If the current state of the world doesn’t have you thinking about your own death, you are missing out. Yes, I know it sounds morbid, but if you are on a magickal path, a mystery of initiation which goes beyond the formal rituals into the very mysteries of consciousness, then you should be getting to know death, your own and in general. A great opportunity is upon Witches, Magicians, Shamans, and Sorcerers of all kinds, if we simply take it.
Many formulas for initiation have, at least at some stage, the formula of death and resurrection. In fact, most can be boiled down to birth, sex, and death in their most cosmic forms – awakening, union, and rebirth. When we deal with their cosmic forms, we are often working in symbol, metaphor, and poetry in the art of ritual. How often do people say that fertility comes in many forms, and is not just human fertility, as many of the most notable occultists were without child. There is of course fertility of the land, but also of the mind, of creativity, of generosity. But we can also forget that in very real ways, cosmic or not, the mysteries are birth, sex, and death. While we have a wide range of expression and choices in terms of sexuality, we don’t always have a lot of choice around our death. So we make that the most symbolic of all, yet its the inevitable we will all face no matter what, and while we can’t often choose how death with come, we can choose to have a conscious relationship with it, just as we can choose to have a conscious relationship with our sexuality.
The purpose of outer initiation rituals that often simulate death, descent, the worlds of the afterlife and the return and rebirth, including such historic mysteries of Inanna, Dionysus, the Elusyinian Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone, early Gnostic Christianity, and now modern formal Wicca, should leave you comfortable with death. Death is your ally. Death is your advisor as Carlos Castaneda would say, residing on your shoulder. Before every situation, you consult the death upon your shoulder and there are only two answers, “Not yet” or “Yes, now” and you take action accordingly. Death is the way of change, for unlimited growth is as much a blight upon nature as death is a fear to most humans. It is necessary, for without it there can be no birth. Union without the possibility of separation is meaningless. And while we are told the initiates of the ancient mysteries had no fear of death, I don’t always find that among modern Witches. I think that’s normal. That’s very human. It’s easy to mythologizes the faceless past initiates into an ideal. But I do also think it’s an ideal to dive deeper into, and more work can be done about making peace with death while we are surrounded with it.
Most people are just thinking about survival and prospering. Most people don’t seek the mysteries. If you do, you already stand a bit a part. Yet these times are like a global initiation. I look at the juxtaposition of Covid-19 globally and the rise of fascism, the paradox of going within and isolating and stepping out, standing up and speaking out. In paradox there are the mysteries.
Before my mother died, but near the end, she gave me great advice about not taking any day for granted, not taking your health for granted, and not taking the people in your life for granted. Do what you want to do. Live your life. Fulfill your dreams. Tell people you love them. And then she had a moment of realization that I do. In part to having amazingly supportive parents, but also the initiatory nature of coming out as a queer man, as polyamorous, as a Witch all shifted my perspective on life. Growing up in the days of when gay bashing was common, and HIV+ was a death sentence, I thought about violence and death happening to me a lot. Like many nihilistic teens and twenty-somethings, I thought I would be dead by thirty, but here I am at forty-seven with a life and world my twenty-something self could never have imagined, both good and bad.
While your life would never be “complete,” have I done all, been all, and said all that I could possibly do, be, and say that was important every day up to this point? Was I up-to-date with my debts, emotional more than financial? If something was to happen to me today, would I have any regrets? Through this, I learned to not put off for tomorrow, to resolve a conflict or an issue because tomorrow might never come. If possible, face it today and go clean into the next day. No regrets doesn’t mean total disregard, but resolving what you can take action on and forgiving yourself and others for the things you can’t take action on.
A pandemic is a powerful time, and if it wasn’t your reality before, as many people feel relatively safe and immortal and believe death is a far and distant thing, possible death is your reality now. You don’t know. And you never did, but watching a death toll in the United States climb, it becomes clearer. If you know someone who has had Covid-19, you might see it. If you know someone who has died of Covid-19, or suffered lasting heart or lung damage, you know. If you know someone harmed in any protests, you know. Death is all around us, and always has been. We just choose to not look at it. Look at it. Talk to it. Realize death is there regardless of your desire. If you are a Witch, that is what the dark macabre aesthetic is all about. This is what Halloween and Samhain are all about. Embrace death while you are alive. The embracing of death brings vitality to life.
Have I said what I need to say to the people in my life?
Do they know how I feel about them?
Is there anything left unresolved that I can and should resolve?
Have I done the things with my life that I am capable of doing?
If no, is it out of my control, or something I need to take responsibility for?
Have I moved towards the experiences I desire?
Have I lived my ideals? If not, why not?
Are my medical wishes personally and legally clear with my loved ones if I become incapacitated?
Are my legal wishes regarding the end of my life, funeral, and property clear?
Are you prepared and at peace to die if it were to happen now?
Remember, potential death is an ally, a teacher, a friend. Covid-19 is a great initiator if you take this time to go within, and in your isolation, reflect, learn, and grow as you can. While some might not be in a financial or health situation to reflect, but if you are relatively safe, and you haven’t been asking yourself what am I learning at this time, about myself, about others, about the world, you are missing this grand opportunity. Its like going into the initiatory cave without a torch and walking out again, unmoved. Or you can go in with a little light and experience the cave paintings and the wisdom of all those who have been in the dark before you and receive the seeds of new initiation.
Chaos and corruptions are also great teachers, great catalysts. We all have the idea we’d be the hero in the movie when faced with tough choices. What does that look like to you in this world? Are you doing it? We are living and writing our myths, our own stories. What is your story to tell?
Does your magick include the magick of consciousness, of shifting the self as you shift the outer world? The reflective is as necessary as the projective. If we constantly push to get the things we need and want, and never slow down to ask ourselves the big questions, the holy art of magick loses something, just as much as when we use it only as a tool of enlightenment and suffer because we refuse to cast that love, money, or healing spell as being selfish. True magick contains them all. Magick is life. And magick is death. And everything in-between.