This week, we’ve decided to delve into the differences in how the Pagan community handles issues of aging, death, and dying, as compared to the accepted mainstream approach. Barb is starting us off today, so here we go…
I recently finished reading a book by Caitin Doughty, known on YouTube as Ask a Mortician. She spent time travelling to several different countries in order to learn about their death rituals, and how they differ from what we’re used to. What resonated with me is how other places have preserved the tradition of having the loved ones care for, and spend time with, the body of the deceased.
Not all that long ago, cosmically speaking, members of a community were revered and cared for when they got old. These were considered the wisest among the group, and it was common to go to them for advice on how to handle issues that came up. And when a death occurred, regardless of circumstances, family and friends handled all the preparations, including washing and dressing the body.
Even here in the US, these traditions held for a long time. Sadly, in our modern times, all these things have been erased. Our elderly are stuffed into nursing homes and are considered annoying burdens, who no longer have value. Our dead are discreetly whisked away, only reappearing once they have been made “acceptable” to our delicate sensibilities behind the scenes.
One of the many things I treasure about being a witch is how much more open we are about these things. Although care facilities are always an option, when needed, we are less likely to view our elders as unworthy of our time now that their productive years are behind them. Death is not viewed as a terrifying boogeyman to be avoided at all costs. We steep ourselves in the cycle of life, including the less bright and shiny bits.
When I look in the mirror, I see all the proof that I am no longer young, and if you’ve seen my pictures on here, so have you. The gray hair, the laugh lines around my eyes, it screams to the Universe that my 20s are far in the past, and, in large, partly thanks to finding Paganism, I’m okay with it. Someday I’ll be gone, and that’s okay too.
As long as my kids don’t get suckered into spending a ton of money on a fancy ass funeral for me, I’d hate to have to come back and haunt them 😀
What about you Dissy?
The thought of dying used to absolutely terrify me. The thought of no longer breathing, being confined in a small box (regardless of how you slice the pie, that is what it is. A box). It made me nuts. I’d like to credit Paganism with helping me get over this, alas, I can’t. It was a dream I had where I actually died. It caused me to realize that, in the grand scheme of things, not a damn thing matters. Not breathing won’t matter when I’m gone. Being in a box (not that I’m going that route) won’t matter when I’m gone.
For the life of me, now, I can’t understand why anyone would fear dying.
As Barb said, we, as Pagans do look at life as cyclic. Most of us believe in reincarnation.
Next month, I will turn 50 years old. I will be entering the “Crone” phase of life, as a woman. My childbearing years have passed, and, whether I like it or not, I will be held as elderly. Instead of becoming useless, however, I will be looked upon as a source of wisdom and healing. When my time comes to start my next journey, I will be called upon as ancestral wisdom. I, too, have “crones” that I call upon for wisdom and guidance.
As far as my human remains go, my wish is to be creamated. I will then be divided among several glass canning jars, and some of my Witch friends will be given some for magickal workings, and some of my closest folks will get the rest. They will be instructed to leave a little bit of me (or all of me) some place they think I would enjoy.
For me, though… death is just a thing. An opening to the next adventure. Until then, I will learn as much as I can so I can take that wisdom and experience with me.