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Author Topic: Death Work  (Read 932 times)

EclecticWheel

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Death Work
« on: April 05, 2020, 07:56:46 pm »
It was suggested to me in another thread that I might consider doing death related work spiritually.  I've experienced much of this lately of the human and non-human variety, as evidenced in my posts, and given current events, it's not slowing down.

It had not occurred to me to do any spiritual work related to death, but after it was suggested, I do see that is something I could explore spiritually, especially given that in my solitary spiritual practice, I continue to follow the Christian liturgical year and we are now in Holy Week.  In my private observances, death is a theme at this time, so I will also be taking a look at my writings to see what I can do.

I'd like to ask if anyone would be comfortable sharing any work they have done spiritually related to death, or any suggestions or ideas, whatever your spiritual background is.  I'd like to think I'm pretty good at extracting elements from diverse spiritualities to work with in the context of my own spiritual system.  I'm also going to be taking a look at a neo-pagan book of essays I have on death.

This may be super helpful to me, or at least interesting to read.  I'd really appreciate it!
My personal moral code:

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Aisling

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2020, 09:38:06 pm »
I'd like to ask if anyone would be comfortable sharing any work they have done spiritually related to death, or any suggestions or ideas, whatever your spiritual background is.

"Death-related work" is a pretty broad topic so it might be helpful if you can narrow it down to some more specific areas of interest.

Some quick examples off the top of my head of spiritual death-work:
  • Memory keeping for specific individuals or groups
  • Grave/cemetery tending
  • Reverance/worship of death-related deities
  • Offering prayers for the dead
  • Keening or other forms of ritualized mourning
  • Observation of holy days related to death, e.g., Samhain
  • Shrine creation and maintenance to honor the dead
  • Dumb suppers & other offerings to the dead
  • Exploration of death as a theme in shadow work
  • Liminal work as it relates to death/afterlife
  • Hospice work as spiritual service
  • Honoring death as a part of the cyclic nature of the universe
  • Creation of personal mythology about death and the afterlife
  • Neromancy, channeling or other communications with the dead
  • Providing spiritual comfort/support to those who are greiving
  • Delivering eulogies/funeral rites
  • Psychopomp/guide work

I have some experience with most of these, so if there's an area that jumps out at you, I can go more in-depth. 
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EclecticWheel

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2020, 12:08:23 am »
"Death-related work" is a pretty broad topic so it might be helpful if you can narrow it down to some more specific areas of interest.

The list is helpful.  These are the areas of interest that jump out at me, prayer for the dead collectively and individually being the area I have the most amount of experience with, along with keeping a holy day in honor of the dead in general:

Keening or other forms of ritualized mourning

Shrine creation and maintenance to honor the dead

Honoring death as a part of the cyclic nature of the universe


There is actually much in this list that is of interest to me, but that's what catches my attention.  In the meantime, this gives me some ideas on what to be searching for on my own as well.

Thank you.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Anon100

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2020, 03:53:39 am »
"Death-related work" is a pretty broad topic so it might be helpful if you can narrow it down to some more specific areas of interest.
 

I have interest in reading this post also.
May I just add to your quick list "Watching over the dying and helping them/their loved ones to say goodbye". It may come under the umbrella of some of those you've mentioned but I think, given how personal and hard ( and truly physical ) it is., well it's worth touching on as a seperate entity?

Sefiru

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2020, 06:42:11 pm »
I'd like to ask if anyone would be comfortable sharing any work they have done spiritually related to death, or any suggestions or ideas, whatever your spiritual background is.

Since Aisling suggested practices, I have a few thoughts on depictions of Death and death work.

-Discworld's Death is a well-known personification.

- So is Death from the Sandman comics; I particularly like how sensible and compassionate she is.

- As far as death-work, Sabriel and Abhorsen by Garth Nix feature white-hat necromancers (it's been a while since I read these though, so I'm not sure how applicable this is)

Eastling

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2020, 06:49:17 pm »
The list is helpful.  These are the areas of interest that jump out at me, prayer for the dead collectively and individually being the area I have the most amount of experience with, along with keeping a holy day in honor of the dead in general:

Keening or other forms of ritualized mourning

Though your practice is basically Christian, it's worth noting that at least one arm of the Inanna/Ishtar complex of goddesses seems to have evolved out of the practice of ecstatic lament at funerals. A great deal of that goddess-complex made it into Mariolatry. It might be worth investigating that angle.

