Flashback – Thursday photo prompt: Shelter #writephoto

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Image: Sue Vincent

I wasn’t sure how to respond to Sue’s challenge for the Thursday Photo Prompt. Then, a familiar image kept flashing through my mind (hence Flashback eh?). Only one thing to do, go with my gut instinct:

The two figures stood in the field staring at the cave entrance. Both were convinced they saw a figure gesturing to them from its entrance. The report had stated there were several anomalies to the witness’s version of events, disturbing ones at that. The Unit had assigned the case to two operatives who were familiar with nuances of the issue, you could say it was a specialism they excelled in. Dusk was approaching slowly from the west, it seemed to be heavy with melancholy. Totally in keeping with the mood surrounding this strange incident.

The man and woman made their way quickly down the valley and set up their climbing equipment. They managed to make it to the top in time to see the Sun disappear in a spectacular fashion beneath the horizon. Both hesitated for a while in front of the cave entrance. The darkness inside invited reticence and the adoption of a state of contemplation. Ephemeral images bled through their minds and the sense of poignancy and sadness increased with each intake of breath.

“Something” was waiting for them. Being Empaths they were hypersensitive to energies and moods in the environment but were able to filter them out. Not this time. They felt a strong presence brush against the boundary of their minds. It was almost, respectful, rather hesitant. It whispered their names in a yearning tone. So, so familiar. “Mara, Adam. Be welcome.” Again and again the voice called out to them. They couldn’t wait any longer and steeped over the threshold.

The sense of a luminous presence was incredibly strong in the main chamber of the cave system. Their eyes adjusted to the dimness once the torches were lit. Then, the shadows unfolded, flickered like candlelight. A face emerged from the smoky light, achingly beautiful and powerful in its lines. The being’s eyes blazed like a million suns and his voice carried the sum of the Universe’s wisdom and mystery.

He reached out to them, initiating a series of intense flashbacks. They saw the Universe sleep the sleep of eternal darkness, of the Divine Essence surveying its handiwork, and of the plan to further humanity’s evolution. They saw their death and rebirth. These images poured through their eyes and gathered deep within the chalice of the Soul.

The Presence waited in silence and attended to their emotional needs. They stared at him in shock, the enormity of the knowledge offered rendering them speechless. No wonder the witness was in such a state when they found him.

The Presence commented voicelessly “he wasn’t ready.”

If he wasn’t ready, were they?

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Journey Across The Sea: Part 2 Of The Living Vessel

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ARTsbyXD, Pixabay

I think sufficient time has passed now for me to return to the tale of the Living Vessel, who was last seen in January of this year in View Across The Water: Part 1 Of The Living Vessel.

It’s been an interesting creative journey these past couple of years, filled with periods of drought and then thunderstorms that have “greened” the inner landscape. Certain posts have paralleled my own growth over time, and inner guidance has manifested in significant characters on the page. The man in this tale is one such being. He follows in the footsteps of numerous students of the Greater Mysteries, a journey that can take a lifetime to complete and results in profound transformations within the psyche.

We last saw him being taken across the sea to an island for instruction by a hermit, Merlin as he was known in that incarnation. Why is this student so special? He is a living vessel for divine and terrible forces, chosen by the gods of his land for this important task. An unprepared person could be torn apart by the magnitude of what they were carrying, not so in this case, but he still needs guidance and instruction. The saga continues:

The journey across to the little island is free of conversation as both men are deep in thought. The plaintive cry of birds slices through the silence, as does the sound of water against the paddle. This venture is about more than crossing water, it is also a crossing from the conscious mind through deeper waters of the subconscious. With each stroke of the paddle the man who is known as the Living Vessel slides deeper into a trance. He finally understands the nature of silence and the necessity of hearing with more than the ears. Images flash through his mind, of things seen and yet to be seen. What a burden his task is becoming he thinks.

