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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in rites of passage

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Death is not a winter activity, it does not come just with the falling of the leaves, but weaves its slow, funereal dance through every day of our lives. Each living breath for us times with a last breath for some other creature. We cut the corn for Lammas, (or at least, these days, someone cuts it and most of us never see it). The death of the corn represents the life of the tribe. And so we’ll dig out the one folk song every Pagan seems familiar with, and honour good old John Barleycorn reincarnating as beer. In celebrating the beer we can slide over the death of corn, and with it our own mortality. Reincarnation for us is really something to guess at, and when we are planted in the ground we do not put up fresh, green stalks of our own.

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship death has with the four elements. Our methods for relinquishing the dead take us to all four of them, although different cultures favour some more than others, depending mostly on available resources and behaviour of climate. What I’m thinking about here is disposal of the body, not human sacrifice, although there are parallels. We can put the dead into the water. Most usually we’ll do that when at sea, in the absence of other means of disposal, and not wanting the danger of a rotting corpse on a boat. However, I recall reading about some ancient peoples who put their dead, or some of their dead into flowing water, by choice.

Returning the dead to the womb of the earth, we plant them, seed like. Natural decay processes will follow, but there is something strange about earth burial, the digging of the hole and raising of the mound. It accelerates and disguises what happens when we leave the dead upon the ground, but it tends to invite more complex ceremony.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Nancy Vedder-Shults
    Nancy Vedder-Shults says #
    Nimue -- What I like best about this post is how your brought the "unsightliness" of death "to life" in your prose. No pun intend
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    I appreciate this essay, especially living in the Southwest deserts, knowing that this intensely hot, arid time of year brings dec

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Words for Loss

My mother died early this morning, following a long illness and a rapid recent decline. In her spirit, I offer these words, taken from the Portland First Unitarian Church service last weekend. It's important to remember that all life passages are holy, and all are a cause for celebration, and honoring.


When love is felt or fear is known,
When holidays and holy days and such times come,
When anniversaries arrive by calendar or consciousness,
When seasons come, as seasons do,
Old and known, but somehow new,
When lives or born or people die,
When something sacred's sensed in earth or sky,
Mark the time.
Respond with thought or prayer or smile or grief.
Let nothing living slip between the fingers of the mind.
For all of these are holy things we will not, cannot, find again.

~Max. A Coots

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Dear Susan, I am so sorry for your loss. If you feel the need/desire to talk, call me 888-724-3966. I lost my dad and mom as a yo
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you, Anne....
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you, Natalie. I appreciate it....


At Asheville's Mother Grove Goddess Temple, there is a small chapel room. It is permanently set with a main altar in the North, three other directional altars and a niche (which is actually an unused doorway) that holds a tiered Ancestor altar.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Rites Of Community

Rites of passage are one of the most durable building blocks in the creation of community.They are also among the most underutilized. I was encouraged in my last post to continue exploring the ways in which we build strong organizations and community. Lasting growth comes from both momentum and inertia. I love ideas, perhaps as much as I love people, but this is not necessarily the case for others. For me, a cause is often enough motivation to persist in my efforts.  Even if there is agreement about the goals and the visions of a group, the implementation of those in the real world often generates conflicts born out of a variety of sources. The stresses of conflict can bring about a loss of commitment, a loss of coherence, and perhaps a loss of membership. The uncertainties of the way forward can also sap energy that is needed to pursue collective goals.


It is the weight and the mass of accumulated emotional memory that acts as the flywheel, the gyroscope, and the driver that allows us to push past temporary distress. It is a fairly popular idea to think of loving relationships as consisting not only of the individuals, but also of that meta-being that is the summation of the partners. The same idea can be applied to groups and organizations. In the case of organizations and groups we have to plan for the creation of a common pool of emotional memory. Communal history helps to hold us together and rites of passage help to write the history into our hearts and minds. 

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