The Witch Reborn in Autumn: Spiritual Death and the Dance of Bones

The Witch Reborn in Autumn: Spiritual Death and the Dance of Bones September 23, 2019
Do you hear their call? The night wandering spirits of the Witch Mother’s horde beckon me this time of year, as does she, calling me to dance with them. The spirits of the land join with the fallen leaves, celebrating the season of letting go. As the leaves release the tree, so do I cast off what binds. Finding freedom in shedding a form that no longer serves us. The Dance of Bones, where all is reduced to the soul and the entrapments of the material world removed, awaits.
Canstock photo.

Autumn: The Season of Death

I am a witch and my spirit is reborn with the winds that blow the leaves from the trees. Freeing us both from what no longer serves. Hekate calls to me on this breeze, bidding me come to her cave, that dark wet womb from which I can be reborn. Each autumn is my baptism into her sacred fire. I walk with the wind towards her, the breeze fueling my own fiery walk. Weaving truth from my fire, dancing the eternal one of Hekate’s Witches. Falling forward towards my partners in the dance. Did Persephone dance with the leaves and spirits as she returned to the Underworld?
Persephone welcomes us back into the Cave. Canstock image.

Night Wandering Spirits and Spiritual Death

The night is rife with spirits now, from the wandering departed to the land sprites. My dreams are full of creatures, mythic and imagined. I crave these spirits. They are my soul’s elixir. I drink them in, and my wildness awakes. They speak of deathwalking, the leaving behind of my corporeal self to join them in the Dance of Bones. Twisting, shaking and spinning away until all that is left is the truth. Those leaves can only find their rebirth if they are willing to release the branch and enter their temporary death. Like me, they know we must let one form die to become all we are meant to be. Our embodiment is not our entirety. Releasing it frees our souls.
The spirits of the land delight in sharing the dance of bones with the fallen leaves. Autumn dancing fairies by Arthur Rackham (1908). Read more about his illustrations: http://musingsusingsandloosethings.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-little-people-rackham-and-trees.html

The Dance of Bones

What I embrace as the Dance of Bones to others, throughout history, has been the frightening Danse Macabre. The image of death as a dancing specter that can arrive at anytime and with no notice is found across times and cultures. Woven into this dance are the psychopomps, healers and spirit speakers who willingly two-stepped with the spirits associated with death. Today, I claim the title of witch as my ticket to this dance, but I often wonder if I’m filtering this through the lens of the same Christianity that reviled the Dance of Death.

Hekate and the Dance of Bones

 Would it not be more sincere to shed their definitions, as I enter into the Bone Dance yet again? Can the modern witch exist without the comparison to that which fears us and we reject? My soul replies that my witchcraft reaches across the Christian Era to the primal source, the Witch Mother, Hekate. She is honored when we enter into the Dance of Bones. It is primal and eternal. Wild, beyond the restrictions of man. That is witch to me, and this is our season. The Dance of Bones is afoot in the falling leaves and the wandering spirits. It is time for spiritual death and dismemberment.

The Return of Our Departed Loved Ones

Musings about what I should grieve aside, I am not diminishing the suffering involved with dying and those left behind. The Danse Macabre is still feared by those who believe in the potential of eternal damnation. I tend to see the passing of embodiment as a loss, but not the end of a person’s existence. My beloved departed seem to come to me more often during the autumn. A chill in the room, a movement and then the knowing that my dad is with me.
Read an excellent summary of the history of the Danse Macabre at https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/danse-macabre-david-pumpkins-art-history. This is a detail from an 18th-century oil painting depiction of the Dance of Death.

Spiritual Death and Dismemberment: My Experiences

 When the autumn winds start to blow, they bring with them the memories of the times that I’ve experienced the spiritual bone dance. There have been at least three times when I’ve had a complete death and dismemberment in the dreamworld. If you’ve had such a rebirth, you’ll know how horrible and beautiful they are. I find them difficult to write about because they are so personal. For me, these experiences always involve First Nations peoples, who some call American Indians. Once a powerful medicine woman came to me in my dreams, drawing out the shadow demon that had me bound. When she didn’t show up for our scheduled session the following day, I was bereft until I realized that she had already done her work with me.