“You think too much. There is far worse to come and as yet you are unable to distinguish with clarity. Let go of preconceptions, they will only blind you to the truth. That is, nothing is real until you believe it to be.”  The Hermit speaks in measured tones, yet, there is an underlying tinge of humour in that gravelly voice.

The younger man blinks in surprise and then stares ahead. The island doesn’t appear to be that far but this crossing is taking longer than expected. The Hermit smiles at the turmoil going on within his student. Arrogance is thankfully missing in this one, at least two of the previous recipients fell from grace in a terrible fashion. Their end was an unhappy and bloody one, mainly due to the misguided belief of being greater than their fellow human beings. The gods were not pleased, berating themselves for choosing so unwisely. Their mistakes were burned on funeral pyres far from the temple precincts as sacred lore dictated.

As for this recipient of the Vessel, the prophecy was going to be proved true, he felt it in his heart. He had watched over the infant through to his entry into adulthood, the signs were present and irrefutable. A lesser person would have been unable to contain the full power of the forces handed down by the gods. Indeed, many did not live beyond youth. That was the past, as for the present, the story is yet be written of this Living Vessel’s adventures.

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ARTsbyXD, Pixabay

The island suddenly appears out of the sea mist and the two men make their way to the stone building at the other end of the island. It is eerily still and silent. It is as if the land is reserving judgement, observing this visitor to get their full measure. The Living Vessel has a name but their true name is hidden, for names have power and such power can be taken and manipulated. The younger man feels comfortable in this strange place, there appears to be neither threat nor fear present on the island. A good omen. The land undulates gently and hides many little gifts. He notices piles of pebbles gently balancing on a piece of driftwood, it captures the gaze and instils a sense of peace. The landscape unfolds in wonderful symmetry, grace and beauty. This is his first lesson.

The Hermit’s home is a plain building with lime-washed walls and large windows on four sides. The land surrounding is arranged into areas containing a herb garden, vegetables and flowers. The number of livestock is small, consisting of a few chickens, goats and pigs. It looks so normal on the surface. The Hermit stops to look at the younger man, his gaze is thorough. What he sees satisfies him. He opens the large wooden door giving access to his home. Shafts of light flood through the doorway and windows. The house consists of one large room, a living area which also serves as the kitchen. A mezzanine floor contains the sleeping quarters. The interior is simple and airy but potent with an abundance of light and sacredness.

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kellepics, Pixabay

Their evening meal consists of bread, cheese and salad vegetables. To drink there is homemade blackberry mead, a special offering to the student on his safe arrival. The conversation continues into the night, revealing hidden aspects of their characters as trust builds. The time for sleep approaches and they retire to their simple cot beds. The Living Vessel enters a strange dream world, filled with silence heavy with expectation. The air is thick with incense. Quiet chanting echoes from all around him. He sees something hazy in the distance, it becomes clearer.

He recoils in shock as the Veiled One manifests before him. Her eyes are closed and remain so as she foretells of things yet to come. Her presence comes with a great sense of terror, for him at least. She is one of many primeval Creator Gods, one who issues from the depths of the Void when called upon to prophesy. He kneels in humility, if not in abject fear. This is his second lesson.

 

Ancient Song – Thursday photo prompt: Valley #writephoto

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Image: Sue Vincent

My offering this week for Sue’s Thursday Photo Prompt.

A sense of something greater than the reality of this world washed over the priestly figure gazing out to sea. For as long as memory had existed his brethren had stood at the head of the valley to pay homage to the Solar Logos. They gave thanks for another day of life, of light and warmth. Daily they praised the mystery hidden deep within the heart of the golden orb suspended in a sea of aquamarine.

Rhythmic chants echoed into infinity, flowed and then swelled, encapsulating the beauty of a moment captured briefly. The Order lived for the recounting of a song conveyed by the Eternal Parent, one to teach their children the ways of Love and Beauty, but not of the material plane. They had transcended such things in the pursuit of a higher philosophy. Their flesh and blood carried the history of the people, for this is how the stories of the tribes were saved for future generations. For this is how the ancient song was taught and preserved.

