By Lady Arsinoe
Samhain is fast approaching. Many of us look forward to this time of year. Candy, carved jack-o-lanterns, itty-bitty children dressed up as adorable bumblebees, princesses, or pirates. This is a joyous time of year! The leaves begin to crunch beneath our feet. And the crisp breeze begins to pinch our faces and burnish our cheeks. There is nothing so beautiful as frost on crimson leaves gleaming in the morning sun.
At this time, my thoughts turn to death and dying. <screech> Whoa! What? O, not in a fatalistic manner, or in the Goth-cool fashion either. Samhain is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, when we celebrate those who have crossed over during the past year, and when we make reckonings of our lives. I’ve always seen parting the final veil as an adventure to be anticipated. Those who have taken this journey before me have all the secrets of the Universe on 3X5 notecards. Lucky! To be one with the Divine? Wow. Death is not the end, merely a new beginning.
“Death— the last sleep? No, the final awakening.”….Walter Scott
“Because I could not stop for death
He kindly stopped for me
The carriage held but just ourselves
And immortality.”….Emily Dickinson
“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.”….David Searls
“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.”….Seneca
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?”….Kahlil Gibran
“People sleep, and when they die, they awake.”….Mohammed
“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”….Winston Churchill
I can’t help but find comfort and solace in these words. To awaken from sleep? To melt into the sun? How wonderful! How beautiful! How glorious! I hope to live my life in a manner deserving of such beauty.
Life, as someone once said, is a sexually transmitted terminal disease. We start the journey to death the moment we first hit the atmosphere. Nobody gets out alive. Yet, that is no reason to be fearful, or dread the inevitable. Embrace life, and live it to the fullest! One of my favorite sayings hangs in the kitchen of our dear friends, which sums up a wonderful approach to life:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”
That’s going to be me, sliding into home plate with a martini in one hand and a bar of chocolate in the other. Wow! That was fun! Let’s to that again! After all, if life is too short to drink shitty beer, is there any good reason to fill it with fear, bitterness, and assorted and sundry negative crap? We are so much better off enjoying ourselves!
There is no escape from this prison called life, yet one day, we will be freed. In the meantime, we should endeavor to make Heaven/Summerland/Nirvana this life on earth. Be nice to people. Actually treat everyone and everything like you would want to be treated. Be compassionate. Be loving. There is no sense in waiting till we’re on the other side. That’s the ultimate in procrastination. Instead of bitching and whining about how badly life has treated us, why not, in the words of Mohandas Gandhi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
Living in a compassionate, grateful state of mind prepares us for the inevitability of crossing the veil. The Buddhists say that one’s frame of mind at the end helps determine how one enters the next life. Filling our minds with happy, compassionate, and grateful thoughts as we cross the bridge helps move us into a new and better life. Thoughts of fear and anxiety hinder our progress on the spiral. Frankly, I don’t want to come back as a mosquito.
No one has ever come back to give a travelogue of the Summerland. Yet, I still get glimpses and fleeting sensations of those who have gone on before me. I swear I can smell my dog every once in a while. He and my cat are happily chasing each other around. My Mother and Father appear to me in my dreams and provide words of love, comfort, and encouragement. Based on this, I know the Summerland is a place of joy, peace, and fulfillment.
Of course we miss those who have gone before. That’s only natural. What kind of sick puppies would we be if we didn’t fell that loss? But, how dare we hinder their progress on the Path just because we can’t stand to let them go? That is the height of selfishness! By letting our loved ones go with love and compassion, we elevate ourselves on the spiral of life/death/rebirth as well. We will be with them again. And their echoes remain to guide us along the Path until our time to rejoin them. Dry your tears, my friends. Though our loved ones go before us, they are the lucky ones! And one day, we will be tenderly and joyfully caught up in their love and laughter again. Of that, I have no doubt.
How can we know there is life after death? We know our bodies decay. What about that which makes us us? A small, but increasing, number of scientists theorize that consciousness is related to, but not dependent on, the material brain. One scientist has even found that the brains of people who have had near-death experiences closely mirror those of nuns and monks, who are considered spiritual adepts. I have my own theory on what happens to us when we die. As Kahlil Gibran said, “we melt into the sun;” or, according to my theory, we melt into the All That Is. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroscientist who suffered a massive stroke chronicled in My Stroke of Insight, said, “Our bodies are portals for energy.” I believe that which makes me me is the energy that comes through that portal, and that energy is part of God/dess. When our bodies cease to function, and are thoroughly used up, our consciousness is freed to join that of the All from which we came. So, death is nothing to fear! It is to be adoringly and joyfully anticipated, yet not sought. We have so many lessons to learn here, after all. Life is a journey to be savored, and the final awakening is the reward for a path well-traveled.
Think of who you were before you were born. That is who you will be again.
Yes, indeed, this is a joyous time of year! Happy Samhain!
Lady Arsinoe’s Bio:
I was initiated into the Wiccan spiritual tradition as a First Degree in 1993. Over the years, I continued my studies and increased my involvement. In 2000, the members of OakSpring (www.HouseOfOakSpring.org) separated from Ravenwood to go our own way. In 2006, I became the High Priestess of OakSpring, with my husband serving as High Priest. OakSpring is large by Wiccan standards, and has been blessed to own and maintain our covenstead on 38 acres of woodland in the Metro-Atlanta area.
Like most Wiccans, my mundane life is similar to anyone else’s: I go to work each day (for a large engineering firm), bear with traffic, and go home to relax with my family and pets. Living a magical life isn’t always about the spells; it’s about living in a way that is harmonious with Nature, the Universe, and ourselves. I do my best to live in accordance with Wiccan principles every day of my life. I think that is the best way to show the world what Wicca is all about.