Quote
Shrine creation and maintenance to honor the dead

The first question here is: what dead do you want to honor? Your own deceased relatives who you knew? Ancestors you never met? People from history you aren't related to who inspire you?
"The peacock can show its whole tail at once, but I can only tell you a story."
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EclecticWheel

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2020, 09:35:54 pm »
The first question here is: what dead do you want to honor? Your own deceased relatives who you knew? Ancestors you never met? People from history you aren't related to who inspire you?

I honor the dead in a general way by way of acknowledgment and prayer in a daily offering rite that covers other purposes as well.  But I'd like, to start off, honor a few deceased relatives and friends in a more particular setting, just for them.

A note that may be relevant: given our evolutionary origins, though I usually have humans in mind, I do honor our non-human ancestors in a general way.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

EclecticWheel

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2020, 09:38:18 pm »
But I'd like, to start off, honor a few deceased relatives and friends in a more particular setting, just for them.

I should add, the ones I have in mind for now, I knew.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Altair

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2020, 11:16:31 pm »
I honor the dead in a general way by way of acknowledgment and prayer in a daily offering rite that covers other purposes as well.  But I'd like, to start off, honor a few deceased relatives and friends in a more particular setting, just for them.

A note that may be relevant: given our evolutionary origins, though I usually have humans in mind, I do honor our non-human ancestors in a general way.

For me, there's a distinction between 1) honoring the dead (ancestor worship) and 2) honoring death (as part of the cyclic nature of the universe). I did them/do them in different ways:

1) For the dead, I do it in the context of the cardinal directions/elements, specifically the center/spirit. I did a pilgrimage of sorts to what I consider the world's center, Ngorongoro in Tanzania, and part of what made it compelling was a trip to nearby Olduvai Gorge, where some of the earliest hominin fossils were first found. It's humbling to stand there knowing the ancestors of every human being on the planet trod that same soil, felt that same wind on their faces. So I'm with you there on honoring our non-human ancestors.

More routinely, in my meditation on the directions, I've expanded my view into three dimensions, so that the center includes an axis for above and below. Below pertains to the ancestors, and while that includes our hominin kin, I tend to approach it on a personal level and focus on family--blood and otherwise--who have gone before. I visualize myself standing on their shoulders, being held up by all their love, hard work, and dreams, forming support as solid as the earth beneath my feet.

2) Honoring death for me took the form of writing myths that helped me understand Her and the crucial role She plays. That process gave me the mental shorthand to readily place death in the cycle of things. I was surprised how much I'd metabolized the Catholic "culture of life" dogma simply by growing up around so many Catholics while not actually being one; myth had a big hand in overcoming that for me. Now I give Death Her due.

I hope that's helpful.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

scoutyote

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2020, 09:07:12 am »
It was suggested to me in another thread that I might consider doing death related work spiritually.  I've experienced much of this lately of the human and non-human variety, as evidenced in my posts, and given current events, it's not slowing down.

I was speaking with a friend regarding current events and working with the dead, as there are likely a number of newly dead people with the "I was just in the hospital for observation and now I am walking through walls, what is going on?" type thing happening who may need guidance, especially since people are dying without family/friends at bedside due to the novel coronavirus. 

Count me as another interested in the subject.

Aisling

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2020, 10:10:14 pm »
The list is helpful.  These are the areas of interest that jump out at me, prayer for the dead collectively and individually being the area I have the most amount of experience with, along with keeping a holy day in honor of the dead in general:

Keening or other forms of ritualized mourning

Shrine creation and maintenance to honor the dead

Honoring death as a part of the cyclic nature of the universe


There is actually much in this list that is of interest to me, but that's what catches my attention.  In the meantime, this gives me some ideas on what to be searching for on my own as well.

Thank you.
[imgleft]

Those are excellent areas to start and can provide some good jumping-off points into other practices.  Random thoughts to follow...

