[Originally posted on my column, Witch on Fire, on the Agora blog at Patheos, Pagan channel.]
Samhain draws closer and the witching season is in full, cackling flight. There are full moons to howl, parties to prowl, pumpkins to carve, costumes to sew, sabbats to dance, festivals to vend and initiations to attend–and that is just the next two weeks. There will be shenanigans, my lovelies! But that is only the mirthful half of the the magick that is afoot. There is much reverence on our minds as well.
For our rites, we’ve been asked by the priestesses in charge to prepare an offering in veneration of death–a poem, a song, anything we feel is appropriate. We also will honor our beloved family members who’ve died, and so my mother haunts my thoughts again as she always does this time of year. Right on cue, my father sends me this old photo of her. It is one I’ve never seen before and far more artistic than I’m used to. This is how the messages work between us these days. With this one, I hear her reminding me that she was once young and beautiful, fashionable and adorable. At this time in her life, she was a reasonable, intelligent, Lutheran woman, newly married.
By the time she was 59 years old, she’d become more of the holy-rolling, bible-thumping, fundamentalist variety of evangelical Christian and basically the polar opposite from my liberal, feminist, witchy self. Needless to say, I didn’t talk about those things with my mother because I loved her, and I was too chicken to drop the “W” bomb. Even though she drove me absolutely bonkers, I craved her acceptance. Her love was unconditional, but the peace between us was not.
When she passed through the veil suddenly and unexpectedly in 2007, I rushed home to Kentucky to help with her funeral.¹ It was important to me, as a newly initiated Witch and aspiring priestess, that I give my extremely religious mother the ritual send-off that she wanted. That was how I needed to love her at that moment, by respecting her wishes and who she was as a person. Not because she would have done the same for me, but because it is how I would want to be treated. I know this because I once mentioned that I wanted to be cremated when I died, and she recoiled in horror. She told me in no uncertain terms that if there was an ounce of life left in her body, she would use it to make sure I had a “proper” christian burial, whether I liked it or not. I think the exact quote was, “You’ll be dead so there will be nothing you can do to stop me.”