07 February 2012

Death and Books

"DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death, 
JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH".
(Good Omens by Terry Pratchett)


Death .. one of the great mysteries of life yet a topic that is either so wrapped up with taboos that we dare not speak its name, or if we do, we run the risk of being labelled "morbid" or "depressing".  Why is something that we all are going to face as part of the natural cycle of life so threatening?

Is it simply because it constantly reminds us that we are mortal, that we are not going to live forever despite how much plastic and other chemicals we inject into our bodies?  We fear it, shun it, yet it is constantly around us ... from the death of the micro-organisms and our regenerating skin cells, to the passing of loved ones.

Within most spiritual and religious traditions, the concept of death, not to mention what happens with the soul (should one be considered to have one), as well as the afterlife, has been pondered and debated.  The concept of life after death, of rebirth either on the physical plane or other, is shared by a number of traditions, stemming back the ancient Mystery schools.

Yet despite honouring the dead and our ancestors, a practice originating at the dawn of time, how much do we actually know about death?  Is there really an afterlife?  Do we actually have a soul that will be rebirth?  And if so, as what - human or animal?

Within mythology, death and the Underworld realms take on often a different meaning - when Kore descends into the Underworld (with a little help from Hades), she is transformed in its queen, Persephone, shaking of the maiden aspect.  Inanna and Ishtar both descended into the Great Below in order to gain full knowledge of it and thus become whole herself.  Kali, Odin, Nga, Nyx, Shiva, Kwan Yin, the Morrighan, Hekate, Thanatos, Baba Yaga ... all have Underwordly and/or death associations through which great insights and transformations occur.

It is therefore extremely exciting to know that Memento Mori, an anthology that is being edited by Kim Huggens, will soon be published that will explore the vast array of subjects that are assoicated with death - from physical death through personal experience, to mythology, sacred days associated with death (such as El Dia De Los Muertos (the Mexican Day of Dead) as well as the Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain), as well as the various metaphorical aspects. 

I have it on good authority that this large and very important work will now be published in two volumes by Avalonia.  The first volume will contain  mostly academic, historical or practical papers with the second volume consisting of esssays on the theory and varioius beliefs surrounding death, as well as ethics and personal views.  It will be within the second volume that my own essay on death will appear, a subject that ironically I had been pondering since the start of 2011 as what it meant to me following the passing of a dear friend and mentor, and following their "celebration of life". 

It is to Lynne, as well as to Carole (another mentor who passed over last year) that I have dedicated my essay to because these two women hugely influenced (not to mention challenge) my own personal beliefs - of which I will be eternally grateful.

What is also exciting about Memento Mori is the number of contributors from south of the equator.  Aside from myself there will be essays from Jonathan Carfax, Caroline Tully and Soror Basilisk to name a few.

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