(D) Death

I honestly wasn’t going to go here. I’ve already talked about balance, and that touched a bit on the need for all points on the cycle, so I was really hoping to go in a different direction, with “D”. However, I found out earlier this month that a friend of mine passed away, and so Death came a wandering my way, irregardless of my feelings on the subject.

I have, what I consider to be, a pretty  good outlook on Death, and it’s one that I think fairly common within the Pagan Community, across a variety of paths. While clearly it is an ending on this plane of existence, and a sad occasion to those who are left behind, I really do feel that Death is but that first step on our continuing journey through the cycles of “birth-life-death-rebirth”. I do believe in reincarnation, and that we find our loved ones again and again throughout our various incarnations, so we are never parted for long, and that should be a great consolation. I also feel that in each life we have lessons that we are here to learn, and that when we pass, it means that we have learned all that we needed to, in this life. In essence one’s funeral should be a celebratory time, more of a bon voyage party, a great send off to the next great adventure – till we meet again.

In practical terms though, it’s been a lot harder for me to keep that in focus. I’ve had to deal with Death quite a bit in my life, and at this point, other than my father (who I’ve never been super close to) and some various distant relatives, I’m the only one left in my immediate family – everyone else was gone by the time I was 25. Though I am married, with children of my own now, hubby’s the only one really left on his side as well. So truly, it has often seemed like Death was a close friend at times, rather than the distant acquaintance we rather Him be.

This week seems no different, and yet no matter how I try to tell myself that my friend is in a much better place, I just can’t seem to get myself through the sadness I feel at her loss. It is worth mentioning that her death shouldn’t have come as such a shock, she was born with a very serious life threatening condition, and spent most of her life in and out of treatments and hospitals, so to know that she is free of that, should be enough to make anyone happy. However, you always think that you’ll have more time, and somehow there never is. I do know that if she had lessons to learn this go around, that she more than learned them… not only that, but she taught the rest of us some very important ones as well – about friendship, generosity, and about keeping positive in the face of insurmountable odds. She was a blessing to all that knew her, and her passing truly left this world just a little less bright.

While it may seem otherwise, I do have a deep respect for the necessary place that Death has within the universe, even if it’s hard for me to reconcile my heart and my mind on the subject. I think that those who fear it, may not completely understand that without Death, and the similarly feared (and another “D” word) Destruction, that we would live in a state of stasis, never learning, never growing, never moving beyond what we are now. That without the removal of the old, there would be no room for the new, and the cycle of life-birth-death and rebirth would begin to break down, and stagnate. Of course out of control, Death and Destruction is not good either (nothing in excess ever is), but in the normal course of things, it’s important to remember that they are a necessary part of life, and not something to be shunned.


(C) Closed-Cultures/Religions

The eclectic nature of many Pagan paths is one of the major draws for a lot of people who come here from other more structured religions. There are plenty of books and resources out there which tell us all about the wonderful eclectic nature of Paganism, and that it is perfectly acceptable for us to draw our practices and beliefs from whatever sources we want to, as long as it calls to us. However something very important that is often overlooked, is the fact that not all cultures or religions are actually open to be taken from.

The concept of a closed-culture or religion, is something that many people are simply unfamiliar with. There is a sense of entitlement that seems pervasive in many Pagan communities, and we often feel that simply because a practice or belief resonates with us, or seems interesting to us, that it’s ok for us to take it and make it our own. We mix and match cultures and religions, irregardless of traditions that might be involved, or cultures that might be clashing, or the fact that such practices or beliefs may not just be available for the taking, by those who are not actual practicing members of said culture/religion.

Two major examples of closed cultures/religions – which both unfortunately tend to be those which are most often taken from, are Native American cultures and Traditional Wicca. When it comes to the culture and spiritual practices of the various Native American tribes, in most cases if you are not a member of the tribe, or have been adopted into one, then any misappropriation of their practices and beliefs is considered highly offensive, and – as noted below, could be considered an actual act of war against the tribe.  Wicca on the other hand, is an initiatory “mystery” religion at it’s very core, yet has somehow it has been grossly misrepresented over the years as an eclectic “whatever you want it to be” religion. Those that continue to represent it as such have changed the very heart of the religion, and truly what they do is no longer Wicca (and should not be called by that name).

There is also some debate as to if some parts of “Celtic” culture and their spiritual practices are closed as well. In particular, that certain Gods are said to be oathed only to the Gael, which means that if one is not a member of that culture, then at best one would be wasting one’s time attempting to worship them.  There are others, particularly indigenous cultures and practices, and some that consider Shintoism to be rather more closed to outsiders, than most people think it is as well.

It’s painful sometimes, when there is something that we want, that we can’t have access to immediately. Yet if something is that important to us, then we should be willing to do the work necessary to attain it properly, rather than just taking what we want, without regard for the traditions that are probably what drew us to that culture/practice in the first place. If we are truly called to a particular path, then if we work hard and make sacrifices, then it will happen, otherwise we need to respect that in this life it’s just not meant to be – to do otherwise diminishes that which we claim to love.

For more information you can check the following…

War Against Eploiters of Lakota Spirituality