Keening or other forms of ritualized mourning
I've explored some more traditional forms of ritualized morning, but none really struck a chord with me. I'm fascinated by traditional Irish keening, but it's more a case of intellectual curiosity than spiritual interest.

I do have one personal ritual that I do that was born out of a spontaneous moment a few years ago.  After the passing of dear friend, I drove his daughter back to her college.  We were in the mountains and she asked to stop at an overlook so that she could take a picture.  I can't recall how it started, but we ended up standing there singing loudly singing Blackbird on this mountainside at sunset.  The experience was unexpectedly cathartic for both of us. 

Since elements of that moment resonated with my personal death mythology, I've used it as the basis for a more formalized form of mourning, a song sung at the dying of daylight. Part of the mourning process happens in the preparation - deciding on an appropriate song and setting that evokes the memory of the one being mourned. The singing itself serves as a way to literally give voice to the grief and other emotions.  I might repeat a song or refrain several times if it feels like more work is needed.  To mark the end of the ritual, I say a parting that is some variation on "from my heart to the stars".  Overall it's pretty straightforward, but I find it effective.

Shrine creation and maintenance to honor the dead
Some things to consider - how much space you have available, will it be permanent or temporary, who you want to honor (one specific individual, a group or the dead as a whole), what items do you want to include (personal effects, photos, flowers, offerings), what shape will shrine maintenance take, and so on.

My current living space is substantially smaller than my last one, so I've not set up a new shrine here.  I'm toying with the idea of making small portable/packable shrines for individuals using Altoid tins or something similar. I envision these as being painted with the person's name on the lid and inside, a photograph and other small mementos (a lock of hair, piece of jewelry, a favorite quote, etc).  The general theory is to have something permanent for each of my beloved dead that can be displayed periodically (for example, on birthdays or set on the table for dumb suppers). I just need to find a few extra hours in the day to make it happen.

Honoring death as a part of the cyclic nature of the universe
Lots of options on how this could be done with varying degrees of energy and effort needed.  One small thing that I do as part of my daily routine is to offer prayers/mental space at 7 am for the living and at 7pm for the dying.  It's a simple thing that can be fitted to the time I have available but it helps me to be mindful of the cyclic pattern. 
Into the Grey Mists (Spiritual Blog)

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But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them."
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Aisling

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2020, 10:12:24 pm »
I have interest in reading this post also.
May I just add to your quick list "Watching over the dying and helping them/their loved ones to say goodbye". It may come under the umbrella of some of those you've mentioned but I think, given how personal and hard ( and truly physical ) it is., well it's worth touching on as a separate entity?

Absolutely. I have been known to overlook the obvious and this is definitely something that needs its own space and processes.
Into the Grey Mists (Spiritual Blog)

"All your questions can be answered, if that is what you want.
But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them."
~Neil Gaiman,
American Gods

Aisling

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Re: Death Work
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2020, 11:17:23 pm »
I was speaking with a friend regarding current events and working with the dead, as there are likely a number of newly dead people with the "I was just in the hospital for observation and now I am walking through walls, what is going on?" type thing happening who may need guidance, especially since people are dying without family/friends at bedside due to the novel coronavirus. 

Count me as another interested in the subject.

Heart-breaking but true. 

I'm used to the occasional 'out-of-town' visitor finding their way to me, but it's been a hundred-fold worse than usual the last few weeks. Because I keep really strong wards around my home to keep the uninvited out, there have been a lot of rattles of the front doorknob and light taps on the door, even a few whispered 'let me in' kinds of comments. The magnitude of this thing is more overwhelming than most mass disasters... I think in part due to the extended nature of it.

I have lots of thoughts about this, but I'm coming to the end of an 18-hour day and need to get some sleep, so I'm going to leave it for now with one easy thing that can be done: I've added to my daily routine a reciting of Byron Ballard's A Prayer for the Dead at sundown, as are others.  While I have my own prayers for the dead, I do think there's power in shared rituals.  I wasn't able to quickly find a printed version online, but someone has done a video of it here:
Into the Grey Mists (Spiritual Blog)

"All your questions can be answered, if that is what you want.
But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them."
~Neil Gaiman,
American Gods

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