When the Samhain Bell Tolls for You

Samhain-tides are darkening into the eve of this Wheel of the Year’s turning. Can you feel it? Soon we arrive on death’s doorstep, and reminders of our mortality show up in the form of fake skeletons, ghoulish Styrofoam cemetery props, old hags, and Dia De Los Muertos decorations in every shop…including mine.

A "Beetlejuice" meets "Nightmare before Christmas" themed entrance to The Sojourner

My “Beetlejuice” meets “Nightmare before Christmas” themed entrance to The Sojourner

Halloween is coming and every where you look there is a glorification of horrible accidents, death and dismemberment, coffins and headstones; the truth of our inevitable decline into old age, demise, decay, and crossing into Spirit, gets right up in our faces and demands to be considered.  Samhain is the sabbat where the witchcraft set before us includes accepting grim realities, like someday I will be evicted from this meat-suit, whether I’m ready or not. Part of living as a beneficial Witch includes taking responsibility for our lives by preparing for that moment, on all levels.

At some point, sooner rather than later, our Great Work should take the form of writing our Last Will and Testament, and End of Life Medical Directives, buying life-insurance policies and expressing our organ donor status, and funerary preferences.

For example: “Don’t you dare give me the “christian burial” where they pump me full of chemicals, lock me in a box more expensive than any furniture I’ve ever owned, sealed inside a cement sarcophagus that ensures my unholy, noxious funk will be eternally separated from Mother Earth! Give me a pagan ceremony…lay me out on a bed of roses in my priestess robes with my wand, and cremate me on an open bier made from the 9 woods of witchcraft, set alight by a 21-archer, flaming-arrow salute.” (That last bit isn’t actually legal in the US, but we can dream…)

But Heron, you say, surely buying life-insurance isn’t witchcraft!

Au contraire! It can be if you serve Hermes, psychopomp trickster god of thieves and merchants alike, and have a Virgo Moon, as I do, where we need our emotional things to be tidy and well-organized. I believe this earthy kind of Work is good magick, and it is an effective “spell” to ensure that after we depart this material plane, our intended changes will be made in accordance with our will….get it? Will? <cackle>

A shelf full of different Halloween decoration skulls

Skull Selection at my local Walgreens, Greenville, NC

Getting Your Affairs in Order

Right on cue, an opportunity to further “get my affairs in order” by way of some additional disability, accident and life-insurance benefits, comes knocking on our shop’s door. To be fair, our AFLAC rep has been patiently knocking on our door all summer long, but until Mabon clicked us over into autumn, I couldn’t seem to turn my attention to these matters.  Then the shadows of the long, dark night ahead came creeping in, and I suddenly managed to find the time to sign the papers so that The Sojourner corporation could provide benefits for my staff. POOF, suddenly we got it all together by October 1st. I’m breathing a sigh of existential relief to know that we are all now a little better prepared to face whatever “winters” may lie ahead, and that I could play a role in making that easier.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne, —Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, “Meditation XVII”

If tragedy were to strike, would you be prepared? My mother dropped dead of a cerebral hemorrhage. An unknown aneurysm ruptured and delivered a vibrant, healthy, 59 year old women to her grave with less than 3 minutes warning.  Thankfully, she also had all her legal ducks neatly tucked into their rows, paid for, notarized, and filed where we could easily find them. Her organ donor status was well-known, and her nearly perfect remains helped 49 people.

When she died, I was 33 and had no clue how the “death business” works, but she did, and she left us well-prepared. I am eternally grateful to her for that. Now that I know, I will share with you this very pointy opinion: If you are an adult out on your own, especially with dependents, loans, and property, and you do not yet have your legal and financial “end of life” affairs in order, then you are a walking case of pending assholery, just waiting to happen. Don’t be that guy.

Styrofoam headstones at my local Michael's Craft Store, Greenville, NC.

Styrofoam headstones at my local Michael’s Craft Store, Greenville, NC.

The type of radical personal sovereignty that witchcraft demands will also require you to consider questions like:

  • How will my kids and pets be taken care of if I die?
  • Who will carry out my final wishes and receive my material legacy?
  • How will it all be paid for?

Nothing salts a wound more painfully for a family who’s lost a loved one unexpectedly, than having to put up a Go-Fund-Me charity plea, so they can cover your likely EXORBITANT final medical and funerary debts without going bankrupt. If you haven’t made the proper arrangements, its like taking the family out for a huge meal then sneaking out of the restaurant without paying your bill and stiffing the waitress. What’s worse is that they are going to make your poor grieving spouse and kids stay behind and wash dishes–for years.

You might be thinking, “I’m still young and fit; I have plenty of time. It can wait, right?”  No. It can’t wait.

You have no idea when your personal Samhain will strike. Those bells *will* toll for you, and wise witches who’ve attended to their Samhain business a little bit each year, will arrive at their deaths already so prepared, so comfortable, absolutely fearless, that we’ll slip peacefully through that veil into the embrace of the next big thing, however you envision that.  That is, if we are lucky and we’ve done the necessary Work.

To that end, I’m going to share with you my most personal, intimate and terrifying story.  This is an older writing, and many people who love me were mortified when I published it originally, along with the bloodbath pictures. But I shared it because in my darkest moment, what pulled me through was how much I love them. I love you all enough to try and spare you a similar fearful, death-defying moment. Just go ahead and hear this simple message from me, right now, while you are whole and hail; Prepare thyself!

Click “Continue” for the story about a very dark night when I thought I might die all alone in a pool of my own blood, just a few weeks shy of my 40th birthday.

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About Heron Michelle

Heron Michelle lives in Greenville, North Carolina, with her two children and three highly suspicious cats. Since 2009, she's been found behind the counter of her metaphysical shop, The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions. She serves the pagan community as a priestess, teacher, and public speaker. You can subscribe via RSS or by e-mail.