When our ancestors lived close to the land, they were in tune with the natural cycles of death and rebirth around them. They had concepts, stories and ceremonies that seem shamanic to us, but to them were an everyday way of living and dying.
My Celtic ancestors marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new on Samhain, November 1st. They honored death at this time, knowing it was a doorway to rebirth. They acknowledged the death of the crops and the wild plants after giving the fruits of their harvests. They gave thanks to the yearling hogs and the cattle that were butchered and smoked, and for the wild stags that stood still before their arrows as a gift of sustenance. The shortening days and longer nights symbolized the sun’s journey towards death and then rebirth at winter’s solstice.
Today many western countries know Samhain as Halloween where death is also a key image in our culture around that day, with ghosts, graveyards and skeletons popping out of decorated front yards and craft stores.
This time of year especially, the subject of death is up in all kinds of ways. A few days ago walking in the park near me I met some surveyors measuring and taking pictures. There are plans to redo and develop some trails and green areas there, but public details are few. We were standing close to one of my favorite trees, a giant walnut. I asked one of them if he knew if the city had any plans to remove any of the trees, as I am always thinking about what impacts my tree friends. He didn’t know, but he mentioned how remarkable the walnut tree is in its size and beauty.
But then he said, “Well they might have to take it down because its dying. It is starting to tilt.”
Well for the rest of my walk I kept thinking about that. It didn’t feel true to me. That tree has been growing for well over 100 years. It is full of lush green leaves, with a sturdy trunk and healthy looking bark. But it is on the side of a creek bank that may be destabilizing its roots. and so that is the reason it is tilting. I am not an arborist, but I felt certain in my way of sensing and feeling that it is not dying any time soon.
Left alone it may very well tilt over time, its weighty branches eventually winning over the roots as they lose more traction to the creek bed erosion. One day it will fall over onto the ground. Maybe it will stop growing, and stop exhaling oxygen, and then it will be dying. Then it will begin to recycle its nutrients and essence into the earth. The moss, fungi and lichens on it will continue to grow. The beetles, ants and other insects in it will continue to feed, breed, live and die their own life cycles. After many more years the particles and essence of the tree are transformed into life-giving compost and nutrients that live on in the soil and plants around where it fell. New trees may grow from that very spot. The cycle of rebirth or reincarnation continues.
Only time will tell if the giant walnut lives on for decades more to die in its natural time and transform its essence into a gift to the ecosystem around it. If its life is cut short by the saw, it will still transform and rebirth in another way. Its gift then may be the loss that humans feel as such a large presence in their park is removed. Perhaps they will also come to the realization that tree was a living breathing being.
I strive to honor death in a shamanic way as transformation and not an ending. I know without a doubt that death is only the beginning of another journey, as souls are infinite. I feel fortunate that on this path I have been able to connect with the spirits of ancestors and loved ones - human, animal, and tree - who have left their physical bodies and became helpers and masters of light in the spirit realms. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss them like crazy when I can’t hug them, and I grieve that loss. But I honor their season and their journey home and know that we may meet again outside this time and place.
To help you tend to soul issues that may manifest in physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of your life, and to give you tools to empower your path to harmony and well-being.
-There are so many kindred spirits doing the work out there. I include these links to help our community connect with one another.
FAIRY CONGRESS - Offers a summer weekend gathering in person with workshops, circles and of course faeries and nature beings! They also offer a winter virtual weekend with amazing guest speakers like Orion Foxwood, David Spangler and R.J. Stewart. I highly recommend joining the online network to participate in monthly workshops, circles, and book clubs.
SACRED HOOP Magazine Guide to Shamanism Compilation- http://www.sacredhoop.org/Pages/FreeGuide.html
Owner Valeria Pearson lovingly created SOLE TO SOUL YOGA studio with a community focus. There are classes for all levels and events that lift the spirit. I am delighted to partner with her to offer a kirtan chanting circle once a month.
My friend and herbalist mentor, LAWRENCE BIRCH is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, plant whisperer and shamanic practitioner. If you need custom tincture blends or are interested in a wildcrafting apprenticeship, he is the teacher extraordinaire:
ROGER WHEELOCK and GAYLE RUTH are shamanic practitioners and teachers in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition. https://www.rainmother.com/ I am grateful to be able to take part in ceremony with them, and to support their love for the Peruvian people through the World Ayni Association. Roger has a practice in Asheville, NC https://www.communityshaman.com/
NEW WORLD KIRTAN = Kitzie's podcasts include interviews with artists and kirtan music. I love attending her weekly Satsang group and the New World Kirtan Band concerts -