Death and Dying in a Pagan world

Recently I went to visit my grandparents with my father. My grandfather has the early stages of dementia. My grandmother is the older of the pair and we always thought she would be the one to decline first but life decided to surprise us, as it will.  Seeing them together after so long put their decline into sharp relief and brought home the fact that within the decade both of them will likely be gone.

This is not the first time that death has poked her head into my families business, we lost my mother and my maternal grandmother less than 5 years ago and my great grandmother passed when I was in High school.

On the long drive home, I had a discussion about what happens after death with my father. Candidly we compared notes, me with my views on the otherworld and his views of oblivion. We didn’t try to convince each other but just discussed how death had affected our lives. It was an enlightening conversation on many levels.

Explaining something to someone else is probably the best way to discover what you truly know or believe. Conversations or the act of teaching forces you to examine what is in your mind in detail, finding all the fallacies and maybe gaining new perspective or depth.

Self-assurance, to me, has always been a kind of cloak that some people wear better than others. It can hide many insecurities.  I had always believed or just never really stopped to think about what would be hiding under my own father’s cloak. As his child, I always had him on a sort of pedestal. He hasn’t fallen exactly, my point of view has changed as I grew up and could stand on the same level with him.

He hasn’t changed but what he allows me to see has. It was a little disconcerting but also interesting to grasp that my father also had thoughts about death.

I am very sure that what we have in this world isn’t the end of it. In that way, I am more surefooted than he is about this particular topic. When my father spoke of what he expected after death, he made clear that his mind was at war with his gut instinct. He is a born-again Christian and so, intellectually, believes that when he passes from this world his soul will go beyond to his heavenly reward. On the other hand, his true instinctual belief is that there is nothing beyond what we can physically experience and that when we die we cease to exist completely.

To me, it is not a comforting thought that this is the only life we have and there is no real reason for us to be but if that is what he finds most logical than I cannot fault him for that. That would be highly hypocritical considering how accepting he has been of my own choices, religious and otherwise.

Death and dying are a part of life, we Americans kind of forget that because of the machine that is our medical system but our ignorance doesn’t make it any less true. It’s also a part of life that we as pagans, in particular, are somewhat unprepared for.  We may have the texts that give us hints about what happens after but what do we do when we or someone close to us is actually going through that transition?

When my mother died and I was still a baby pagan that hadn’t really considered what the shift my belief structures would eventually cause, I looked to friends and family for comfort. The Christian church held little comfort in their doctrines for me but the absence of built-in support within my new faith was jarring.

For a whole year, I was stuck in a sort of limbo, waiting for someone to tell me what I should be doing or to give me permission to feel.  My friends and grovemates were supportive, and I truly thank them for how they tried to bridge the gap. It was a difficult time and I don’t know if having scripture or just some words to hear would have made it easier but it could not have made it worse.

Knowing is better than wondering and worrying. IMHO.

Death cafes are a newer idea, a type of laid back and safe place to discuss death, that plays a role in normalizing death in the public sphere. Death Doulas or Death Midwives are also something that is growing in popularity. I find it very comforting that I will be able to have someone there while I am dying beyond the medical staff who are ill-equipped to deal with it on all levels.

Its heartbreaking to see the statistics of how many people die alone in a hospital but the future seems brighter. we are moving away from seeing death as a taboo topic for the living or the dying.

So, what can we do to help our communities better prepare for the inevitable?

One thing we can do right now is write down how you want your funeral to be carried out or at least give it some thought, maybe even begin discussing it with your partner.

Another idea is to do away with the platitudes. I cannot tell you how awful it was to hear a dozen people tell me that my mother was in a better place. It just made me angry and upset. I would have preferred someone that was willing to hold me as I wept or just a silent acknowledgment that what I was feeling was okay.

Words are hard in the best of times but when someone is experiencing a loss they can be impossible. When words are hard, my advice is to not force it. Holding space silently can be one of the most comforting and loving things you can do for someone who is grieving. It gives them space to feel and speak when they are ready.

I think the best thing we can do for our communities today is being open to conversations about death and accept that not everyone has the same views about the afterlife. Just being there can be a powerful, moving thing.










Personal Soverignty

Last week I was talking about a new book about Blodeuwedd and the more I think about it the less I doubt that she is, in fact, a sovereignty goddess that has been trying to get my attention for a long time.

Looking back over the path I took to get where I am now, I had a lot of people telling me what to do or just pulling me along without asking and I went along with it with resentment silently stewing inside.

I really identify with Bloeuwedd as a woman who was not given any agency in her own life until she finally decided to take it, no matter the consequences.

I believe wholeheartedly that the deities that come into your life have a purpose even if you willfully or blithely ignore it.

Mother Bear came into my life when I needed someone to defend me when I had no way or knowledge of how to do it for myself. Brigid came over when I needed practical advice from a woman who has seen it all. The Morrigan barges in whenever a change is coming or I need a kick in the ass to get me moving.

Throughout all of that, I was struggling with knowing the right thing to do when there was no one to tell me the next step or when I needed to stand my ground.