The sacred rite performed at sunrise was steeped in mystic lore, one that enjoyed an honourable and long-lived lineage. It was said that the harmonics of such a song were capable of creation and destruction; being the key to unlocking doors long-held forbidden to all except those who had passed severe tests. One such individual now stood on the emerald-green grass.

He stood looking at the fingers of gold, peach and yellow unfurl and spread across the skies in a deeply intimate embrace. This moment of unending peace gave solace to his soul, for a brief time he found himself before the Veil shielding the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum in which resided the Eternal Parent. The One was neither male nor female but an amalgam of something more.

The vision was momentary, but sufficient to precipitate a transformation that could not be undone. As the Sun awakened, so did the song within the temple of his heart. It unfurled like the petals of a rare flower glimpsed for the first time, a sight worthy of celebration. The man swayed with the intensity of emotion flooding through him. These are the experiences of the mystic journey, the culmination of which is, transcendence of the earthly plane. It is a lonely journey, for the seeker on these paths is a solitary figure, becoming untouched by worldly matters as time progresses.

His voice trembled in the throat, deepening in richness and melody. The chant began, one performed in every temple since civilisation emerged and humanity laid its soul at the feet of supernatural forces. Arms were raised in adoration and eyes closed in ecstasy. A melody fell from his lips, each note moving sinuously towards the Veil before the Sanctum. Then, silence reigned, deafening in its loudness. The light pulsed and swelled in time with the song. It was the heartbeat of the Universe, raw and true in substance. This was the pinnacle of life as his people knew it. The Light within responded in joy to the Light without. Atom by atom he dissolved in the song, revelled in its embrace and words of comfort. “I am Ready” were his last words. The Ancient Song had been performed and existence for his world guaranteed until the next cycle.

Approaching Thresholds

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ulleo, Pixabay

I haven’t posted in a while due to being ill with a horrible bout of flu. A week is a long time in politics and even longer in blogging. This lurgy deserves to have all manner of nasty things thrown at it. It’s rendered me unable to eat properly, coughing like I’ve been smoking for years (I’m a non-smoker) and very tired. Today is the first day I’ve felt able to function properly and it feels goodish.

I’m reserving judgement until the virus is dragged screaming from my system and thrown through whatever portal it came through. A tad dramatic admittedly, but when you’ve had a raging inferno inside you there is no other option but to use harsh language. It passes the time and occupies idle hands.

The day’s been mild and sunny, which has lifted my spirits. Although there was one minor blip on my horizon. Our kitchen door has a habit of sticking and it happened this afternoon. I’d left my phone in the living room and couldn’t climb out of the kitchen window (either I need to lose weight or the window needs checking for malfunction); a valiant and embarrassing effort was made though. I managed to free myself eventually.

I was seated at the kitchen table consulting the Oracle and wondered whether this was a test. You know, to see whether I was taking notice of the messages being conveyed. My divination skills are rather rusty and ripe for refining. Illness has a habit of focussing one’s thoughts and attention towards the inner. Living in a world filled with a cacophony of noise can render you almost deaf to important messages emanating from your subconscious. It can also blind you to things that need to be noticed, prevent you from seeing through illusions, of situations and people not being what they appear to be.

The Oracle from the Magician’s Tarot (Quareia), Jan Malique

It feels like there are many thresholds approaching. Thresholds are intriguing places, both in the waking and dream states. They’re places of transition and transformation, and in architecture are decorated appropriately to denote their significance. They signify the separation of the profane and sacred, and are assigned guardians to prevent the incursion of those not prepared for the experience to come. They are also places through which we pass from consciousness to subconsciousness, we thus descend into the Underworld if the Guardians permit us to.

Which brings to mind the descent of the goddess Ishtar into the Underworld. There is no way of avoiding this fate if we’re to gain one ounce of self-insight.

