In the past few years, I have had some experience with grieving. My father passed away after a difficult bout with cancer in 2017. During that time, I was unsure how to respond as my family is all Christian and I am a Witch.
Circumstances and my father’s wishes dictated there would be no funeral. He lived in another state with his husband (my parents divorced when I was in my tweens), so there was no gathering of friends and family. And though we were not close as father and daughter, I wanted to honor his memory and spirit.
Grieving Through Simple Ritual
So, I created a small altar with a flower, candle, and picture of my father. It is such a small thing but it helped a lot to see it every day. Since that time, my family and I have created an ancestor altar around that first one for my father.
Then last Summer, I added my oldest brother’s picture and candle to stand beside my father’s when my brother died unexpectedly. That time, I shared a small rite as I placed the items on the altar space, letting my brother’s spirit know he is always welcome.
Honoring the dead and remembering loved ones is both difficult and healing. I have found the tangible act of lighting a candle and pouring an offering from time to time has become a significant part of my remembrance practices. Performing a Silent Supper every Samhain draws my beloved dead and ancestors close as well.
Grieving Through Meditative Journey
Now, it is my mother’s turn to cross the veil. I have known it to be true since I learned she had a fall at her Independent Living facility in Mid-May, and despite prayers that she makes a full recovery in both body and mind.
It has taken just weeks from her journey to the hospital to a brief stint in rehab, to what has become hospice care, and toward the veil. A reality at first denied is apparent to all now. Death approaches whether it is days or a few more weeks.
My family and I live about 45 minutes away from my mother, so I have been going to visit her once a week for a couple of hours. My sister and other family members are in the area, they visit with her often.
Mom is 88 years old, in a state of confusion and pain, refusing to eat or drink or only taking a little when she does (which is part of the process when moving toward death; my father was the same). I do not blame my Christian siblings for asking for miracles. But the whole situation has been — hard to watch.
As a devotee of Hekate, who among other things is a Chthonic Goddess of the Underworld, I have been praying to her since my mother began to decline. Asking her to light the way, be a guide, and assist my mother in some way by bringing my brother to her side, to give her clarity to know and understand that her children (living and dead) are with her and love her.
On the dark moon, I journeyed through meditation to the astral temple where I meet with Hekate. When she appeared to me, covering me with a dark veil, she told me that she has heard my prayers, and my mother’s deities (the Christian Father, Son, and Spirit) are with her. They will ensure her passage to the place of rest through my mother’s lifelong faith.
My mother need not be Hekate’s concern but rather it is my journey through this process of death for which she is present. Walking with me through the lower, middle, and upper worlds, guiding and empowering me to grieve my beloved mother, even as she is still present. Learning to live with only memories as the mother I have always known is already gone.
It is my welfare that Hekate will be watching over as my mother crosses the veil. Which to be honest, is no surprise. Hekate is among other things always a Guide, Light Bearer, and Key Holder to the realms for those who reach out to her in times of transition (whatever they may be). As a Psychopomp, Hekate leads the souls of the dead to their next life but she can also guide the living through the process of loss.
Grieving Through Love
Experiencing those moments of personal revelation with Hekate allowed me to sit with my mother the next day, singing her favorite hymns and reading words of comfort to her from her Bible. In this way I can honor my mother’s beliefs, giving comfort to her spirit in a tangible offering of love through words she holds sacred, even though they no longer hold meaning for me.
Observing my mother’s path toward death has been an intimate experience in a way my father’s journey could not be. I did spend time with him about five months before he passed. He had been more robust than my mother is now. But his exhaustion with living became obvious as well as his desire to leave this world. And I was able to tell him I loved him and it was okay to cross over when he felt the time was right. He seemed to appreciate the words.
Knowing I can assist my mother’s journey through simple reading, singing, or just sitting by her bed while she sleeps helps me. Finding peace at Hekate’s altar, pouring an offering, or saying a prayer to her, makes the whole experience meaningful in a way I had not expected. Lighting candles to my beloved dead, asking them to surround my mother in their love, helps too. I am encountering beauty in the shadows of death and for that, I am very grateful.
An Excellent Pagan Resource About Death
Mortellus is a Mortician, Author, Medium, and Necromantrix who is a friend of mine through Patheos Pagan and Facebook. They have written a beautiful and important work about death for the Pagan community called Do I Have To Wear Black. They write from a place of knowledge within the funeral industry as a Pagan with compassion, humor, and humility.
This book has been a guide for me in these difficult weeks (thank you, my friend). Mortellus does not sugarcoat topics surrounding death, various beliefs in the afterlife, and offers much-needed practical advice for navigating a very Christian landscape in this country when it comes to death, dying, and funerary rites.
Do I Have To Wear Black is a MUST HAVE resource for any Pagan, Witch, or person on an alternate spiritual/religious path. Why? Because how we want our final moments, our remains to be handled, et al., is important. We should be allowed to honor who we are as an individual as well as our spiritual beliefs and practices (or lack thereof).
Mortellus’s book equips Pagans to do so. Additionally, just knowing the death process, funerary rites, and how it works is a blessing in what can be a confusing and difficult time.