Death is one of the Norns who bless us at birth,
yet we shy away from Her true name and visage.
A practice I see often today: Toning down the Goddess of Death.
Time and again I read that ‘Hel is a loving goddess’, or that ‘Thanatos is kind’,
or that ‘Kali is my mother’, and the like. I but smile at such images,
for even the Bogeyman has been softened and cast aside as
nothing more than meaningless fairy tale.
Why do so many see the warm and loving side of such a dark aspect of life?
Why is decay and decrepitude brushed aside for delight?
Perhaps because there is deep sadness and loss when death occurs,
especially in one close to us.
Perhaps because the earth in which we lay our loved ones is not forever dark,
but has a season: from Bitter Winter to Bright Spring.
Perhaps we pay lip-service to finality, but in truth shudder at what it takes from us,
so softening that reality helps us cope.
Notably, ideas of death are unique to each culture –
which is more fluid than many care to consider.
Yes, even culture is ever in flux. Consider Santa Claus for a moment:
He began as a Horned God wearing a green coat who delighted in drinking,
merriment, and abandoned debauchery. The Church tamed him into Father Christmas;
then deified him as St. Nicholas; then with “eyes that twinkled / dimples merry /
cheeks as roses / nose like a cherry”, he became a “right jolly old elf”.
Every generation has added something of their own: from bell ringing for
the Salvation Army, to drinking Coka-Cola, to coming through the chimney,
to having elf assistants, and a reindeer sleigh, this original culture archtype
has transformed so much that the Heathens of Yore would not recognize it.
No less than the Goddess of Death – the “Coverer” and “Concealer” –
whose visage has shifted from dark despair to living-kindness.
Even those Westerners who embrace Kali as “Mother”,
do so without fully knowing what that means.
That which is a Devourer, a Primordial Belching Chasm, a Vicous Destroyer,
a Fear Inducer, and worse, is not made nice simply because one wills it so.
Death remains Death.
Death’s heart is made of stone, and Her touch brings all worldly good to ruin.
She is mercifully merciless. The skulls that She wears are Her children.
To embrace Her is to deny the comforts of living, and herein lies Her true initiation:
Those who follow Her forego ordinary reality to walk
Dark Dimensions of Blood and Weeping.
As Carl Jung so rightly observed: “Nature herself demands a death and rebirth.”
Candy-coat as you will – while wearing rose-colored glasses –
there is no denying the swift and soul-achingly painful cut of Her sword.
Once that hard and black line has been made, there is no more ‘balance’
or ‘gradual change’ into this transformation, but an abrupt, jarring, and final arrival.
She is no ordinary energy, so approaching Her as such is something not even children do;
but by those who strive to be ‘different’, or those whose minds have become crippled by fear.
None are so priviledged to have never met Her, but most look away, for their mind cannot fathom the raw visage of Her utter brutality. In the end – at the End –
it is easier to downplay and soften the blow of Her hand.
Ever hear of the ‘shaman’s death’? Briefly, it involves an experience of being both
killed and dismembered, then reassembled anew. Yet, that which has died,
though it may return, is never the same. This is no safe initiation, as seen in Coven or Lodge, but an ordeal where the initiate dies. Not pretend death, not figurative death, but death.
I remember the folk-battle, the first in the realm,
where Gold-draught they supported on an anvil’s point,
yoking her in the High Hall, with their hands burning her.
Three times burned – three times! –
three times born again, still she lives on.
“Three times burned”, a singular Trinity.
Gullveig died three times and was reborn as Heid.
Knowing I hung, upon a windy tree, nights all nine,
spear wounded and given to Wod, self to my Self;
upon this tree which no man knows,
from where its roots originate.
“Hung / spear wounded”, yet he rose. No longer as Hárr, but as Wodan –
having survived the Ordeal of Wod.
As Vinland’s Völva I have often mused that “I try to die at least once a year.”
Some who read that become agitated, labeling me ‘stupid’ or ‘fool-hearty’.
Some who read it catch a glimmer of what is being said,
but it remains as a shadow-splinter in their mind, something both unseen
and just below the surface.
Some who read it have died, so quietly hang their heads and sigh in Knowingness.
Today the wind grows more chill, and Night’s reach lengthens.
Tis’ the Tide of Death .. of Horned God and Wild Hunt,
of Banshee’s Wailing and Mound Sitting, of Speaking Skulls and Harvest Scythes,
of Midnight Sun and Hungry Ravens, of Eight Steps and Eight Tides,
of Eight Lineages and Eight-legged Horses, of Eight Days and Eight Nights, and Ægishjálmur.
So fear Death .. fear Her Passing.
Keep safe at fireside, and hold your children close – remembering well their scent.
Strengthen your roof-tree, and gift your friends – remembering their laughter and kindness.
And know, that there are #SeidBearers who walk With Darkness, defending the hedgerow.