deathwork, Witchy

A Prayer Upon Learning of a Death

In September, I helped a friend build a toolkit to prepare for the death of a family member that they wouldn’t be able to be physically present for. That toolkit included a prayer to offer upon first learning of the death. In this time when so many of us will experience that same physically isolated loss, I thought it might be helpful to others, and my friend graciously agreed to let me share it.

In a time when we are barred from many of the conventional rituals of death, spontaneity and organic growth of ritual can be the best way to go – individualized rituals of the heart that truly reflect who your beloved was and who you are. But I find that in that moment when you first hear that someone close to you has died, a shocked numbness often descends. You know you want to do something, but your brain can’t quite get together the what. Having a set prayer or action you can call on every time helps your voice and body keep moving while your brain catches up. If your religion or culture doesn’t have something like this, I humbly invite you to use these words.

A Prayer Upon Learning of a Death

[NAME], I honor the body that you were
The words you spoke
The passions that moved you
The love you shared
The life you lived.

These were not always easy to live
Or to live with
But they were always you,
And I honor you in that wholeness.

I grieve that you are no longer a living presence in my life
I regret that I could not be with you at the end
I allow myself to hurt and to heal
Whatever form that takes
However long it takes

Whole and holy Earth, take back the body of [NAME] that was formed from you
Make new forms and lives from it
May a piece of [NAME]’s life infuse the new lives that grow from it. 
May the passing forms of this life and the tears of our grief sustain the web of your creation.

Blessed be

deathwork, Theater-Related, Witchy

Finding My Path(s), Again and Again

Just over a year ago, I was in Olathe, Kansas, for the Midwest Dramatists’ Center fall conference. It was a terrific weekend full of cool people, useful learning, and a lot of great theater. I came home fired up about kicking my theater career in the butt. This website exists in large part because of that conference, and my reflections on it formed my first blog post here. I am ever grateful for the experience.

Then, something incredible happened: my smart, talented, dedicated spouse was accepted into grad school. Suddenly, something we’d discussed for years as a hypothetical became imminent.

After a great deal of discussion, I committed to being the anchor for our household while Leora completes their MSW. The “stable one.” But I was equally determined that “stable” would not equal “stagnant.” So, as is my witchy way, I went on a lot of trance journeys, read a lot of tarot spreads, and made a lot of lists in sacred space to determine what I wanted to be doing with myself for the next two years.

I was quite startled when the answer that came back, time after time after time, was deathwork, not theater.

And so was born the deathication, a twoish-year-long exploration of my desires and options around “how to make a living at dying without killing what I live for.” It will involve everything from industry research and interviews with professionals to meditation, tarot spreads, and liturgical development. If everything goes according to plan, or at least doesn’t blow up too spectacularly, I’ll come through it with a solid understanding of where I fit in the alternative deathcare world.

I’m not turning my back on playwriting forever. If nothing else, I have six more plays to write in the Wheel of the Year cycle, because I want to know what else happens to these chuckleheads. I’ll probably never stop writing plays and attempting, at least desultorily, to get them onto stages. But when I think about the amount of time, energy, and perseverance required to really make it in either of these fields, deathwork is the one where I most feel willing—nay, eager to make that commitment.

So last weekend, I was in Chaska, Minnesota, for the National Home Funeral Alliance biennial national conference. It wasn’t perfect: the alternative deathcare movement as a whole struggles around issues of accessibility and diversity, and this conference was definitely a microcosm of those struggles. I loved every wonderful, challenging, frustrating, enriching minute of it. Even when I was pissed off, I was so engaged. I’m so fired up to keep having the vital, difficult conversations and do the vital, difficult work of making it better. That’s how I know my love is real.

Several Minnesota Threshold Network members attended the National Home Funeral Alliance biennial national conference in Chaska, MN, where we hosted a mock vigil, complete with cardboard coffin for attendees to decorate
Witchy

The Tangleroot Deathly Gift Guide

It’s that time of year when many of us find our thoughts turning to Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, or Christmas gift-giving (Chanukah’s already started, of course, but you could probably sneak something in before it ends). With the secular new year around the corner, we may also be thinking about resolutions, and perhaps resolving to check on the state of affairs regarding our wishes around death and dying.

We here at Tangleroot Endeavors (by which I mean your humble author with input from Leora Effinger-Weintraub) have assembled our (first annual?) deathly gift guide, a modest list of gifts for your favorite mortal. These gifts are nice not only for themselves, but also for the peace of mind they offer both giver and receiver.

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DragonCon 2008 attendee cosplaying as Death filling in for the Hogfather, from Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. inspired by the Sky One adaptation.

Continue reading “The Tangleroot Deathly Gift Guide”