The kind and generous person I am finds it hard to keep commitments, especially to myself.  I often find myself in the position where I have made plans with someone or myself but then have to abandon them because someone else’s plans change.

Its almost as if my plans are tentative while anyone else’s are more concrete or just more important. I have gotten better about it but I still have a ways to go.

That is kind of where Bloeuwedd and personal sovereignty come in. It’s something that the Kindred know I have to work on so they keep sending beings to help me grow or to just look in on where I am at.

Part of the reason I left the Christian path was that there is so little autonomy allowed, especially for a woman.  I had whole congregations telling me what I should be doing and a god punishing me for when I strayed.  Having the structure was comforting in many ways but so chaffing in others, especially as I grew and started to question accepted doctrine that didn’t quite make sense to me.

I wasn’t a go-getter or a rebel in the traditional sense, I usually just wanted to hide in a corner and stay out of the way, but I did rebel in quiet ways. Even if I didn’t see it as rebellion at the time. Considering the loud obnoxiousness that was the rest of my family, being the only quiet one was terrifying in a way, I was so different from them that I was noticed when all I consciously wanted was to stay hidden.

I was the English nerd who loved puns stuck in a family with people who couldn’t care less about etymology. I was a bit of a daddies girl because we bonded over a shared love of the English Language from the very beginning.  To everyone else I was just the odd one out or the one who laughed at odd moments.

My mother, in particular, was a study in contradictions and extremes growing up, she refused to give up her autonomy but denied her children or husband any sense of their own. You can see that it was and is an uphill struggle for me to both define what personal autonomy or sovereignty is and how to go about asserting it in my own life.  My mother passed away 4 years ago and I still find myself struggling to do things I know will make me happy but would make her furious.

I don’t believe that the Gods or Kindred are there to do things for us, they are not the proverbial hotline to heaven or the Santa Claus in the sky. I think all of us have agency in our own lives, including the Kindred,  we just sometimes see each other along the way and think “what they are doing is in line with what I want” and reach out. Some are more ‘polite’ about it than others, on both sides.

Brigid is kind of like my agony aunt, the one I go to for practical advice. Mother Bear is always there to act as a comfort when times are hard but is willing to show her claws when necessary and teaches me to do the same.  The Morrigan kicks me in the ass when I am going in the wrong direction, I think she gets so frustrated with me sometimes, or when I am just going in the wrong direction in the labyrinth of life.

Blodeuwedd joins the throng of strong independent women and takes her place along side them, offering the wisdom of both the woman and the owl.  I think the main lesson I learn from all of these women is that while all actions have consequences and we should be careful and deliberate in our choices, inaction has its price too that we should be wary of paying.





Just got in the book of devotions to Bloeuwedd that I have had on my wishlist for years. You may have heard of this particular welsh goddess or you may not have but I personally believe that she has been calling me to learn more about her for years if not decades. She has always been a  subtle presence in my life, my love of all things owl is well known among my family and friends.

I have even had an owl on my altar since my beginning pagan days, not really knowing consciously who they were or why they belonged on my altar at the time.  It should have been clear that I ha welshish leanings from the very beginning, one being my love of owls and another the fact that my first experience with paganism was through the music of Damh the Bard, particularly his version of the tale of Taliesin and Cerridwen.

The stories of the Y Mabinogi have always been some of my favorites, from the tales of Taliesin and Cerridwen to the hardships endured by Rhiannon and her son. I will never be a welsh scholar, I have enough trouble learning French and Irish but even the etymology of the names of people and places from welsh lore has always fascinated me.

What kind of put everything into perspective for me was a journey I took with the Sisters of Avalon during Pantheacon. We took the same path that Arthur and went down to the depths of Anwynn in 3 boats. I had sat down, quite randomly in the boat with the banner of the Owl flying above it and the journey itself featured images of flowers of many colors.

I got the hint this time I think, so I am beginning to study the goddess that has been trying to get my attention for so long, I am hoping my thickheadedness hasn’t deterred her.

One of the key features of the tale of Blodeuwedd, or Flower face as she is called in some versions, is Sovereignty or lack thereof. this is Especially true in relations to her husband Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

Soverenty is only given to kings by a goddess of the land at their discretion, it cannot be taken or bartered away without the woman’s approval and yet, that is exactly what happens in the case of Blodeuwed. She is created by math and Gwydion from the land itself for their own purpose but she is a goddess in her own right, with her own purposes and desires.

So, the story is more complicated than it seems and that’s is what I am interested in researching and gaining knowledge of, I want to know more.

I encourage anyone to read the tale of Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Blodewedd, its a wonderful tale without delving deeply but I find that going deeper makes it more fascinating.


Regular update schedule!!!Finally!

For all of you who follow this blog, I am actually starting to write on a regular basis so, I will be posting every Thursday morning starting tomorrow! My other blog, the one for my podcast Kindling the Hearthfire, will be updated every other Monday starting this coming Monday!

Look forward to writing more regularly and getting you more content!

❤ love you all!