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5477687, Pixabay

The unravelling is necessary but its power must be restricted once the objective has been achieved, that is self-awareness and self-mastery. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be permitted access to the doors waiting further on the horizon until further trials and lessons are completed.

The threat of destruction (either real or symbolic) is heavily infused with ambivalence, it implies sacrifice and is part and parcel of the journey. The process brings fear but should not be allowed to overwhelm us. I’m not seeing things clearly and perhaps allowing the fear of whatever destruction implies, it isn’t always something negative.

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Dustytoes, Pixabay

I’m a different person to who I was a year ago, and a year before that, and beyond that. The passage of time has involved the shedding of old personas, much like a snake sheds its skin. Transitions and Thresholds have come and gone. Like the Shaman I need to face the invader (either physical or symbolic) within my system and ask why it’s there and what it wants. What lessons are to be gained from the interaction?

Self-awareness and self-mastery? For that I need to commune with the beings populating the inner landscape and my own self. I look to my ancestral line for answers to present day dilemmas and the gifts they’ve bequeathed (for good and bad). My healing will benefit them, for that is the greatest gift we can bestow upon them. It involves reintegration at the deepest level. A positive endeavour don’t you think?

Old Gods, Old Journeys – Thursday photo prompt – #writephoto

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Image: Sue Vincent

My offering for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt:

Thy file past, hearts and minds filled with a multitude of wishes, sorrows, and joys. This pilgrimage has remained constant since the time of their ancestors and beyond. The land and its guardians have watched over this sacred site long before humans had even set foot on its hallowed earth. The gods changed faces and names over time, but their true essence was always present and unchanged.

The Old Ones watch from the other side of the Veil, see the sincerity, or not, of the passing crowds. Petitions and offerings are laid at the shrine, many imbued with feelings of desperation and hope. Humanity seeks cures for its ills, lays its battered spirits at the feet of its gods. Tears are shed, potent remembrances of lives fulfilled and potential unrealised. Their pilgrimages are often hard, last acts of faith when all else seems lost.

The Oracles and Gods of yore dispense their wisdom in dreams and visions, undertake new journeys in the furtherance of continuity. A fact not lost on the wise at heart and beleaguered of spirit. Suffering brings with it a harsh reality and clarity of purpose.

As for this shrine, the One with Three Names and Aspects stands guard, watches intently for the suffering of her people. They reciprocate, flowing like tributaries into the greater River of Life. One pilgrim falls to her knees, beseeches silently, grasps the hand of compassion and healing. Perched on the edge of a precipice she has no other recourse but to pray with her last breath.

It may be a modern world but the inherent nature of these people is written on stones in forgotten languages. It is an old, old tune. One sung and chanted under Sun and Moon, memorised intently and reverently. It is present in legends and histories that are hidden. Some say the Old Ones created their children of flesh and bone to sing their praises, and enact the divine plan on Earth.  Is this truth? Is this illusion?

Such things are of no concern to those who journey to these places of power. For they seek nourishment of the soul and healing of deep wounds. Who can blame them?

 

View Across The Water: Part 1 Of The Living Vessel

Image: Jan Malique

The month of the Crane was approaching, bringing with it mists from across the headland. His ancestors stood with him, gazing across the water to the sanctuary of the one known as the Hermit. The little white washed building stood on the remains of a temple dedicated to an unnamed deity. It was said this goddess had watched over his people from a time of cold and silence; when the world was frozen by the breath of ice giants. Or so legends said.

The Hermit had also acquired near mythological status, as people of his kind were often viewed with fear mingled with deep respect. His origins were unknown, but many kingdoms called him one of their own. Merlin was the name he answered to, although his true name was hidden.

The man on the shore had travelled for a year to reach this place. A year of hardship and danger, evading hostile forces, both human and supernatural. This was a time of warring factions, of cosmic and human battles. It was foretold by the Oracle that a time of balance was approaching, when choices would have to be made, and destinies shaped.

