Flame in Bloom wrote about her take on birth, death, and what comes after. It was a beautiful post and it inspired me to write about it myself. Where did I come from? How have my experiences shaped my beliefs about our most basic and universal experiences?
I was born in December. My mum still refers to me as a snow baby and, to this day, although I dislike the danger associated with driving in the snow, I look forward to and enjoy winter every year! I was born roughly a week before Christmas. My sister was born around Easter. Our birthdays and their celebrations have always occurred around major festivals of rebirth. I believe that life is magical and that we come from somewhere else, or some other life.
Pregnancy and birth are magical. Although I've never been pregnant myself, I've known enough women to experience it that I've witnessed the awesomeness that is creation. Birth seems like an extreme form of magic. I've seen some pregnancies that were unexpected and through strange or even sad circumstances, but they have always been accepted as fate and cherished. That said, I believe in a woman's choice to abort. It is none of my business what a woman does with her own body and I can think of a few circumstances where I would take such control. I'm very much a novice at magic and magical philosophy, but I know enough that some forms of magic are taking control of the forces of nature, with or without the permission of the Gods or spirits, depending on the tradition. Sometimes, it's okay to take that control as long as it is done with respect and foresight. At the same time, I believe that people must be more responsible. I believe that women have a right to abortions, but I wish there weren't a need for them ever.
We live in a crowded world that is quickly becoming depleted of its resources. This bothers me when I think about having any children of my own. When I got engaged, and felt very secure with my mate, I suddenly recognized what scores of women call their biological clock - in other words, I started to feel that real drive to have a child. It's uniquely different from my sex drive. I feel my body and heart want a child, but my mind firmly says no. This is mostly a matter of finances. Weretoad and I are in a good place. We are pretty comfortable now but I'm not sure how a child would fit into that equation. We also want to have more fun. We want to travel, attend theaters, take more college classes... A child would dramatically complicate all of that. I'm not above admitting my own selfishness here. I recognize that I am too selfish and couple-involved to allow the admittance of another into our home yet. We're just not ready. The environmental concerns that come with a child also weigh on my mind when I think about it. If we ever have children, I think one would be the ideal number. We would rather pump less of a progeny into an already burdened world than more or equal.
I've experienced a lot of death in my life. The first was my goldfish at the age of five. I was very distraught. My father made her a little wooden casket and we buried her beneath a blue spruce. Then my maternal grandmother died when I was eight. Then my zebra finch. Then my dog. Then my paternal great grandmother and several other people. Shortly after I started college, my aunt died at the age of 40 from stomach and bone cancer. My first cat, Muffin, passed away two days after my wedding. Those were each hard but brought on more of a maturity about death. I saw suffering and knew that death most likely meant an end to that, at least in this world. I accepted the sadness but also the inevitability. In my experience, you cannot have one without the other.
Other people talk about an acceptance of death tying into their diets. It is not so simple to me. I cannot use that as an excuse to eat meat. As I've explored in other posts, I've come to the realization that my lesson in this life is to abstain from meat, at least for the time being. I know many people who say that they eat meat because it connects them to the cycles of life. I respect them for that because, ultimately, our diet is a very personal thing and we all do what we feel is right for ourselves and the environment (I hope). The herbivore is just as much a part of the circle of life. I accept that role and am okay with other organisms eating me when I die. I want them to. I want to go back into the Earth Mother's crucible. Does abstaining from flesh mean I am somehow ignorant of death? Does it mean I don't want to talk about it or hide from it? Not at all. I have great respect for hunters. When I meet people who have tried other types of meat, I ask how it tasted. I have a growing collection of found bones. I do not look away from the roadkill - I pray for it. I do not take some sort of psychotic joy from death and the kill. I would rather not watch a predator maul its prey, but that doesn't mean I don't understand or respect that magic.
The After Life
After death, I believe that we go somewhere. I am comforted and content with the Celtic models of the afterlife. They seemed to believe in the afterlife or the Otherworld being a collection of islands. Each island was something different - enjoyable, horrific, human, animal, relaxing, rollicking... Perhaps it is like that? Perhaps we choose where we stay for awhile. Perhaps we can move from one to another. Perhaps there are islands for other religions. Or even another set of island chains. Perhaps we can all visit one another while still enjoying our version of paradise. And yet perhaps there is nothing at all. Perhaps we will simply be converted to something or someone else, through reincarnation or the transference of energy. I remain happily agnostic about this subject.
At the same time, I believe in ghosts and the ability to communicate with the dead. I've experienced it myself at least four times. I cannot deny what happened nor rationalize it any other way. Thus, I believe there is something more than just silence after life. This fits perfectly into my desire to make altars for my ancestors and pray to them.
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