Hekate Watches From Afar

Another time, a vicious hawk tore me to pieces. Each time, I’ve emerged battered but reborn. Hekate seems to watch these rituals from afar, waiting to step in until required, like I veer back towards the now dead former self. Emerging brings me back to my wild witch ways that speak truth to me. I don’t long for the deep rebirth of death and dismemberment, but I find myself craving the more comfortable dance with spirits, and of intentionally letting die what no longer serves.

Casting Off the Chains That Bind

 My wild witch ways are tempered by the wisdom of experience. The call to the Dance of Bones with my fellow members of Hekate’s Horde must wait while I cast off the chains that have bound me. I take the key now manifested, unlocking myself from the past. The relationships, ways of being, and places that once served me, or perhaps never did, all released.

The Spirits of Circe and Medea

From my place at the crossroads of the Season of the Witch, I see that the things that brought me the most pain are my greatest blessings. These trials are bestowed by the Witch Mother herself as necessary tests as we move deeper into initiation. As she gave her ancient daughters challenges to prove their mettle, she grants me these boons dressed as banes. Circe had her time in isolation. Medea’s family was lost by her touch. Simaetha’s heart was crushed. The way of the witch was not meant to be easy. We walk a crooked journey, littered with the detritus of the shadow self.
Circe’s potions brought about the spiritual death and dismemberment of those who tormented her, revealing truth in the Dance of Bones. Painting by Franz_von_Stuck_Tilla_Durieux_als_Circe (c. 1913).

Wild Witch Dancing

Here at the threshold of autumn, I behold the necessity of these tribulations. How else could true initiation be reached if I was only to wallow in the shallow pool of popular thinking? Oh, yes, positivity is important, but it denies the Dance of the Bones.
Our culture avoids the darkness, fearing our shadows, while I find my truth in them. Perhaps, like her ancient witches, I am not their kind. Like Circe and Medea, I am whole yet always divided between the spirit world and the corporeal. Marked, somehow, long before my birth into this particular life. Different. A wild witch dancing with bones and spirits. To me, those who aren’t similar are the “other,” not to be trusted. However, they are the ones who provide me with the challenges I must conquer in order to claim another of my Mother’s Keys. Wisdom comes with a price. Witchcraft exacts a toll. I would never have it any other way. The rebirth found through spiritual bone dancing is wild, indeed.

Home Among the Spirits, Not Humans

When I was younger, I tried at times to fit into their world. The purely mundane or the lightworking crowd. I learned so much, but I had to return to my truth. The price I paid for those lessons learned was high, indeed. How else would I have been granted entrance to Hekate’s Cave? I’ll be dancing with the bones and spirits this autumn whenever they call, casting off the work I love to reclaim my wild witchery. I am often asked about the “keys” to my success. The answer is that I was burned by the fires of others, and I learned to only walk in my own. Of course, this fire has to be directed into the discipline to do the work. The fire reveals to me what I need to burn away, from those who would steal my flames to others who seek to extinguish them. My faithful spirit ally works to remove such problems. My beloved botanicals soothe my soul while paving the way to the Dance of Bones.

Animal Spirits: The Midnight Deer and the Dragonfly

The animal companions visit me, from dragonfly to the midnight deer. They, too, feel the call of our Mother. I am never alone in my dance along this crooked path. At times I need to rest, but now I am called to the dance of my truth. Autumn is where it lives. In September’s rain,  October’s wind, November’s chill, and December’s darkness. This is the Holy Darkness of Hekate. It’s no surprise that she comes to reclaim her children, calling them for the first time and yet again.

The Wild Witch and the Dance of Bones

The moon ascends from her primal cave,
And my feet twitch in excitement.
For this is the long-awaited call
Back to my soul’s home.
I become a wild witch once more.
Hail Autumn,
With your winds of change,
Blowing me free of what has passed,
Dancing in the delight of freedom.
Spiralling joyfully towards the darkness that is my truth.
Spinning onwards to Hekate’s Cave,
The font of magick and mystery.
The spirits of the season join me and the leaves, in our delight,
Knowing deep in our souls that we are connected,
In our pursuit of the deeper truths.
Swirling wildness embraces me,
As I proclaim
My place among them.
Our dance calls forth the spirits,
Of the departed and the mighty,
Night wandering under the pale light of the moon,
Onwards, our steps in harmony,
Towards the crossroads where we shall pass through the threshold,
Into our Mistresses’ sacred cave,
Her warm embrace awaits.