A sense of heaviness lay on the man’s shoulders, composed of a sense of duty and sacrifice. Sacrifice of things not physical but spiritual. He had undergone trials that would have broken someone with less resilience and humility. He had been forced to look deep within his soul and face its true reflection. Not an easy task. Self-insight never is.

During the most terrible moments of his sense of isolation the tears flowed like a raging river. As did his anger. Where were his gods when he needed them most? This state of abandonment had left him almost broken, shredded his humanity, left it bleeding profusely on the ground. Thus was he prepared for the task they had chosen him for.

He was marked as a protector of the ancient relic his people had been guarding for ten thousand sunrises. A ritual object their gods had dreamed into being, holding the power to transform, create and destroy. It had no physical form but resided within a living vessel. He was now the chosen vessel, bound by unbreakable oaths. So it was that this man was brought to the edge of an unknown land seeking his guide and teacher.

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Image: OpenClipart-Vectors, Pixabay

The Hermit felt the man’s presence and prepared himself. The instruments of his art were gathered and his fire replenished. The sky and water simmered, infused with the scent of storms and portents. He whispered his student’s name, let it snake its way across the water, and enfold the human in a protective cloak.

The man swayed as if in a trance, standing on the threshold of this reality and the ones beyond consciousness. The relic sensed the presence of the Hermit and throbbed in response. The man opened his eyes and saw the Hermit before him. He spoke but no words issued from his lips. He conveyed knowledge through signs and visions. Through song and silence. So was a connection sealed with the vessel and relic.

The man stood unseeing and unspeaking. Then the dream shattered, releasing illusion and falsehoods. He felt the weight of suffering vanish like mist in the rays of the sun. Merlin beckoned the student and both got into the coracle waiting on the shore. A mist rolled in swallowing the two men. The ancestors stood guard on the shore; for as long as their kin was under the tutelage of the Hermit they would be present.

Here begins the journey of the one known as the Living Vessel.

Thursday photo prompt – Distant #writephoto by Jan Malique

Image: Sue Vincent

Infinity rose in the East, place of greatest light, as the tribe stood in silent respect. The day of the Third Sun and hour of the Unfolding Future was upon them, initiating the rite of disintegration and reintegration. Such a ritual had been performed by the Elders and Way showers since this phase of their world began. A time measured in tens of thousands of years. The cycle of this age was now nearing completion, and the Tree of Life and Death waited in the Temple of the Sun for the delegation from the people of the Third Sun.

The tribe viewed this event as a necessity to keep the cycles of the Universe ebbing and flowing. It was their duty and carried out with devotion and steadfastness. The journey to the spiritual heart of their planet waited in the snow-covered mountain range. It called to those ones chosen to undertake this task.

The stone circle they waited outside was a portal into the gigantic outer court of the Temple of the Sun. For the whole planet was a sacred landscape, littered with smaller temples that acted as power “sub-stations.” The main temple was psychically linked with every inhabitant of the planet, with each tribe pledging fealty to one of three suns in this multiverse. Every moment of their lives, every act, every thought, was imbued with a sense of purpose and devotion. Resilience was their distinguishing characteristic, with souls tempered in the fires of their Sun.

The High Priest and Priestess of the main temple appeared at the portal to escort the delegation to the place of ritual. It took milliseconds, for time behaved differently inside these precincts. The inner sanctum beckoned, composed of pillars of gleaming crystal, in the middle of the hall stood a tree of grandeur and awesome power. It was a remnant from the beginning of creation, placed by hands unknown in the very belly of the planet. Life and Death played out within its branches, words of power were inscribed upon its leaves, forbidden to all except the initiated.

