Last night my husband and I visited with a friend whose father has recently passed away. FR is Jewish and yesterday was her second day of Shiva. In every religion or culture there are special traditions dedicated to the dead. In Judaism, immediately after the death of a loved one, relatives go into a state of grieving. For seven days they receive family and friends at the home of the deceased where they share food, stories and prayers.
Obviously as a traditional Keeper of the Dead I’m always impressed with how people mourn or deal with death. Most people these days understand the Keeper of the Dead as an Angel of Death: Someone who has the ability to see death coming; and also holds the skills necessary to guide the dying to the after life. Psychics who see or hear those who have passed on are not necessarily considered as Keepers of the Dead. Actually in many teachings of the Wheel they are identified as Messengers: People capable of confirming that there exists some kind of reality beyond life as we know it… What makes the difference between a Keeper of the Dead and a Messenger is that one guides or assists the dying or deceased on their journey; while the other one helps and supports the living through the death process.
Where Keepers of the Dead attract the actual experience of death in countless different forms; Messengers attract “ghost-like memories” of the deceased. A good number of Keepers of the Dead will develop Messenger skills. Obviously, Keepers of the Dead seem to magnetize death experiences. I’ve always seen it as “being hired by the Universe.” I believe I am literally led to individuals who need me. Amazingly through every experience I’ve had, I’ve been told by the dying and their closest relatives: “You were actually expected.” How that works is beyond me!
Isn’t it incredible how every little detail of life is calculated even death? I’ve always found it fascinating how in death we attract our Death Angel. Whether he/she is a stranger who responds to the call; or a relative / friend / or deceased loved one who takes up the responsibility we are never left alone to embark on our journey to the Stars.
For most humans it is difficult to understand that no living creature on our Planet and beyond ever stands alone. Loneliness if profoundly explored, is definitely a “human theme;” which can bring us to the reality of intuitive trust and faith. Our DNA for example consists of billions of connections; which prove that our makeup contains the sacred knowledge of all of Creation. Our every action, attitude, thought and behaviour considers with every breath our era; our environment; and every cosmological influence. We may not be consciously aware of the fact that we are an example of collectivity; but the fact remains, science can confirm we are constantly bringing together countless particles of LIFE; searching to be whole.
In Judaism like in our First Nation traditions or Old Religion language holds sacred “medicine” (power). If you journey with the words of the “old languages” – you should awaken in the dreaming of these words and have access to their meaning or wisdom. Shiva for example means “seven” and is referred to in the Old Testament (Book of Genesis); when God creates the Earth and Man in seven days. On the Medicine Wheel “seven” refers to the Clans: The seven species of life; or again how LIFE came to be… You can find incredible similarities between the stories of the Hebrew Bible and the stories of the Sacred Circle (what is often called the stories of Creation).
Basically Shiva is about seven days dedicated to “lamenting and comforting:” Two crucial elements within the mourning process. When someone we love passes on we always feel “loss, loneliness, and separation / detachment.” Many individuals also feel “judgment.”
· Did they say goodbye?
· Did they love their relatives appropriately or adequately?
· Did they make sure to resolve conflicts and issues before their death?
· Were they committed enough?
What I love about Shiva is how it touches so many different facets of the mourning process. For example during Shiva the mourners are not allowed to indulge in anything relating to vanity. All mirrors are covered. The mourners don’t bathe; don’t shave; don’t wear makeup; don’t wear jewellery; or wear fancy clothes. There’s no sexual relations during this time or even work. Shiva is seven days of “standing still” present to loss, memories, and the departure of a loved one. It’s about feeling “low” and moving through these different emotions. In doing so we are contributing to the journey of our loved ones – helping them move through to the after life.
From my perspective, rituals are more then just repetitive actions. They hold so much power; which can help us bridge the consciousness of other realities. I’ve never seen FR without makeup; messy hair; and answering the door in bare feet. I appreciated this ritual of “depriving one’s self of ego (vanity and pride)”. It made the moment more authentic. FR talked about her childhood as she grew up in this house with her parents. She pointed to old pictures on the wall. And showed deep emotions towards J her uncle and father’s brother who was the last surviving relative of the elder generation of her family.
She said: “I feel bad for him because he’s never been without my father. They actually lived side by side their whole lives: Brothers, neighbours, and partners in business.”
I couldn’t help but glance towards this old man – white hair, distinguished and singing the traditional prayers. No doubt his soul called out to me. My husband and I spent barely 20 minutes at the house. Enough time to meet J and to realize he would be soon to follow… Continuing his journey side by side with his brother. Beauty was the only word that came to mind. As we left I took a moment to cherish the experience of death. I left a bit of tobacco to a nearby tree and sent a prayer to Spirit.
We never die alone!