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From the President
Samhain is celebrated by Keltrians as Féile an Bháis, or the Feast of Death, and death has been on my mind a great deal in this month of October. It only stands to reason, as the earth prepares for her long sleep of winter (the “little death”) that we begin to prepare ourselves for the Dark Time ahead -- a time of reflection, intuition, and dream-walking. In a way, this time of the year is a small death for us all, as the Veil thins and contact with the inhabitants of the Otherworld becomes easier.
Not too long ago, I asked on the Keltria List what you all thought you were doing in your lives that you would consider Druidic, and I am well aware that I never answered the question myself. As I reflect on the Feast of Death, I will answer the question now, at least in part. Recently I have been a Priestess of Death – attending to the death of my own ancient cat, and the death of my friend’s faithful mare, both grown old beyond physical soundness and sanity. And I say that I have been a Priestess of Death because in both instances, I was there as both Reaper and Midwife for them, seeing them out on this side of the Veil while escorting them into the Otherworld. What struck me was that they were so ready, and once assistance was provided, they went with such ease and grace that I felt blessed to have been able to attend to these honored family members in their last moments. I felt blessed to be able to help them leave this world in a dignified way.
And it occurred to me that this is my job and my honor. This is what I’m here for, and what I have always done. This is the work of a Druid, and for this Druid, it is the most important work. I help them, animals and people, cross over with respect, and I help those who remain behind cope with their loved one’s absence, help them understand that there is another life on the other side of death where there is no sickness or pain. I can sometimes even give messages from the Dead to reassure those left behind.
My belief in – no, my knowledge of -- this afterlife does not negate my grief. My grief is for the loved ones who remain, and the separation of both the living and the dying from each other and the life in which they have lived and loved together. Helping the dying cross over never gets easier, as you might think it would after having done it many times. You must understand that a Druid Priestess never becomes calloused to a loss of such magnitude, and I feel the grief each time as a fresh wound on my heart, as if it were my own loss. Still, somehow, I am able to provide a light in the darkness for the dying, while at the same time, I try to be a pillar of strength for the grieving. I am able to set aside my own grief until I have taken care of others. I say I do this “somehow,” but I know in my heart that it is by the grace of the Gods that I am able to do so. That is my gift.
While all of the animals and the people who have gone on are remembered and welcomed back into our house with honor and love at Samhain, this time I will reflect upon and especially thank my calico cat and an old chestnut mare named Tasha, who, in asking me to help them die with dignity and grace only a week apart, reminded me of my soul-purpose at a time when my inner light was fading and I had almost forgotten.
I will remember also at this Samhain that death for the Land is a healing, a cleansing –making way for a new beginning. How can it be otherwise for us? The Irish have always had it right: to send off our Dead with the biggest party we can muster, in honor of a life well-lived here, and in celebration of a new life elsewhere.
May the Ancestors bless you with their wisdom in this season of darkness.