The leaves shivered in expectation of the rise of power. The people of the Third Sun stood in a circle around the altar that was the Tree. Sound issued from the pillars of crystal, vibrating molecule upon molecule. The circle contained immense energy, powerful enough to incinerate millions of stars and galaxies. The time of disintegration was upon them, dismantling the Universe as it waited for the moment of transition; for death was an inadequate word for what was coming. Helices spun and transmuted as the skies turned to fire, all this and more was reflected in the eyes of the ritual participants, nine in all. Then silence descended upon the Universe, it held its breath, as darkness gathered, embraced its kith and kin. All mourned and then rejoiced.

Light bubbled over from the centre of the Tree and gathered up the remnants of all that was lost. Atom by atom the matter of the Universe coalesced, integration had been achieved and the time of the First Sun had begun.

Twittering Tale #67 – 16 January 2018 – “The Tree”

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Photo by veeterzy at Pexels.com

Kat Myrman has presented us with a marvellous challenge this week in Twittering Tale #67, a thing of beauty to be praised in my opinion. To that end here is my offering to the World Tree:

Deep in the Forest lies the origin of All
Seen in dreams and visions within sacred pools
Guardian of the Ancestors, Bestower of Resurrection
Sacrificial temple
Tree of Life, bearer of the Worlds
Let us proclaim your beauty
Let us proclaim your sovereignty
Hail Proclaimer of Mysteries!

(279 characters)
1510584710974

 

Searching and Knowing

Image: rodro, Pixabay

One of my interests (amongst many) is shamanism, both ancient and modern. I’ve speculated much on what exactly happened in the depths of caves, why ancient humanity was driven to paint such beautiful and puzzling images in the darkness of such places.  As well as the nature of any rituals that were enacted. This is my take on one such incident, of course mere speculation but intriguing all the same:

We seek the ancestors in places steeped in time, recollection and memories. The cave holds special fascination, sacred and ancient place of seeking and knowing. Spaces in which the Elders and Holy ones undergo transformation. They bridge the worlds, call to those who would offer up their flesh in the hunt, sacrifice themselves so that the tribe may live.

Go deep within the womb of the Earth Mother, enter into the space between worlds, descend into death, and ascend into rebirth. That is the cycle, which has endured for time immemorial. We carry the knowledge, we carry the rituals, we are steeped in gnosis. The circle echoes our lifespan, the circle and dot speak of the One who gives life and reason for being, reason for dying.

We are the chosen ones, walking the path of no return, the womb closes behind us, gathers us in its safety. Then, there is only darkness, only silence, it speaks to us, shows the path to the stars. The Elders watch us, see us as beings of Light, messengers from the spirit world. The drum beats, echoes our heartbeat, blood courses through our veins. Our mouths are parched, yearning, thirsting for life giving waters.

The drum beats, echoes our heartbeat, it is endless, it is filled with terrors, the ancestors rise, shadows against the walls, flickering shapes in fire, dancing, dancing, calling, calling to us. The Holy Ones gather us, show the way from this world to the next. We are the ones who cross the bridge from life to death, from death to spirit. We are the protectors of ancestral lore.

Our eyes have been opened, our sight restored to things unseen. We are the protectors of the Bear who would guard the ways on the paths of knowledge, of things forbidden. We are the Cave Bear, last of the ancient lore givers and truth sayers. Our Searching has now become Knowing. The Earth Mother expels us, restores us to life and rebirth. We finally stand in the light.

Image: angelvoice012

Guest Post: Lyn Baylis on “Ritual, Death, and Magic”, Part 2

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Chris Brock Photography

Post death

The ancient Egyptians ensured that the body was carefully prepared. Magic and lengthy rituals were essential to prepare each person for their eternal existence. The journey was fraught with perils, and to reach the destination the dead person needed ample provisions, the help of rituals and magic spells. In the end, if everything was done properly, the deceased had an opportunity to become a transfigured spirit, blessed with magical powers and ready to live forever among the gods.

The Egyptian concept of the soul, which may have developed quite early, dictated that there needed to be a preserved body on the earth in order for the soul to have hope of an eternal life. The soul was thought to consist of nine separate parts:

The Khat was the physical body.

