This post is about death.
Don’t panic. It’s a topic that doesn’t get nearly enough attention in 2018 and it’s been heavy on my heart to write about. I’ve put it aside until now because I’m in the midst of finals and it didn’t seem prudent to put my blog first.
The Morrígan, however, had other plans.
While I am normally efficient, task-focused, and way ahead of the curve…Lately, I have been dragging my feet and seemingly unable to get through the last two papers of the Spring semester. I didn’t realize what the problem was until this morning during the drive over to school…She wants me to write it, and She wants me to write it now. Once this is done, I’ll be able to focus on finishing the semester. As it’s very difficult to argue with her: here I am…getting as much done as I can in the 20 minutes before class starts.
The more I think about the series of events that led me to The Morrígan, the stranger they become.
It started in 2015. My grandfather who had been ill for some time passed away in February, five days before what was supposed to be my first Pantheacon. I got the phone call from my mom that Tuesday and my husband and I immediately left California to fly to Maine. My grandfather and I had been very close. He was difficult a man, a WWII marine vet who probably would have been diagnosed with PTSD if that had been thing back then, but he had always been gentle and kind with my sister and I. We were his girls and even though we arrived in the wee hours of the night, I went to see him and while we had a feeling it wouldn’t be long until he passed, he had waited for me.
The next morning, surrounded by his family, his hand in mine, he transitioned on. It was beautiful and terribly sad. But it changed everything I thought I knew about dying. I had always been terrified of death. I couldn’t imagine actually being with someone as they died. But that morning with my grandfather, I felt peace.We held his funeral on Friday, and my husband and I made it out on the last flight from Portland before a big Nor’easter hit (my brother was stranded till Tuesday!). I had already bought a weekend pass to Pantheacon, so I decided to go for a few hours that Sunday morning. I didn’t do much, I was exhausted and barely made it around the vendor room. I met my good friend, A, there, and she took me around the hospitality suites. The only one I remember is The Temple of The Morrígan in the Coru Cathubodua suite. After taking my shoes off and cleansing myself, I stepped inside and was immediately overcome with a sense of awe and holiness. That was my first encounter with Her. I realize now that maybe that’s how She first saw me, raw and struggling with a recent death, but nonetheless unafraid.
And that was all that happened for a year or so. I was busy, distracted, and going through several big life changes (among them moving to New Zealand for the entirety of 2016), but that’s a story for another time…My journey to Her picks back up in January of 2017. We (my husband and I) moved back to Maine to live with, and take care of, my elderly grandmother. This was one of the most difficult things I’ve done and ultimately, it culminated in her death in June of 2017 after five long, exhausting months.
I’m going to break down the events surrounding her death because I believe they played a big role in what happened next. Five days before my grandmother died, she refused to sleep. Normally, she slept for about 18-20 hours a day. However, on the Wednesday before she passed, she stayed up the whole night. I slept in a room right above her and I remember hearing her walker stomping around below… I checked on her throughout the night but she refused to get into bed and or rest. She was just standing in her room trying to go somewhere, anywhere. She was delirious and didn’t really know what was going on.
I remember desperately saying “Grandma, you need to go to bed!” she replied “Julia, I usually listen to you… but not this time. You don’t know about this. You don’t know where I’m going. I CAN’T go to bed.”
The whole night felt like some kind of murky dream that I kept trying to wake up from, I can’t even imagine what she must have been going through.
The next day was Thursday. She refused to sleep that night too. But a strange thing happened. She kept asking about a baby. She said she heard a baby crying; she kept asking if the baby was alright. I had no idea what she was talking about.
But I would come to understand the next day. We had gotten in touch with our family to let them know what was happening with her health. At that time, my cousin was in the hospital with his newborn baby (my grandmother’s first great-grandbaby), but something had happened and she required hospitalization as it was very serious in nature (I am thankful to say that she escaped unscathed and is growing up into a beautiful, healthy girl!).Thinking about it later though, there was nothing health wise wrong with my grandma (other than the normal ailments of a 92-year-old), and yet she died so suddenly. I can’t help but think that there was a connection between her death and the near-death scare we went through with my cousin’s baby; indeed, the phrase ‘a life for a life’ comes to mind. I think that people who are close to death are much closer to the other realms. They can see and sense things that we can’t. I think my grandma knew that her great-grandbaby was in danger and she chose to release her life in order to save her descendant. After all, death will not be cheated.
My grandmother died that Monday night. My mother and I held vigil for three days during the process. We were with her every moment, with some respite provided by her wonderful homemakers and the hospice caretakers. When we knew the end was close, we sat in her bed with her. My mother on the left, and I on the right. We held her hands and sang to her. It was a profound moment. When she finally gave up her breath, I felt relief.
All this happened amidst some other horrible family drama, and the next week, my husband and I boarded our flight to France for our annual summer visit with my in-laws. While I was there, I started having dreams about The Morrígan. At first, they weren’t scary, in fact, some of them were even erotic. But as the summer passed, they started getting a bit more intense. Often, I would wake up and not quite remember them, but I knew I had been terrified. While I was there, I started researching the Celts of Gaul and also visited a few ancient sites which I believe played a part in my journey.
After six weeks, we said goodbye to my in-laws and came back to Maine. I went to Temple Fest a week or so later. During some heavy trancework led by Storm Faerywolf, I had the scariest experience I’ve ever had in trance. Every time I tried to visualize, I was being consumed by a dark figure with huge corvid wings. I couldn’t shake it. I was on the verge of tears for hours and didn’t know what to do. After some sage advice, I made a plan and committed to working on a relationship with Her.
Things calmed down a bit for a while. Then I went to visit my other grandmother, my last living grandparent. We had a wonderful time. It was like she had woken from her Alzheimer’s. She knew who we were, we ate ice cream and Swedish pastries, we danced with her in her wheelchair. When we had to leave, she was devastated. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.
Two days later, we got a phone call. She had fallen down and was not going to recover. The next day was a Friday. Things were not looking good. They were saying she had hours. I decided to try and connect with her psychically. After searching through the darkness, I found a string. I followed it and it led me to her. She was small and shriveled and tiny, like a baby. I knew then it wouldn’t be long. I told her I loved her and sent her as much energy as I could to ease her pain. A few hours later, I tried again and she wasn’t there. Just a shimmer of a shadow was all that remained. Not even 15 minutes later, my mom came to tell me that my uncle had called to let us know she was gone.
These three experiences with death are what I believe led me to The Morrígan.
Often people wonder why a deity wants to connect with them. I didn’t fully understand the magnetic draw that I had to Her until recently. I believe it was directly because of my experiences with death. She is the goddess of death and the Otherworld after all. It makes sense that She would choose those who have been around and helped to ease the dying process; those who are not scared of it.
This is not to say She only chooses people who have experienced death. The gods do what the gods will and their reasoning is incomprehensible to the human mind most of the time. Nor does it discredit those with different experiences; rather, this is just my own.
I don’t feel that my calling from Her is to work with death and the dying. I am still figuring that out, but I have some idea and that’s not it. Rather, I think going through these experiences profoundly changed me. They prepared me for Her, made me battle-ready; strengthened my resolve and drive. They made me aware of how short life really is and inspired me to pursue my goals; not to let anything stop me or stand in my way.
And She is by my side. Not all the time, She has other things to do than to be concerned with me on a day-to-day basis. But I can sense Her when I need it.
This post has been more personal than normal, but as I said before, it’s very difficult to argue with a sovereignty goddess….so this post, I offer to Her because She asked me to.
*Images are from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France and belong to the author.