by Windsong Moonchild
Let us celebrate death! O.K., this may seem a little over the top but,
frankly, this is a big part of what we CSC Pagans are celebrating at
Samhain. Death. Or, more precisely, dying.
Dying is a process. Death is the culmination of that process. At Samhain, we
celebrate dying; at Yule, we celebrate death. But, before we explore this in
greater depth, let's review the spokes of the Wheel of the Year as they
apply to the processes of living and dying?
- Imbolc (or, Candlemas) occurs on
February 1st and it is the time we celebrate the promise of re-birth.
- Ostara (the Spring or Vernal Equinox)
occurs circa March 19-22 and is the time in which we focus on the
germination of new life (and the point of balance reached at this time).
- Beltane (or May Day) occurs on May 1st
and is the time we celebrate re-birth.
- Litha (or Midsummer) occurs circa June
19-22 and is the time we celebrate the fullness of life.
- Lughnasadh (the First Harvest) occurs
on August 1st and sees us celebrating the promise of death.
- Mabon (the Autumnal Equinox) occurs
circa September 19-22 and is the time we celebrate diminishing life
(and, once again, the balance reached).
- Samhain (or Halloween) occurs on
October 31st and is the time to show our reverence for the dying
- Yule (the Winter Solstice) occurs
circa December 19-22, and is the time we celebrate death.
Death, of course, is part of the dying
process. This must be clearly understood if we are to have any real
comprehension of the spirit of Samhain. Death itself is inseparable from
dying, in that, as much as it is the culmination of the process, it is also
central to the process. Leaves do not fall from trees because they have just
found life, but rather because they have, essentially, died. Ponder this?
The fall of the leaf may mean the end of the leaf, but it does not, in
itself, mean the end of the Fall.
Now, more about the process: Early Fall begins to show itself in the
mid-days of Summer. Most of us do not notice this, of course, (we are too
busy enjoying the beach!) but I have observed that in the shabbier days of
Summer (that is, when the relentless heat is taking its toll on the
vegetation), if you look carefully, you'll notice, here and there, leaves
already changing color. I call this time, "Copper Penny Season," because it
looks for all the world as if someone took a handful of pennies and threw
them high up into the trees. This, to me, is the very first hint that, in
the midst of life, we are in death. When I tell my students at this time
that they should pay attention, for Fall is making itself felt, they usually
suggest (in the nicest possible way!), that I need to get a grip! After all,
it's late July/early August, we are taking vacations, school is out, it's
SUMMER for crying out loud! Isn't "oh look, it's Copper Penny Season"
rushing things a little too much?!
Well, let us examine this...
I am, as of the time of this writing, 51 years-old. Always assuming I live
to, oh, let's say, age 90, I am, at the moment, in the Summer of my life.
The mid-Summer, to be precise. Litha. Or, my Copper Penny Season. The
evidence is all there: Graying at my temples (hidden, but there,
nonetheless!), a miscellanea of early sagging, wrinkles, drooping parts, and
fading or discoloring parts. This is not full-on old age yet, but I could
never be mistaken, anymore, for a young woman (much less a teenager!)
I am aware of the fact that I am aging, but I do not dwell on it. I would,
however, be a fool to ignore it completely, because there is much wisdom to
be gained in an awareness of the subtle changes we undergo on the journey
toward death. (Notice I say "the journey toward death," not "the journey of
life," this is an important distinction and one I shall explore further
The signs of my current stage of life are clear enough on the outside, but
internally, emotionally, they are far more striking. I understand these
signs of change as "fair warning" -- or, a reminder, if you will -- that I,
too, am a mortal being with a finite cycle of seasons in which to live.
These seasons are each present, one in another -- both consecutively and
concurrently -- and each season contains within it, messages about, among
other things, the future, about hope, renewal, change, and beauty.
Just as I can look in a mirror and see constant change, so too can I look
out the window and see the same thing going on. But, why? Why was the Earth,
the beings upon it, in fact, the very Universe itself created to run on set,
distinctive, predictable cycles? Why does Spring always follow Winter, the
Sun rise and set every day, the Moon wax and wane month after month, year
after year, without deviation or change? Well, that's a big question. And,
here's the big answer?
Because this is our "Bible."
CSC Pagans have no need for a "Holy Book," or any other sort of written tome
to explain to us the nature of who we are or why we are here. We simply have
to look out the window, up at the sky, through a telescope, or at the
susurration of the tides, to understand what we ourselves are. In short,
everything in creation is here to show us what we are! And furthermore, to
show us that, in our cyclic natures, we are no different to everything else
in creation--to know, we only have to look, really look!
So, now that I've dropped that in your lap, you may be asking what all this
has to do with celebrating Death? And what, for that matter, does any of it
have to do with celebrating Samhain? Well, let me clarify.
The Wheel of Life, like the Wheel of the Year, is a dynamic, never-ending
cycle of consciousness that conforms to a set pattern--a pre-ordained
rhythm--that is unchangeable and inviolate. When we understand this--at the
point that we make this connection, intuitively and on a visceral level as
well as rationally, on a cognitive level--we have taken a significant upward
step in our personal evolution. And, any time we make such a step, we should
celebrate! Why? Well, for one thing, it feels good and, for another, more
important reason, because it not only helps others to learn (without
preaching to them), it shows the Universal Consciousness that we understand,
we have become aware.
So, we engage in Silent Suppers (a ritual meal, partaken in silence, to show
reverence to our ancestors), decorate with symbols of the Fall, visit the
graves of those we have loved and lost, and a myriad other celebratory acts
for the Sabbat of Samhain.
Now, about that "Journey Toward Death" thing?
We are here to learn how to die.
You may want to read that again? Be sure to see that it does not say, "learn
how to live"; it says "learn how to die"! Why? Because we can only learn how
to die when we truly understand what we are. We can only understand what we
are, when we make the connection between ourselves and everything else in
creation. When we understand the connection between ourselves and the rest
of creation, we will learn true compassion, empathy, kindness and kinship.
We will learn that we are, all of us, connected by a common destiny and
respect and love of others means respect and love of ourselves. This,
ultimately means elevation of all humanity.
Learning how to reach the time of our death and cross over in Perfect Love
and Perfect Trust, means learning how to live. It means learning how to live
in accordance with Natural Laws. It means learning that we are a spirit in a
human body, not a human being who has a spirit... And this, ultimately,
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