The Ka one’s double-form.

The Ba, a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens.

The Shuyet was the shadow self.

The Akh, the immortal, transformed self.

The Sahu and Sechemaspects of the Akh.

The Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil.

The Ren was one’s secret name.

The Khat needed to exist in order for the Ka and Ba to recognize itself and so the body had to be preserved as intact as possible.

The belief that the spirit of the person never dies but will in time return again to learn the lessons missed until they reach perfection.

(documented by Raymond Moody).

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Image: Foundry, Pixabay

I follow a broadly nature based spirituality and believe that death is not the end of our existence.

That all creatures possess a spirit or soul and that spirit or soul is eternal therefore when the body dies it is only a physical death and our spiritual journey continues.

If we look at nature we can see in all things a cyclic pattern.  It is so, I believe, with our lives.  Many honour this circle of birth, infancy, childhood, youth, maturity and old age. I believe they should also find honour in death, knowing that although the body undergoes physical Transformation, the Spirit remains unchanged.

I understand that those who have no belief in the continuation of the spirit may find death frightening, as the self they know will disappear forever. However, I’m convinced that when the spirit leaves the body it doesn’t necessarily mean that all ties to those left behind are disconnected. I know that Spirits have the power to manifest themselves to us and in some instances they also communicate with us. From my experience, specific Spirits are called upon to provide us with assistance relating to a particular need. They may be from our own family and can come to us during dreams or in visions.

When the individual is dead a light is lit which will represent the deceased person, and be a focus to remind friends and family that the spirit is still there. This soul/spirit requires help to undergo transition, a task usually done by the Elder, Shaman or senior member of the family while preparing, washing and anointing of the body. Incense is used to cleanse and to bring peace and harmony to the place where the body is laid out.

Cleansing and purifying the deceased

On the altar place two earthenware bowls, two flannels, and two towels.

Place to one side a clean winding-sheet or shroud (and coffin).

Have ready a candle, incense, oil – frankincense, (for birth) myrrh (for death), water in a jug, rosemary leaves (antiseptic) or similar sweet-smelling flowers and a piece of Yew.

Explanation of ritual

In this ritual we honour the one who has transcended the mundane and stepped through the threshold of life into the realm of death.  In many spiritual traditions the soul/spirit does not leave the body for three days, in others it stays close to ensure that those left behind can cope.

As guardians of the gateway we seek to ensure that our charge is ready to face the world beyond. Therefore, with full ceremony we wash and dress them as they would wish to be. They may then stand cleansed and pure before their Divine Ones and Ancestors.

The sacred flame has been burning since they died, or if not will be lit at the beginning of the ceremony.   Three drops of the three oils are added to the water in the jug, which is then blessed and poured into the two bowls and the incense is lit.

The clean robe/ sheet is placed next to the body and the following words recited:

“We acknowledge the sacred journey of your life, and wash you so that you may step through the gateway into the next world and face your ancestors and your Gods cleansed and with dignity.”

Take one flannel and start to wash the deceased. Start with the face, and neck, hands and arms and them torso to the waist.  Take the other flannel and start at the feet and wash and dry up the torso, the genital area last.

* If the deceased has been at home and is not suffering from a contagious disease there is no need to take special precautions.  However if the deceased has recently been in hospital it would be appropriate to wear gloves and cover all exposed skin as MRSA lasts up to 8 weeks and is easily transferable and CD lasts even longer.

Then place the right leg over the left leg, turn the deceased gently on the left side and continue as before, top to middle, then feet to middle.  Once you finish washing then place the sheet down the side ready to slide into place.

Take the myrrh (to mark and to honour the completion of life’s journey and the beginnings of a new life). Anoint the chakra points on the body plus the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and the lips.  Recite appropriate words, e.g. may these feet that have walked the sacred paths be blessed.

