Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beneath the Shroud

copyright 2013

I am a practicing death midwife.  Recently, while exploring myths and legends surrounding death, I came across this poem. I wanted to share it with you.

The reference to witchcraft creates a palpable atmosphere when times were dangerous and filled with mystery. Although the finality of death awaits us all, this particular poem's evocative imagery of release and liberation describes how nothing will matter once the last breath is expelled.

Straightforward, Shakespeare's pen to paper reveals his 'fear not' final salute to all who draw breath.

 We are all the same in the final hour.  All equal beneath the shroud.

Yet I believe in the spirit eternal.  For no matter what is done with our remains, be assured dear friend, our spirit endures.

It soars untethered to our fleeting grandeur, past  social standing or enduring strife.

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!

Cymbeline Act 1V, Scene 2
William Shakespeare

Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter's Fist

The temperature is predicted to climb ever so slowly out of single digits. The week ahead may see it dance into the thirties. This forecast feels like a heat-wave wearing a jester's hat poking fun at us.  Anyone this far north knows that after the 'January thaw' comes the 'February freeze'.

Last night the wind howled a ballad of which we are all to familiar this time of year. It rushed across acres of land and our house could only brace itself.  Walls remarked in quick shrill sounds of protest against it's gusting weight.  Fey fingers found tiny openings in window frames and sketched the nights activities with icy thin fingers across the glass.  I huddled closer to the stove, posturing for space taken up by cats.

This morning the crows stepped lightly cross the snow in our yard like funeral directors with hands behind their backs in solemn reflection.  They pretended not to hear the noisy protests from an audience of turkeys stalking them from the woodland edge.  

I've noticed that the owls have gone quiet, I image they retreat into thicker sections of cedar, hemlock and pine this time of year.  They do not frequent the offerings we leave for other visitors, preferring, of course, game with a heartbeat.

My walk to the inlet brought the meaning of 'deep freeze' brilliantly into perspective.  The beauty of the frozen waterway, a white shroud thrown across the shore and winter's silence.  Against the curtain of cold I tried to console myself that this was a time of rest and renewal for all living things, that spring was not far behind.  The image of a green world was conjured from what felt like a distant memory.  

The Old Ones in this hinterland reach for anything warm. Their bone brittle fingers waiting to grow new skin when planting season comes.  Having petitioned the sun with customs losing favor in an technological world, I am like so many of my kind, heartened by the reassurance of what rituals can secure.

Rituals aside, spring will come, regardless, it always does.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Old Winter King


Up rose the wild old winter-king,
And shook his beard of snow;
"I hear the first young hard-bell ring,
 'Tis time for me to go!
Northward o'er the icy rocks,
 Northward o'er the sea,
My daughter comes with sunny locks:
This land's too warm for me!"

Charles Godfrey Leland

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Honed by Time

Large, black, and round, this beauty, when cradled in my hand completely covers my palm.  Found in a stream bed it is my catalyst. The connection to the Unseen Company that whispers me awake.  Smoothed through an endless process of earth, sand and water, long before we met, this bridge to the Otherworld feels as close as a whisper for which the stone is named.

Smooth, elongated and used in healing work, the stroking stone has been in my care for over 25 years.  When engaged it becomes noticeably warmer than one might expect from merely holding it over a period of time. In tandem we work, then on its own, it begins to cool, signaling practitioner and client that the session is coming to a close.

Lastly, I imagine the stone in the foreground was once jagged like all sea stones are before they're birthed. Slowly ground smooth through years of constant friction, current and storm, sculpted by unseen hands.  In this life it rests content in my lap while I scry or cast the cards for answers. 

Honed by time; honored through our work together; I cannot imagine my hearth or my practice without them.