Once again we come to the Pagan Blog Project day! This week the letter is D, and thus I have chosen to speak of Death. A rather grim topic, it is true.
As I have mentioned before, one of the main Goddesses I try to walk with is Hel, Norse Goddess of death, daughter of Loki, Mistress of Helheim, keeper of the dead, the Twin Colored. To me she is a young maiden, half her flesh is the color of living flesh, the other half the blue black of frozen flesh. I think her lovely, and as a rule compassionate, though not one to be crossed lightly.
In a lot of ways, I think I am not that unique in my views of death, at least among the Pagan and Heathen communities (though my view of Lady Hel may be different). We do not look upon death with the same attitudes that say the Monotheistic religions look at it.
My understanding was shaped in part by the death of my Aunt. She had lymphoma, I believe they said, and the second time she got it the tumors reached the size of a basket ball, or volley ball. I was younger then, and this was way back right near the start of my journey through my parents horrific divorce and the spiritual cycle of death, destruction dissolution, and finally rebirth that created me. Truly, I was born of many deaths, which is why I walk with death.
But back to my Aunt. As I said the tumors were of great size, and they devoured even her bones in their growth. When at long last she died (having lived long enough to see her daughter married in the same hospital as her death bed) I did not weep for her death. Even in that too sheltered state, I had understood that death was the release of pain, not the thing to be feared. What few tears I did shed were for the life not lived, that I would never know. But I did not weep for her death. Those around me did, for the short period before their hatred for each other once again took hold and the family games of one up man-ship and self-centeredness that so plague my mother’s side of the family began again.
My own spiritual path in a lot of ways has been about death, and violence, and power. Alchemy, at it’s heart, is about destruction and creation in perpetual motion working towards the final purified rebirth of the substance. This is something I have been doing to myself for nearly ten years, though have left the “Black Phase” for the “White Phase.”
Monotheists, as a rule, see death as a punishment for sin, where they are judged eternally for the deeds done in a few score years on this little world. Under those circumstance one can surely understand their fear of Death! After all, an eternity of pleasure or suffering lies in what one does or doesn’t do, on the whims of a deity you can’t even see, and you never know if you were good enough till you get their.
Pagans and Heathens, on the other hand, do not need have this fear. For most of us, we go to the realms of the afterlife ruled by our gods, and we know where and how we go their. For the Norse, a death in battle lands you in the halls of Freyja or Odin (little known fact, Freyja got first pick of the Slain Warriors, not Odin, despite that Valhalla is more famous), while a death by almost any other means meant that one went to Hel, where the lands were calm a peaceful (rather like the Greek Fields of Elysium), and those who were most dishonorable and heinous were cast to Nidhoggr (the great beast that devours the roots of Yggdrasil) to be devoured and destroyed. Most other paths have their own, similar set ups.
Our deeds determined where we go. Live a good life and praise the gods, and you go to a nice place. There’s nothing to fear, except a brief parting from loved ones who you would see on the other side. No endless punishments handed out arbitrarily, good unto good deeds, bad unto bad deeds. There is an accounting, Ibis and Jackal have their special feather for those who walk the Path of Khem, but ones word and actions taken in good heart and honor rarely do one ill.
We live every day with death. We adorn death and worship it, when we style our hair or beautify our nails. We live off of death, and from it create life. We are as surrounded by death as we are by life, it is part of the great cycle, ever in ebb and flow. Life creates death, death creates life. So do not fear death, nor it’s Gods, Hel, Hades, Freyja, Morrigan, Thoth and Anubis, or any of the others. There is not evil in death, only a continuation and seed for everything.