Post prayers and poems of all Pagan traditions to be read for those who are dying. So I assume with the seriousness of the topic all members will take this seriously and I won't have to remind anyone of manners and morals. Thank you all. Blessed Be - Slaying Crow (always slaying inner demons)
If Death is Kind
Perhaps if death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.
We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.
Pagan rituals and prayers
The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare and the Reclaiming Collective, published by Harper Collins (San Francisco; ISBN 0 06 251516 0; 352 pages; $24). Reviewed by Nicholas Albery.
Much of this spiritual guidebook will seem too esoteric for non-pagans, but there remain a number of stories, rituals and prayers within it that will move those of other faiths and that could be adapted for their own ceremonies.
Prayer for the one who is dying
Take for instance this prayer for the one who is dying or already dead, entitled 'Carry Only Love':
Beloved one, you are dying [dead],
but you are not alone.
We are here with you,
the beloved dead await you.
You go from love
Carry with you
May our love carry you
and open the way.
I cannot imagine any of the religions objecting to this.
Prayer for one who has had a miscarriage
And I was very touched by the following prayer, for a person who has suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth or infant death:
Mother of life,
Mother of death,
here is a spirit so new
that the gates of life and death
are just an archway in her dancing ground.
She has danced her way back to you.
Her passage is easy
but mine is hard.
I wanted to hold her living flesh
and feel her soft breath and her heartbeat.
(I nurtured her in my body;
I would have fed her from my breasts.)
I would have cared for her
and watched her first steps
and listened for her voice.
No other child that may come to me
will ever be what she would have been.
Nothing, nobody, will ever replace her.
Whatever healing I may find,
this loss will always be a part of me.
(Bless my womb, which has the power
to create life and death.)
Bless my arms
that would have embraced her.
Bless my hands that would have lifted her.
Bless my heart that grieves.
'This is extraordinarily powerful poetry, the writer a Cranmer for our times, creating a new 20th century missal'
This is extraordinarily powerful poetry, the writer a Cranmer for our times, creating a new 20th century missal - would that the Church of England had employed someone with her strength of vision when drawing up its dismal Alternative Prayer Book.
Prayer for one assisting someone to die
I believe that for society to permit euthanasia is too big a risk, but the book's prayer for assisting someone to die almost convinces me otherwise. It begins:
Goddess of death,
I stand here as your priest/ess
knowing that life must be winnowed
This is a holy act I perform:
to open a gateway
for a willing one
to come to you.
This is an act of healing,
a release from suffering,
an end to pain.
Here is one whose arms are open
to embrace you ...
'Always keep your bags packed!'
As in the Bible, there are many stories or parables in this manual, to remind one of elemental truths. I appreciated, for instance, Minerva Earthschild's account of her friend Craig's death from a stroke:
"The most profound teaching," she writes, "from the experience of sudden death, for the survivors, for each one of us, is that it gives us no time for finishing business, for saying goodbyes.
"After hearing of Craig's death, one friend of mine attached a note to my front door. It read simply, 'Always keep your bags packed!' I kept this note taped to my kitchen cabinet for weeks ... When we carry with us the awareness that death may come in this way, we become present fully in the moment. The knowledge that a sudden death may await each one of us challenges us to live life so fully and with such awareness that we are always prepared for death to come."
Invoking the names of the dead
The authors are surely right too to stress the importance of remembering the dead within the community. M. Macha NightMare writes how she goes through local obituary columns extracting the names and stories of those who have died. She intersperses these with the names of 'ordinary folk' who have asked to be included (in response to her newsletters and posters and flyers, people leave names that they would like included on her answering machine - some even leave the names of their pets). Then, in an annual Samhain circle, as she describes it:
'She goes through local obituary columns extracting the names and stories of those who have died'
"I take a deep breath and walk into the centre. I begin with more general words of honour and invocation, talking about why and how very much we want these souls present. Then I begin to call the names - not too fast, and as carefully and accurately as I can ... People often wail or cry quietly ... they have even told me that the moment I called their beloved dead was the single most moving part of the ritual for them ... This feedback convinces me that the work I have done in evolving this rite for communal grieving is valuable."
Libraries should definitely make this book available to their communities, so that readers can pick and choose from the bits within it that inspire them. It should also be required reading for priests and ministers in their training colleges, so as to soften the masculinity of their theology.
Bind this sick person to Heaven,
for from Earth s/he is being torn away!
Of the brave person who was so strong,
the strength has departed.
Of the righteous servant,
the force does not return.
In this bodily frame
s/he lies dangerously ill.
But Ishtar, who in her dwelling,
is grieved concerning this being,
descends from her mountain
unvisited of humans.
To the door of this sick person she comes.
The sick person listens!
Who is there? Who comes?
It is Ishtar, daughter of the Moon God!
Like pure silver may this garment be shining white!
Like brass may s/he be radiant!
To the Sun, greatest of the gods, may s/he ascend!
And may the Sun, greatest of the gods,
receive this soul into these holy hands!
- An Assyrian Prayer for the Dying -
Orchil, the dim goddess who is under the
brown earth, in a vast cavern, where she
weaves at two looms. With one hand she
weaves life upward through the grass; with
the other she weaves death downward through
the mould; and the sound of the weaving is
Eternity, and the name of it in the green
world is Time. And, through all, Orchil
weaves the weft of Eternal Beauty, that
passeth not, through her soul is Change.
-- Fiona MacLeod Iona
A PRAYER FOR PRESERVATION OF THE HEART
MY HEART, my mother; my heart, my mother! My heart of my existence upon earth!
May naught stand up to oppose me in judgment; may there be no opposition to me in the presence of the sovereign princes; may no evil be wrought against me in the presence of the gods; may there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of the great god, the lord of Amentet.
Homage to thee, O thou heart of Osiris--khent--Amentet! Homage to you, O my reins! Homage to you, O ye gods who dwell in the divine clouds, and who are exalted [or holy] by reason of your sceptres!
Speak ye fair words for the Osiris Auf-ankh, and make ye him to prosper before Nehebka. And behold, though I be joined to the earth, and am in the mighty innermost part of heaven, let me remain on the earth and not die in Amentet, and let me remain a khu therein for ever and ever!
This prayer shall be recited over a basalt scarab, which shall be set in a gold setting, and it shall be placed inside the heart of the man (i.e., the dead) for whom the ceremonies of "opening the mouth" and of anointing with unguent have been performed.
And there shall be recited by way of magical charm the words:
"My heart, my mother! my heart, my mother! My heart of transformations!"
(Khu, a god of light)