Posted in:   Sabbats

When Death Arrives On Our Doorstep: A Samhain Primer for These Times

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My friend comes home after an evening of dancing and moving energy with her activist friends.  She’s exhausted from an intense week of community gatherings — first a Samhain ritual in honor of the beloved dead, with so many passing this year and so much collective grief in the air, and now tonight, a passionate, full-embodied group prayer for peace and justice.

Be the sacred witness who honors the stuff of life — the angst, longings, beauty, horror, struggle, and triumphs — as the crucible of our greater becoming.

All of this was a preparation for what awaits her. Death has arrived on her doorstep.

Two four-point bucks, with their antlers impossibly locked, are wound together in a huge piece of seine fishnet. Her car headlights illuminate them in the darkness. She bears sacred witness to these beautiful wild beings, heart wide open and broken, as they thrash violently all over her property for an hour, unable to free themselves.

The bucks are exhausted, terrified. Fortunately she has a friend who is a gentle hunter. When he arrives, he’s able to take clean shots, killing the bucks instantly and saving them from an agonizing death. Strangely, in their dying the second stag lands on the first. In death, the combatants lie serenely on top of each other, like a pair of sleeping cats.

As sacred witness and gentle hunter, these two friends speak to the fallen bucks, pray for them, and mourn their passing.

The image of the bucks and the story I’ve just shared, in the words of my friend, appear in my Facebook feed. I stop what I’m doing, my heart wide open and broken, understanding that these bucks have gifted my friend, our community, this world, with a powerful vision that speaks to the tumultuous change of these times.

I too have been sacred witness this week, at our local Samhain ritual. In this role, I sat veiled and silent, dropped into the deep dream of our magic, watching between the worlds as the names of the dead were spoken, and our community danced a spiral in honor of the blessed newborn.

Here I saw the dead, not just from our community but a thousand souls drawn to our ritual fire, making their crossing in the light of our honoring and love. And as our spiral dance built to a peak of energy, my body became a birthing mama as a thousand newborns passed through me, through our magic, into the world.

Another powerful vision that speaks to these times: a thousand deaths for a thousand births — we are living an epic death-rebirth moment.

These two vision brew in me, colliding with the intense drama and building momentum of political, social, economic and environmental crises and unrest, and the mythic forces moving through our world calling us to an evolutionary, change-or-die revelation.

We know, in our flesh and bones, that things have reached a tipping point; we just can’t keep doing what we’re doing to the planet, and to each other, without dire and lasting consequences.

At the exact time we need progressive government, substantive action, social justice and hope, we get the worst case scenario, a nightmare come true: President Trump.

Take a deep breath. Feel your warm heart beating inside your precious body. Do not despair. We’ve been heading toward this exact moment for years, decades, millennia.

Death has arrived on our doorstep. The end is near, and it looks a whole lot like the two bucks in the vision, battling to the death, with locked horns, inextricably tangled in the net.

This net is our known world, woven of the threads of our inner and outer conceptions of reality, and the infrastructure of culture and society. This net is everywhere, interweaving every aspect of our life in webbing that is strong, resilient and specifically designed to ensure there is no escape. Many of us call this net patriarchy.

Together in this net, we thrash about, stuck in the stories we tell ourselves about our world, each other, and this mess we’re in. We lock horns with the enemy, be it Trump, or whoever holds contrary views, or lives by the things we find abhorrent. We lock horns with our inner demons and personal wounding that tangle us in our pain and our past.  We lock horns with our judgments, rage, fear and despair.

Many of the stories we tell are true, and the battles are necessary to protect the Earth, the vulnerable and each other. Yet there is always a combatant, across the battle lines, with a different story and agenda, ready to meet us full on. So we thrash about, terrified, exhausted, and headed for an agonizing future that will take us all down, and our planet home with us.

Take another deep breath. Open your heart, wide and broken, and step away from the battle, step away from the net; enter the deep dream beneath this drama, and become the sacred witness.

The sacred witness knows she can’t stop this battle. She can’t disentangle the combatants from the net. She honors death as a messy, heartbreaking business. She can only witness what is, knowing that this stuff of life — the angst and longings and beauty and horror and struggle and triumphs — is the crucible of our greater becoming and our deepest dreams coming true.

From a thousand deaths come a thousand births. Rebirth is not possible without death.

Her only desire is to ease the suffering for both sides of the struggle, and to bring a quick, clean ending. So she calls the gentle hunter to her side — to speak, to pray, to mourn, to facilitate death. This gentle hunter can be many things —  a loving touch, a listening ear, an open mind, an incisive word, compassion, forgiveness, goodness, gratitude, tolerance, justice — qualities that are deep and ancient, arising from the best of our nature, outside of the net, outside of the battle.

What comes next for our humanity is unknown. We ride the razor-sharp edge of our evolution, still in the midst of the battle and the tangle of the net, and things have definitely taken a turn for the worse.

I won’t pretend that I totally understand these visions that I’ve shared. They’re new, raw, emerging out of the depth of my community’s magic, the power and presence of my friend, and my own deep-dreaming soul.

I only know that the Mysteries have spoken, through the sacrifice of the two magnificent bucks, and the dead and the newborn who graced our Samhain ritual.  We’re not alone in our struggles. So many forces are calling us home to the best of our nature, and a better, kinder, more loving and sustainable future.

We are combatants, tangled in the net, fighting for our life, our beloveds, the vulnerable in our midst, and the Earth. We are sacred witnesses and gentle hunters, bringing love and presence to the battle and the combatants. We can hold all of this, be all of this —  complex, resilient, bruised, wise, powerful, loving —  knowing that death will come, one way or another, because the world as we know it, the net of patriarchy, has run its course.

In these visions and realizations, I find my hope, my inspiration, and this prayer, from my open and broken heart to yours: out of our struggles, out of the pain and suffering of so many, out of the great harm we have inflicted on our Mother Earth, out of the thousands and thousands of deaths, rebirth will come; we will live once more from the love, beauty and goodness that are the best of our nature, and the world will be forever changed.

Photo Credit: Shellyse Szakacs

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