My New Book

It is small. It took me over a year. But it is done!

Grave Spirits contains a collection of my writing (some published some not) pertaining to death, ancestors, death rites, voodoo and more!

It also contains a bunch of my photography of various cemeteries that I have visited over the years.

If anything! I hope this book makes you a death positive person!

You can purchase it here!

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Death Denial

bc7df36ec1efdcedd1bae56db709ecf8One major flaw with humans is our ability to deny just about anything. Even when it’s right in front of our faces. Especially death.

After the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic– no one ever discussed it. If it was discussed, it was in a passing comment or a three-sentence paragraph.

Same thing for the 1831 cholera pandemic in England and beyond. After more than 52,000 lives were claimed to cholera- it was never discussed or mentioned.

Oh yes, and the Black Death? The bubonic plague that decimated Europe for three years; again, rarely discussed.

The 1918 flu is never mentioned in textbooks when World War I is discussed; even though it killed more than the actual war itself.

Is it our fear of death that prevents us from actually acknowledging its existence? Even when its everywhere? Are we so afraid to acknowledge our own mortality?

I understand the trauma of seeing people dying every day. Seeing coffins stacked up. Mass graves being dug. But after it’s over…..

I recently had a patient who lost her grandmother. She was a wreck when she came into the office.  I offered my condolences and some advice on keeping healthy during a time of intense grief (I have experienced it way too many times). The following week she came back in, and while she looked tired, she didn’t seem like someone who just lost someone. I asked her the obvious question: How are you doing?

Her response was basically, “I am working two jobs and going to meetings so I can’t think about it.”

I jumped right away into healer mode. I explained to her how bad it was not to acknowledge the death of her grandmother, but also her own grief. Keeping in grief will only cause more damage in the future than actually dealing with it when its there. When I worked in hospice I saw it all the time. Family members not dealing with the reality that their loved one is dying. When death came they would just brush it off. The “we knew it was coming,” quote I heard a thousand times.

What about death is so frightening that when it’s right there we ignore it? Never discuss it. Never want to deal with it. Even those with strong religious and spiritual lives deny the obvious.

We are all dying.

Accepting our own mortality, even in the face of death itself, can not only empower us with the ability to live our lives to the fullest but also give us the strength we need when our loved ones pass away. We are not as fragile as we think we are. Pretending that death will not happen–or, that death happened on a large scale– is only denying our ability to recognize our own mortality.

And as for those who passed away- how horrible is it to just forget them? Forget what happened? Forget how they died? Never discussing it again. Don’t they deserve respect? I was so happy when I hear that the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia was holding a mournful march to honor those who died in the 1918 flu epidemic.  Finally acknowledging not only the victims but also death itself.

Until we can stop denying the obvious- we are never going to truly live.

 

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?