The last few months have been pretty chaotic and upsetting, but things feel like they’re finally settling down into some semblance of normal again. Tonight was the first full moon esbast I’ve really been able to sit down and devote some time to since Yule. My mother got sick towards the end of last year, and died in January. Through the last couple of weeks of her life, we knew she was going to die, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. In any case, that has been the source of a lot of rumination, contemplation, questioning and general introspective inquiry for me over the last few months.
It’s also been an interesting time for talking to my children. They’re not little anymore, so discussions about in-dept spiritual concepts have a much different flavor to them now than they used to. It’s interesting to see how their ideas about death, dying, the after;life and spirituality are unfolding and what they think about those concepts. It’s also interesting to me how very different they are from each other with regard to their thought processes and general spiritual ideas.
I have been working on creating a little outdoor space in my yard lately; I repainted some old patio furniture and bought a lovely bright umbrella for the table. It’s been nice to have diner outside, and gives me a pretty, dedicated space to meditate and/or commune with nature, especially when I feel like going outside at night. This evening was one such occasion; I brought my esbat journal and affirmation cards, incense and tea to my little spot and just bathed in the moonlight. Then I took a walk around my yard and mentally mapped out some future plans I’d like to implement for outdoor living spaces. The moon was so pretty and bright – I love walking around outside under the full moon!
I have been meaning to re-plant an herb garden, but haven’t followed through with it for various reasons. After my mom crossed over, it seemed like a good time to make those plans blossom. As part of my grief self-care and healing process, I have been buying plants and herbs. I love green growing things; I’m not super great at keeping them alive past a certain point, but I really love them. It’s been healing, because my mom had quite the green thumb and also loved her plants, so it’s almost like sharing this with her. In addition to garden basics like basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and catnip, I added several variations of common varieties, like lime basil and purple basil; hot & spicy oregano; several varieties of mint (spearmint, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint); and other staples like lemon balm and be balm, succulents, bell and jalapeno peppers, and quite a few greenery plants and flowers as well.
When my mom died, my aunt brought me a cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. She had been keeping it for my mom (who inherited it when my grandmother died). My grandmother collected all kinds of dolls, and the cabinet is where they lived. I re-purposed it into my herbal and apothecary cabinet, with the top housing my living room altar. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full altar in a public space in my house; my main altar is in my bedroom. Right now, it’s just a generic altar, but I’m planing for it to become more of a family space. I’m sure that with time, it will take on a life of its own as we add to it.
I spent some time the other day making honey incense. It’s been a long time since I’ve made incense; I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process. It’s really easy, and can basically be customized with either what you have on hand, or for specific purposes. I made a prosperity and protection blend for Beltane. This has a lovely sweet scent, and doesn’t smoke a lot; it just kinda smolders, which is nice if you have allergies.
Homemade Springtime Prosperity & Protection honey incense
1 tsp comfrey leaf
1.5 tsp lavender flowers
1 tsp orange peel
.5 tsp fenugreek seed
2 white sage leaves
.75 tsp. frankincense powder
1 tsp copal tears
honey (aprox 1.5 tsp)
Grind all dry ingredients. I put everything in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the larger bits are about evenly sized, then move to an electric finder and give everything a spin – just enough to get a rough sand-like texture. Then pour into a small bowl and add honey, sparingly. You inky need enough honey to bind the ingredients together so they’ll hold the ball shape. Roll and place on parchment paper to dry in a cool, dark place. You can use them immediately, but the are better when dried and aged. Burn by placing a ball onto a lot charcoal disc.
I’ve also been spending time with my cards. I read with the Medieval Scapini Tarot, and have been experimenting with different ways to read. This was a year forecast reading, which I’ve never attempted before. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
I don’t know what I believe about life after death – not concretely, anyway. I was raised to believe that death = death – a cessation of consciousness and all activity; that there was no ‘soul’ that lived on after death. I can see that as a viable alternative to the traditional Christian versions of living in a harp-filled Heaven or being tortured forever in a fiery Hell.
But it doesn’t necessarily ‘fit’ my ideas, either.
I have said before that I have always felt drawn to ancient Egyptian culture, and that if I believed in reincarnation, that I most assuredly lived during that time. Wishful thinking? Maybe… but I don’t think that it hurts anyone if I choose to believe that.
I sort of envision the Summerlands to be a misty or sunny day in the garden – tall enough so that my view is obstructed – the flowers and vines and fruits and vegetables have all of my attention. I am at peace, relaxed and my thoughts drift in a time and place where time has no meaning. I am free to daydream and contemplate things without any demands on my time or for my attention. I may be called, but can chose to answer or ignore the call as I like. Occasionally, others stop by – a presence that I am aware of more than a ‘visitor’ whose arrival and stay demands that I play hostess. It’s more of an ethereal existence and interaction is both faster and slower – all consuming and requiring much less time, focus and effort to accomplish. And I am free to remain in that state until I am moved to leave it.
One reason why this idea fits for me is my relationship with my husband. We’ve known each other for most of our lives, and have been together as a couple for half of them. We do not struggle to be together; being together is far more natural than being apart. Our connection is deeper than just what could be accomplished in a mere decade or two of friendship and love – so where does that connection come from? And if we could have that sort of perfected connection in another realm, why would we choose to leave it?
I feel like the existence in the afterlife is somewhat solitary. I think there are cycles – you tend to be around the same spirits in your life again and again – and sometimes people may come into your life at different times during those cycles. There are a couple of people in my life now that I feel a connection to that is inexplicable – perhaps they have been in my life in previous cycles? I so think that those who are kindred are meant to be in each other’s lives no matter the time and place. Travel and circumstances, acquaintances and people that you meet throughout the course of your life are there for a reason. I know that some of my best friends now are people that I met through people who are no longer a part of my life.
In any case, my ideas about what happens after I die are still forming. I am comfortable with not having a concrete answer to those questions at this time; I don’t know how we can know for certain what happens after death without dying and I am not ready to leave this life yet. If we are reborn in cycles, then I do think that the idea that we have more to learn and living a variety of lives is the way to achieve that end. Whether the ultimate goal is some form of enlightenment or higher existence, I don’t know, and don’t know whether or not that has any bearing on my life at present (other than the need to fulfill my desire to continue learning).
What are your thoughts on the afterlife? What does it look life, what do you do there?