Position the left leg over the right, gently roll to the right and pull out the sheet. When the body has been anointed, fold the blanket right side first. Over the heart place a sprig of rosemary (for remembrance) or similar, then fold in the other side and place a spring of rosemary there. Continue to fold the sheet until it covers the body leaving the face free. Cover it with muslin (if the body is to be there for a few days it may be best to cover with a light blue muslin) until the time comes for the final journey.  Place the body in the coffin or bed, preferably on a hard surface, or board which will be used to carry the body to the final resting place.

Place flowers inside the coffin, or on and around the body – a sprig of yew is also often placed on the body to denote that death is not the end but a beginning and to confirm that like the yew each year the deceased will return anew.

Prayers can then be said to the deity, ancestors, spirits of place or those who watched over the deceased in life to thank them for being with them throughout life and asking that they watch over them as the await transcendence,  renewal or rebirth.  Many will hold a 3 day vigil- singing, talking to the deceased and sharing with family and friends stories of their journey of life, covering the shroud with reminders, or the coffin, with reminders or writing and drawings. (In this way even the children can have a part in making the coffin ready).

At the end of this period the body is taken to its final resting place, and the deity and spirits thanked for their help. Those whose job it was to help the deceased through life will also be thanks and given leave to depart.  If there is to be no vigil this will be done at the end of the washing ceremony.

The body is now ready for the Vigil or the Wake or if none are being held – ready to be placed in their casket for either burial or cremation.

Some Native American tribes still put grave goods and gifts with their deceased as do some Pagans, and other nature based spiritualities. Buddhist monks will chant when preparing the body for the funeral fire. They don’t call it magic but that’s what I would see it as.  The reason for doing this is to help the dead person to be released from their fading personality.

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Image: Pixabay

A third magic is sometimes used to ensure that the spirits of the dead do not come back and haunt us or seek vengeance on those they think are responsible for their death.

Sometimes this third layer of magic is used in conjunction with the other magic. The main reason for using this is to keep the spirits focused on their last journey. This ensures that they pass over without turning back, and that they have nothing which continually calls them back.

Many spiritual traditions believe that if the rituals are not done correctly, the spirit can return to cause mischief. This belief has led some cultures to burn the deceased’s house and all of their possessions. The family would move to a new house in a new location to escape the ghost of the deceased. The Roma also had similar practices with the burning of the caravan. The ancient Egyptians laid curses on the tombs so that the deceased would not be disturbed, and come back to haunt the living.

Our own Anglo-Saxon Ancestors funeral rituals placed grave goods with the departed spirits and these were also protected by curses. A runic inscription found reads:

Ragnhildr placed this stone in memory of Alli the Pale, priest of the sanctuary, honourable þegn of the retinue. Alli’s sons made this monument in memory of their father, and his wife in memory of her husband. And Sóti carved these runes in memory of his lord. Þórr hallow these runes. A warlock be he who damages(?) this stone or drags it (to stand) in memory of another”.

This last sentence puts a curse upon anyone who damages the stone or places it as a monument to another person.

Across the world there is a strong tradition of not speaking the name of a dead person at least until they have departed, as it will keep them bound to us. Photographs or depictions of a person who died may also be seen as a disturbance to their spirit. Often some families will put the photos away or will cover them.  Echoes of this are in the Jewish religion where the mirrors are covered and in our own traditions, made popular in Victorian times, closing the curtains and covering the mirrors. Some African cultures carry the coffin over water so that it cannot return; other take it to a cross-road and turn in around three times so that the spirit won’t be able to find the way home. Our fear of the dead is just as strong in the west but we hide it under a show of sophistication.

We don’t embrace death in our culture and we have so many ways to avoid talking about it.  However, it has been proven in very real terms that a good funeral eases the grief and can bring peace to the family of the departed.

A beautiful ritual as well as bringing peace to the congregation reminds those left behind of the life that was, and it brings hope and even joy to those who remain.  Perhaps this is yet another kind of magic.