Life. Death. Love.

“Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.” – Walt Whitman

It is always hard for me to wrap my mind around why people are so afraid of getting old and afraid of death. After all, it’s going to happen to all of us. I can appreciate the wanting to live a good long life- free of disease. But why try to slow down the aging processimages? Why not accept the inevitable— and actually use it to create a well-lived life?

We started to die the day we were born.

When people first meet me, their initial thoughts are usually that I am a dark and mysterious girl with a morbid fascination. After all,  I make jewelry with vertebrae (human and animal). I paint animal skulls. I post images of death in all its forms. My home is decorated with all things death-related– skulls, skeletons, bones. My life is dedicated to the dead.

I have been fascinated with death since childhood. Being born on November 1st, it’s hard not to fall in love with images of death! My birthdays were always filled with bits and pieces of Halloween and All Souls Day. My work with dead goes back as far as I can remember-even within the realm of imaginary friends in childhood.

As I grew older, I began to realize that my life was destined to be entwined between the realms of the living and the dead.

Am I obsessed with death? No.

Do I venerate death? Yes.

I have never been afraid of the concept of death. I understand why most people are. It’s frightening to think about the unknown


I find death comforting. We are all going to end up there. Death is also the one thing in life that does not discriminate; Death does not care if you are rich, poor, what race you are, where you are from, who your family is, what religion you practice, who you pray to. Death is a bit of coming home after a long journey. For me, death is like a waiting lover. Open arms and ready to dance. Morbid? Not really.

My relationship with death has made me love life because Death is humbling. 

When I work with bones–I find it an honor. To hold something so sacred that ones supported the weight of a living thing is a blessing. When I work on a piece, whether painting on a skull or entwining vertebrae into jewelry, I think of what animal once owned those bones. What type of energy that animal had. Where it lived, what it did. I reflect on the essence of the being.

When I work on human bones- its an even greater honor. I think of the person, who they may have been, what they may have done. When I hold a human bone in my hand, I think of my ancestors– of all our ancestors– those who have walked this earth thousands of years before now. Its a sacred honor to me to hold those human bones in my hand.

Imagine if someone told you you had three days to live. Would you really live? Would you break the rules? Would you take risks? Would you be a kinder person?

This is why I love death. It made me learn to live my life with no regrets. I always reflect on the choices

I made, chances I took…things I have said– and I regret nothing.  I am getting older, I am learning that time goes by fast. Age is inevitable. But I have every intention of living my life my way.

In honoring and understanding death- I have learned to appreciate life. Death has humbled me beyond words. Working with and having human bones in my life is one of the greatest honors I could ever have. The dead remind me to live. REALLY live.


So yes, maybe in some strange way- I am obsessed with Death. But its an obsession of absolution. I know that someday I will be like those bones….that will be all that is left of me on this earthly realm. I have no fear of that.

 

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Why Its Important To Know Where You Come From

Today, most people in the West only think of “family” in terms of immediate family, cousins and close friends. In a strange way, we can only see within a limited frame. There is no beyond “grandma or grandpa.” Children are raised to only see familial relationships as those who are close by.

But we all came from somewhere beyond our parents and our parents parents. I never really much thought of my great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents until I really started to delve into the study of Shamanism. All this talk of ancestors. Who was I? Beyond the reaches of what I already knew about my family–I was just me. There was no beyond. And seeing as I am very different than most members of my family–its always been hard for me to “fit in.” Add that to having depression and I sometimes felt like an alien in another world.

With my study of Shamanism, I finally became aware that there is more to family than just what you grow up with. Your ancestors are a part of you. The blood that runs in you is the same blood that has run in your ancestors for thousands of years. You are a part of them even now. Though they maybe long gone–you still have a deep connection with them. And, you can still make them apart of who you are now and who you are becoming.

I really needed to learn my “roots.”

I am extremely close to my maternal grandmother. She is my rock and the one I have I learned the most from about what forgiveness, compassion and strong will mean. Her parents were hearty peasant stock from Belarus. Lived off the land and believed in folk magick, hard work and resiliency. The understanding that our connection to nature and the understanding of natural cycles of our world can make or break us. My grandmother and grandfather were also a survivors of the Holocaust. If you can learn and teach others about compassion and forgiveness after living through that–then there is so much you have given to the world already.

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My paternal grandmother-well….by chance I happened to find a website dedicated to her mothers family–the Spragues. I wrote the owner of the website a letter explaining who I was and he generously sent me over three hundred pages of genealogy. That to me was the most amazing thing. I learned that I come from a long line of strong women–including Anne Hutchinson–America’s first feminist (and there’s where my fiery nature comes from!). I also found out that I am related to Mary Dyer who lost her life fighting for religious freedom. And another relative who was tried three times for witchcraft and got off (I doubt I would be so lucky if the Burning Times ever came back!).

Knowing all this made me have a connection to my greater family. Now, I make offerings to them, ask their blessing and advice, and know–that while I never met nor ever will–their blood runs through mine. Knowing where you came from can make you have an even stronger relationship to the SPIRIT world. And yes, its completely possible to feel connected to your ancestors–even in our Western culture.

Shamanism is all about honoring spirit. And most of all, its about honoring your ancestors–remembering that their journey is what has started yours. You wouldn’t exist had it not been for them. And there is always someone from your family who you are most like–even if that person has long been dead.

After all, what is death if their spirit is within you?