About Cyndi Brannen
Cyndi Brannen, PhD, is a teacher and author focusing on personal development, spirituality and true magic. She is an energetic healer, psychic, herbalist, spiritual coach and mentor. Founder of the Keeping Her Keys Mystery School, she teaches and writes about the true magic of healing and personal power. The bestselling Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft explores Hekate from her ancient origins to our modern understanding through magic and personal development. True Magic: Unleashing Your Inner Witch, based on the sacred seven principles, is now available. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • herbprof

    Two Poems by Lizette Woodworth Reese…

    All Hallows Night

    Two things I did on Hallows Night:—
    Made my house April-clear;
    Left open wide my door
    To the ghosts of the year.

    Then one came in. Across the room
    It stood up long and fair—
    The ghost that was myself—
    And gave me stare for stare.

    Telling the Bees
    A Colonial Custom

    Bathsheba came out to the sun,
    Out to our wallèd cherry-trees;
    The tears adown her cheek did run,
    Bathsheba standing in the sun,
    Telling the bees.

    My mother had that moment died;
    Unknowing, sped I to the trees,
    And plucked Bathsheba’s hand aside;
    Then caught the name that there she cried
    Telling the bees.

    Her look I never can forget,
    I that held sobbing to her knees;
    The cherry-boughs above us met;
    I think I see Bathsheba yet
    Telling the bees.

    Reese’s words create a beautiful window to my subconscious, mirroring the images she creates…

  • Lovely! I adore her.

  • herbprof

    Brava Cyndi, when I first read what you had written I saw some similar experiences! But for an introduction I felt that I needed some assistance from a quote, and so searching with no exact direction… And out in front of me came beautiful Lizette, and if you asked me to retrace my steps, I have no conscious idea how she placed her Prose there for me?

    Anyway, let me tell you a similar experience story that I think you will enjoy! I have studied Yoga, but not hard core details, more for self-improvement, and spiritual expansion. And at a nice Ashram in Costa Mesa, Ca I would go to Sunday Puga’s, and my Guru Ramakrishnananda would give wonderful deep talks about Spirituality. And afterword we would sing at least a dozen chants, which I enjoyed very much.

    One Sunday we sang an especially beautiful chant to the Goddess Kali, whom I knew little about! And that jazzy, beautiful chant got stuck in my head very nicely, and around and around it would weave and I loved it! And this went on for close to a week, and I never experienced even an instant of boredom! Then one night I came out of a sound sleep in agonizing pain! In my chest there was a merciless ripping, and tearing that relentlessly increased in pain! And it was brutally racing toward a crescendo! And as I began to think I could take no more, I was dying; something that was resisting the tearing suddenly let go, totally destroyed, and my body collapsed into complete relaxation. And in my minds eye a bright light exploded with Kali’s name in it, and I soon drifted off into a very sound sleep… Ever since then, she is always somewhere in the periphery of my thoughts… And as I write this I can feel her loving presence, she is intoxicating! I believe she just turned up the energy on what I was already into, “seeking truth as much as I can handle!” And over the last few years I have been drawn toward Celtic, Druidic History and Witchcraft!

    I will have to read “The Witch Reborn in Autumn: Spiritual Death and the Dance of Bones,” more deeply because I am a slow but sure learner! Which I will enjoy because I love the way you express your thoughts, and create beautiful thought images… Have a wonderful weekend Cyndi!

    Cheers
    Paul

  • Bee Greenwood

    Thank you for this post. You have put into words the reasons for the excitement and sense of deep possibility I’ve always felt at autumn and the descent into the darkness of the year. It’s that call to connect with everything beyond my embodiment, to shake off the “entrapments of the material world” and dive deep into the wild self and the cave. The difference this year is that I will be finding ways to enact it – dancing the Dance of Bones!

  • Bee Greenwood

    What beautiful poems, thank you. I will look her up as I hadn’t come across her before.

  • Sage Moonlover

    This whole article was great. I was born on Sept 22. A very dear friend and coven sister passed away on the 23rd this year, the day you posted this article. I don’t believe in coincidences. I feel like this was just for me and my friend Amy. Thank you Cyndi