Thursday, November 15, 2007

Paganism and color

(Painting by Kazuya Akimoto)

Yvonne Aburrow has a fine article about the uses of color in Paganism. It's a nice primer on Pagan religions: their variety, mythology, symbolism, and holy days. I contributed some ideas for the article, about the importance of the color black for Wiccans. My own ideas about this were shaped by the work of Audre Lorde. Thanks, Yvonne!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Turkey feather

I started volunteering at the SPCA two weeks ago. I do it to honor Lugh. I go there once or twice a week and spend a couple of hours walking dogs, loving them up, and doing some basic training with them.

This afternoon I was traipsing around in the fields behind the building, walking with an Alaskan Husky. She stopped to sniff, I looked down at my feet, and there was a wild turkey feather. I never noticed before how they're brindle-colored.

Lugh's still looking out for me.

In the presence of Santa Muerte

(The painting is "La Ofrenda" by Patrick Murillo, found at Adorn)

I remember that when all is said and done...there remains the moss-covered, secret shining truth...of Samhain in the core of my heart, and within that truth is the fact that this season has
always held something precious, gorgeous and mysterious for me, since before I had a name for it. And I have always felt that the veneration of my ancestors is crucial to the practice of my spiritual being. And I am ever in awe of the power of Death. And I am ever grateful for the outstanding and overwhelming explosion of Life that comes through and between and in spite of and because of Death....

My people [have] a theology, books of rituals/practices/meditations, beautiful stories, a veneration and a deep abiding love, all centered around this gorgeous, delicious time of year.

~ Sara Sutterfield Winn

I've been feeling deep appreciation for my Wiccan faith in the weeks since Lugh died. It has provided me with sustenance and comfort. I know that death is but one phase in an ever-revolving cycle, that Lugh's soul is on a journey, that he chose to incarnate in that sweet body and to live as he did because he had his soul's work to do, and because incarnation provides its own teachings, as well as the delicious joys and pleasures of living in a body. When it was time for him to leave, he did. Adonis says that Lugh always knew exactly what he wanted and what he had to do. He lived wholeheartedly, always in the present, without fear or hesitation. He lived in joy.

My faith teaches that death is normal and not to be feared, though of course we grieve and mourn and remember our dead. These things, too, are part of the cycles. My faith teaches that every winter is followed by spring, every death by rebirth. I don't feign to understand that in any rational way, but I know it. My faith teaches that there is great beauty in death, that there are blessings and gifts, even here. The dark is a place of comfort, of gestation and regeneration. The earth and her creatures turn inward in this season, but we will emerge anew in the spring. We take heart in the turning of the wheel ever onward.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

For Lugh

(Samhain altar, 2007)

Two years ago this weekend, we held a Samhain ritual at our home, and when we invoked our dead, nearly everyone called upon a beloved dog who had passed beyond the veil. The next day, on an impulse visit to the SPCA, we met our beloved Lugh, a brindle pitt-mix puppy who we knew, immediately, was ours. He joined our family that weekend, and we began to learn the very special love that is dog-love. We came to believe that Lugh was a guardian spirit who had manifested in our lives at that time, in that doggy body, to see us both through the challenging months ahead, to teach us and love us.

One month ago, to our great shock and sadness, Lugh decided it was time to move on from this earthly life. He was only two years old. It was such a clear and decisive move on his part. The signs snapped into focus the moment he was gone.

On his morning walk with David, on his last day, there was a great blue heron in the creek outside our house. We live downtown, and that's an unusual sight. She caught Lugh's attention; he turned his head to stare after her as she flew away. Heron is a spirit messenger, a guardian who stands at the gateway of life and death.

That afternoon, the three of us hiked with a friend and another dog. We were startled by a flush of wild turkeys taking off into the air, so taken with surprise that we didn't see Lugh cross the path and dart after them, down a steep, brush-filled incline, into rush hour traffic. The other dog ran back and forth at the path's edge, as if there were a barrier stopping him from following. Wild turkeys, according to Indian lore in the southwestern United States, guide spirits between this world and the next.

We didn't see Lugh run after the turkeys, but when we heard the sickening sound of a truck striking him, David tore down the hill. I sent our friend back for the car, and I stumbled down after David. By the time I reached the side of the road, David was holding him. There was hardly a mark on his body, but one look in his eyes, and I knew he'd followed those damn turkeys right up into the sky. His heart beat perhaps a minute more, and his breath was warm. Then they both stopped. We held him and petted him. I sang to him as I always did to comfort him. We told him that it was okay to leave, that we wished him safe passage, that we loved him very, very much.

These are the blessings in the moment of death, that we could both be with him, that he didn't suffer.

He was my spiritual teacher and dear friend. I believe that he is with me still, here right next to me on the couch as he used to be, in the world of spirit that is so close we can almost touch it, especially at this time of year. But I miss his earthly form so very, very much.

Sweet Lugh, your powerful spirit touched so many people and dogs during your short time with us. We love you. We miss you. We know you still, and always.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

(Raymond Carver, "Last Fragment")