, you said you were hungry.”

As one can imagine, I was quite disappointed not to have been here at the time. But a few days later, in the early hours of the night, her music box, with two white swans atop, began to turn on its own, and Für Elise began to play.

The windows were shut.
There was no breeze.
There was no banging anywhere in the apartment complex. No loud stomping.
No animals or children to have bumped into the commode.

“Nana?” I said.

There was no answer.

Only the beautiful tune we’d both loved so much.

It happened on one more occasion. Home alone, feeling a bit blue after receiving a rejection (the hazzards and realities of being a writer!) when the music began.

All I could do was say, “Thank you.”

A lovely “yay! Persephone has awoken and spring is here”- day. So did I go to a park? Stroll down the city streets to window shop? Why, no. I jumped into my clothes and headed to the nearby cemetery.

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As I wandered about, I was struck by a statue of what appeared to be of a statue of Buddha. This being a Christian cemetery, I found its inclusion interesting and quite lovely.

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My gaze then turned to the next plot and while reading the headstone, my heart sank. I was reading the epitaph for a child who’d died in 2007 at the age of seven. Included on the headstone was a photograph of a smiling, chubby-faced little boy. I won’t include that photo for sensitivity reasons and respect to his family who might not want his name and face made public in such a way. But here is a picture of another little stone included at his site:

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(“In Memory of a Wonderful Person”)

While I’m certainly no stranger to the reality of young lives being cut way too short, coming face to face with it (so to speak) by such a terse, elegant statement hit me hard. AFter paying my respects, I moved on, walking about until another gravesite called me over to it. It was a joint plot for a husband and wife, born 1897 and 1898, respectively. Both had been doctors. Then I noticed the little grave beside them. It was of their child who’d they lost at only one years- old. No other children were mentioned or buried by them so I was left to wonder if they hadn’t been able to have any more, or had purposely refrained so not to possibly face such pain again.

I wandered on, reading more headstones, noting the sites left bare, and others adorned with fresh flowers. The tended graves and the ones with overgrown weeds. Even though the graves of the children stayed with me, I left that day with a feeling of peace and gratefulness.

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Sonnet 98

by William Shakespeare (1609)

“From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.”

“It was always when I first opened my eyes that the desired ideas thronged upon me.”- Sir Walter Scott, author of Ivanhoe, amongst other classics

“I woke with a start and witnessed, as from a seat in a theatre, three acts which brought to life an epoch and characters about which I had no documentary information and which I regarded moreover as forbidding.”- Jean Cocteau on the dream which inspired him to write the play, The Nights of the Round Table

“When he lay down to prepare himself for sleep, he no longer sought amusement, but printable and profitable tales.” And his dream producers accommodated him. He noticed they became especially industrious when he was under a tight deadline. When “the bank begins to send letters” his “sleepless Brownies” work overtime, turning out marketable stories…And for the Little People, what shall I say they are but just my Brownies, God bless them! who do one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep, and in all human likelihood, do the rest for me as well, when I am wide awake and fondly suppose I do it for myself. That part which is done while I am sleeping is the Brownies’ part beyond contention; but that which is done when I am up and about is by no means necessarily mine, since all goes to show the Brownies have a hand in it even then.”- Robert Louis Stevenson describing how the dream process and his fairy helpers who he called the Brownies, helped inspire him to write his famous works, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

Whether ideas spring from one’s subconsciousness or from outside Muses, it is at this threshold between physical reality and sleep that epiphanies so often arise.

Why is this so? The hypnagogic state (defined by Merriam-Webster as the period of drowsiness preceding sleep) is the time when lights, flashing colors, geometric shapes, familiar and unfamiliar faces and scenes flow before the near-sleeper’s inner eye.