This last weekend I had the privilege to attend a wonderful local, to me, convention: Pantheacon! I spent more money than I planned, as you do, but I had a wonderful time hanging out with my people. I didn’t go to many workshops or rituals, there were quite a few, but the ones I did participate in were worth the selection.

I met Kristopher Huges from Anglesey Island off the coast of Wales for the second time and was not disappointed. He was a joy to listen to and I learned so much. The topic we were discussing, in brief, was the difficult challenge we face when our loved ones pass away into the otherworld. It was a challenging topic for me to listen to but Kristopher brought joy an humor into the heavy topic. I lost my mother 4 years ago so, this was an emotion-charged hour but I learned so much about how the act of dying can be and should be just as revered and celebrated as the act of being born or any other rite of passage we go through in our lifetimes.

It was a great talk and I purchased one of his books on Welsh Mythos, From the Cauldron Born, which I am now reading. Its been informative and I look forward to sharing my thoughts on my next Podcast in March. He has another book that deals with the ideas brought up in his talk but I wasn’t ready to pick it up yet but it’s on my list.

I also went on a journey to Anwyn ( pronounced anoon) with the Sisters of Avalon along the same path that Arthur took so many centuries ago. We met with the 9 Maidens of Welsh lore to gather at the great cauldron and gain wisdom from its inner depths. My traveling companions include a very good friend of mine, Rose Red who you might know from her Tarot Podcast. It was a wonderful journey full of wonders seen and wisdom gained.

ADF, the Druid Fellowship I belong to, also had their ritual on Friday evening and I participated for the first time as a celebrant rather than an observer. Bonnie, my soul sister in many ways, wrote the invocation for the shining ones that I used, it was lovely and very moving.

My last workshop was with Michael R. Gorman, a friendly lovely man I could(and did!) spend hours talking to about the Celtic paradigm. It was once again very informative and also a lot of fun.

The rest of the time I spent with the ADF Druid in their suite, which is always a joy! Many of the people there I only see at this Convention and I had a great time catching up and connecting with old friends.

I was exhausted at the end but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! It’s always sad to see it end so quickly, time is like that when you are having fun, but I am already planning for next year!


Wheres the fire?

With Pantheacon coming up really soon I got to thinking about one of the most important parts of an ADF Altar or ritual: The Fire. Its a central part of most many if not all Indo-European cultures and is the only hallows that are required in COOR.(Core Order Of Ritual)

The one thing all of them share is a reverence for fire.

The hotel that hosts Pantheacon does not allow for the actual fire to be lit so we have to be creative in finding ways to create this hallows in our ritual. It’s always interesting to see what happens.

Some ideas were better than others.

What this also brings to mind is how creative some ADF Members have to be in their living situations concerning this same element. I have never lived in a place where a fire was prohibited but I can imagine how this could put a crimp in your ritual style. Unless your creative or just have an active imagination.

Its also good to mention that many of us don’t see that hearth fire in the same way that our ancestors did. Not many of us have the luxury/ability to have a true fire in the center of our homes for warmth and cooking. For many of us, the hearth of the home is the gas or electric stove and the central heating combined.

A true basic tenant of ADF is to work with what you have, you don’t need to go out and buy anything fancy. Just be creative with what tools are already at your disposal.

Put an altar to Hestia on your stove, saying a prayer to her whenever you turn on the heat.

If you cannot have a fire on your altar but can draw or paint, create something and put it on your altar.

The lack of needed Physical tools kind of what drew me to ADF.

You could do ritual with a candle, bowl, and stick if that’s all you had available.

What I am trying to get to here is that its okay to be creative, as long as your doing it in the right spirit.

If you have the tools available use them, but if you don’t the Kindred won’t smite you. They will let you know if you can do better though, don’t be stingy just for the sake of laziness or false humility.

The Ancestors, in particular, were once human, maybe some of the Gods too, and will understand the difference and react reasonably. They might even send gifts your way to help with that.

The only deity that might be appalled at not getting the best would be Zeus, maybe, but he’s an asshole anyway so I wouldn’t take it too seriously.











Shrine Challange: Day 2: Hearth Shrine

My main hearth culture is Irish with a little Welsh mixed in.  I have always had a big affinity with owls and the first time I heard anything paganish was when I listened to Damh the Bard with his story/song of Taliesin and Cerridwen.

On this shrine, I would have a green tablecloth, maybe with Irish Knotwork or just plain. The fire well and tree would be on top, the tree in the center with the well and fire on either side.

A wooden lacquer bowl would be my well and a small candle would be my fire.

I have Brigid’s cross and several figurines of owls, kind of hinting of my Irish and Welsh leanings. The owl would be on the side of the well and the cross on the fireside.

I also have a small clay skull, painted with Crows that I connect with my Ancestors and The Morrigan, it would likely end up on my Shrine as well.

I don’t have any figurines of particular deities. I  don’t think they belong on this shrine. It’s a Hearth Shrine so, I think symbols of them are more appropriate because I don’t want to break up the focus.

Maybe I will move around my altar to put a picture up and add it later.