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In the midst of life…

Once upon a time, I studied core shamanic practice, as a means of adding possible additional skills to my witchy toolkit. It happened that the place where I attended the course sessions was a lovely Pagan shop located in Roseburg, Oregon. And during that course, we partnered with another student several times in order to perform various exercises in shamanic journeying. It was towards the end of that course that I partnered with a lovely woman of my age and musical British accent in an exercise in soul retrieval.

The journey I took evaporated from my memory when it was no longer needed. Our exchange after the retrieval, however, remains vivid in my recall. When we roused and sat up, I sang her a familiar ditty I’d learned as a tot at my mother’s knee:

“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green;
When I am king, dilly dilly, you’ll be my queen.”
“Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?”
” ‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so!”

I sang the whole thing; she flooded with tears by the second “dilly dilly”, and I offered embrace, and shoulder, which she accepted while I completed the song. In our debriefing after the little cloudburst, she told me that her father had sung the first couplet to her when she was small (five or thereabouts). And she asked me what the rest of the words were, and I sang them again, and then we sung them together. Because she’d never known more than the first two lines, and the second couplet moved her, and completed some old unfinished emotional business for her. She thanked me profoundly…and that was the last time I saw her. I could not have told you her name, after several years, but I recall clearly her generous spirit, her loving aura, her sweetness of countenance, and the music of her speech.

I took away from that course a confidence in my own witchy skills, and a very precious memory of that connection between us.  And still I could not have told you her name.

Today I learned that the Umpqua Community College shooter took her life with his sociopathic actions. Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, whose static image flashed briefly on my TV screen less than 24 hours ago, giving me a nervous tummy and a search to try to confirm or deny my momentary quease. The Wild Hunt‘s Heather Greene has answered my uncertainty for me with her post of October 3, 2015 and its photo that connects her spirit to her image…

Another addition to my western altar of beloved dead.
Another unspeakable insanity bred of our hate-filled airwaves and fear-filled fundamentalists.
Another instance of rage against the system (the “establishment,” the “powers that be,”…)

The purpose of the system is to perpetuate the system. 

I wrote that in my collection of insights during my sophomore year of high school. It seems self-explanatory, but I will explain. I was frustrated (as are all children of any intelligence subjected to the drone of lock-step schooling) by the means and methods and mundanities of public high school. (I’d attended private school through fourth grade, and spent the next few years learning to keep my head down in public ones). I don’t remember the immediate cause of my anger and frustration, merely that whatever it was, the rules and regimens seemed absolutely contradictory to the stated purpose of high school, or any school, to provide its students with an education. And then, hey, presto!, I had my insight, and realized that nothing about the public high school system was truly about education, it was about maintaining its own continuity. Even a system has a survival instinct!

If I seem, in this post, to have turned a very dramatic corner, no, I haven’t. The Umpqua Community College attack reminds me all too forcibly of the Kip Kinkel murders, that 15-year-old spree killer who, a year before Columbine, murdered his parents, then went to the school that expelled him (Thurston High, Springfield, Oregon) and shot 27 people, two of whom died. My mother went to church with a psychiatrist who had treated the boy, and who had attempted to give his parents appropriate warning…

“In the midst of life, we are in death.”
translated from the Latin original, by Anonymous, ~750 CE, France
“No one here gets out alive.”
lyrics from the song “Five to One” by The Doors, 1969 CE
“Life is a death sentence.  Death is a life sentence.
paired epigrams by Deborah Snavely, ~1972

No one at all is “safe.” The price of life is death, whether you’re a single-celled organism, a giant blue star,  or the complex and multifarious hierarchy of ecosystems that make up a single mammal. It so happens I believe there is more, much more. That is not why I’m a witch, it’s one of the simple facts that tie into my practice. In a universe where every physical thing (matter) transforms into other physical or energetic things, and energy similarly transforms into matter, the spirit (or soul or mind or consciousness) that is each and every one of those things including humans and cats and redwoods and cacti does not simply dissolve into vacuum when the associated organism with which it is linked, or imbued, begins the transformation from what we call life to what we call death…

So, Kim, wherever your soul now rests and recovers from the shock of sudden death,
I sing you one last chorus…

“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green;
When I am king, dilly dilly, you’ll be my queen.”
“Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?”
” ‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so!”

I ask of my deities, that you be aided in your crossing by the Hornéd Lord of Death & Rebirth, and in His care, that of the Comforter, the Consoler, may you rest in the Summerlands until, by the grace of the Great Mother, you are born again into a new body. And may that be at the same time and same place as your loved ones, and may you meet, and know, and remember, and love them again…

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