Author Robert Moss in Dreamgates calls this borderland, The Twilight Zone. He further writes, “Active dreamers tend to spend a lot of time in the twilight zone, even whole nights. In everyday life, the easiest way to embark on conscious dream journeys is to practice maintaining full awareness as dream images rise and fall during twilight states…As you spend more time in the twlight zone, you will discover a notable increase in both your creative activity and psychic awareness. Going with the flow of spontaneous imagery in the twilight zone puts you into the stream of the creative process. It puts you in league with your creative source, mediated by mentors who appear to you in the half-dream state.”

Whether it be for artistic endeavors, strategizing business, or scientific breakthroughs (Einstein stated his theory on the relativity of time came to him immediately upon awakening one morning) one of the best things one can do is to learn to utilize this borderland. To do so, get into bed early, before you are so exhausted that you’re bound to fall asleep right when your head touches the pillow. Try to stay awake and watch the colors, the lights, the shapes and scenes flow before your eyes. You need not do anything but try to stay alert as long as possible until you enter a trance-like state. At some point you will either fall asleep, or consciously enter a lucid dream. But that is a post for another day.

-sources. Robert Moss’s, Dreamgates

As Halloween approaches, I wished to continue my theme from last week.

For Italian Witches, or those who follow the spiritual path of Stregheria, the pagan holiday of Samhain is known as, Shadowfest. ( La Festa dell’ Ombra). On October 31st, the deceased return to the world of the living for three days until they depart again on the second of November.

As hosting a Dumb Supper is traditional for some witches, it is customary for Sicilians to gather at the graves of loved ones and leave them food. One of the most traditional foods to be served is fava bean soup. Since the days of the Roman Empire, the bean has been associated with the dead due to a single black mark on the white petal. Bowls of the soup are left outside at the witching hour for the spirits to enjoy, and then buried when the sunrises.

Today in Italy, it is common to eat fave dei morte sweets shaped as skeletons. While modern Sicilians also partake in sugary figures shaped from legendary heroes.*

This practice of honoring the spirits of the dead for multiple days can also be found in Mexico’s, Día de Muertos which also lasts from October 31st through November second. Skulls made of sugar, marigolds, and favorite foods are brought to the graves of loved ones. November first, Día de los Angelitos, is set aside to honor children, while the second day of the month, Día de los Muertos, is to remember the adults beyond the veil.

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* information from Raven Grimassi’s, Hereditary Witchcraft

Doorbells ringing.
Impatient knocking.
“Trick or treat.” Cute little ghosts and goblins and witches standing at your threshold, holding out bags to be filled with sweets.
While this is the image most conjure in their minds regarding All Hallows Eve, October 31st holds a very different, very sacred meaning to the hearts of many others.
Amongst other names…
Samhain (sow-en) to the ancient Celts and many modern Pagans
Shadowfest to the Strega

As the veil between the living and the dead lies at its most fragile, it is the opportune time for seances, scrying, and magic.
It is time to honor the God and Goddess.
But most of all, it is time to remember our ancestors.
We walk upon their bones every day. Their blood flows within us.
It was they who reaped and sowed, toiled in fields, built shelters, dared to dream and travel to new lands, survived and fought against slaveries and holocausts, and every day injustices.
Halloween is a night to say, “Thank you.”

And one does not have to be of any particular religion or spiritual practice to do so.
One of the most lovely traditions is to host a Dumb Supper. This may be done solo, or with friends and family in attendance.
If one wishes to host one, there are no rules. One may wish to call upon a few specific loved ones who have passed away, or their whole lineage. A general guidelines one may wish to follow would be to remember that the supper is for those who have gone before. Therefore, you may wish to cook your grandmother’s favorite meal, or dishes belonging to their ethnic background. Prayers belonging to the religion they practiced might be recited. Their favorite flowers bought. Their favorite pieces of music played.
The meal is served backwards….yes, dessert before the main course! Some even set the table in opposite fashion. In any event, once the food is served, the supper is enjoyed in silence, hence the name.

Once everyone is done, the remaining food is left overnight for the spirits to partake of their essence.
Afterwards, enjoy a night of magic filled with family, love, and remembrance.

Samhain