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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Death Rituals

Posted by on in Paths Blogs


In the days leading up to Tom's sumbel via zoom, I had some encouraging signs. I posted this on my social media: "Dragged out to the store and look what I saw lol pine cones! Pine cones are a Zisa thing. And then guess what? I went to [name of liquor store] but apparently the nonalcoholic sparkling wine is a specialty winter holiday item and they didn't have it. But guess what they did have? Zirbenz! The drink of the goddess Zisa! I had been looking for it last week because I had a radio appearance on Sept. 28th which is Zisa's holiday, and had asked for it by name there. They hadn't had any then, but this is how capitalism works lol because I had asked for it by name last week, this week they had some. Even though I already had made a toast to Zisa on the air with something else and today is a few days after the holiday I bought it and went home and had some. It's remarkably similar to the de sapin that I had instinctively offered to Tyr, Zisa's husband, years ago. Then I went into the kitchen and there was a rainbow on the wall, symbol of Heimdall, Tom's patron. I looked where it was coming from and it was from the tiny crystal ball on a wizard statue that I had put in the window because I had been setting up Tom's idols on the back porch this morning."

Before the sumbel, I had already confirmed that Tom made it across the Rainbow Bridge to join Heimdall's company. He had new things to learn, new friends, new duties. Heimdall is the Guardian, and the humans he attracts and to whom he is attracted as patron are likewise guardians. Tom spent most of his adult life in a career he saw as being a sheepdog for his country and countrymen. That's a common metaphor in his profession, but it has a special resonance for a Heimdall's man, as one of Heimdall's sacred animals is the ram. About a week after the sumbel, Tom became my personal guardian spirit. The dead can still affect things in the living world under certain circumstances, and being one of Heimdall's is one of them.

The sumbel itself was not a positive emotional experience for me. Although I'm pretty tech savvy under normal conditions-- I actually worked in cell phone techsupport for a while--, I did not have the brain space to learn anything new, so I asked a kindred member to handle the technical aspects for me. The zoom format was just alien enough so I did not interact with it well, and I have a mental blank spot for everything anyone said via the net. There were a few local people with me in person, and I remember the in person portions of the ritual. I also remember singing along to a song written by one of Tom's and my old friends, who had called in via my phone and was on speaker. I'm not a digital native and whatever made it so I either didn't hear, didn't process, or didn't encode in memory what was going on via zoom didn't affect my ability to listen to a landline. (My kindred member is making a file for me of the recording she made, so I hope to be able to hear what I missed eventually.) I made a couple of embarassing mistakes in non technical areas that seem to point to my reverting to just the knowledge I had as a teenager or in college. I could not handle performing as gythia at this sumbel and ended up handing off the ritual to a kindred member right in the middle. A few days later, it caught up with me that she is also a gythia now, and I communicated that to her via fb chat, because the kindred isn't meeting regularly during these times; a very few of us got together just for that one special occasion.

We held the sumbel on the back porch. I had held some rituals on the back porch before, when the kindred consisted of just me and Tom. I also often hold my coffee ritual out there, both my everyday morning coffee and the spontaneous coffee or other toast I raise to Thor when it rains. A porch is a liminal space, neither fully outside nor fully inside, so it seems like an appropriate ritual space. Also, it's a great place to watch the rain, because it's under the house roof and thus protected from lightning, yet I can hear, see, and smell the storm as if I were outside. In any case, Tom's sumbel was not the first back porch ritual, but I did choose to have it outside due to the necessity of taking precautions against Covid. Since that's what Tom died of, it would not honor him to take foolish risks.

I'm doing my best to handle Tom's estate as the executor of his will. I thought we had gotten all the religious items out of his house before he died, but the next time I went to his house to collect the mail and do other necessary tasks, there was a box sitting right in the middle of the room formerly used as a storage room, which my helpers and I had already cleared out. The box contained candles, cups, an iron cauldron, and a marble cauldron stand deeply carved with a pentacle. Tom's Strega supplies. Tom had been Strega before becoming Asatru. The box also contained a pretty shell, presumably picked up on the beach near where he used to live in San Diego before he moved to Las Vegas. Who knows where it came from or how we missed it before, but it was like it was just put there for me to find, as a kind of sign of approval. I had been feeling like a failure for the dumbass mistakes I made and for having to get my kindred member to finish the ritual for me, but everyone told me I did fine and should not expect too much of myself in my grief, but that was words on fb and on the phone and it didn't register for me like finding a literal box full of witch supplies where there had been empty floor. That was Tom making sure I had his full magical legacy. I took the supplies home, and out of the box I took a glass candlestick and a black candle-- for mourning and also to dispel negative energy-- and lit the candle. I watched it burn and it was red underneath. Love shining through the mourning.

Over the next week I did a few other things to get rid of bad energy, and so did my friends. I think I'm doing better now. The key for me is I can't keep up the pace of working on handling the estate all day and trying to handle all my own business in the evening that I was frenetically pushing myself to starting the week before Tom died when we started getting the religious items and weapons out of his house and turning the storage room upside down looking for his DD-214 (which our kindred member found) that I kept up right up until the sumbel. I have to give myself time to just be. To cry, if I feel like it. To just sit around listening to old songs on the radio, if that's what I feel like doing. To go do something fun with friends, if I can manage to do it safely (as I write this, I'm planning to attend a Renfaire Picnic held by a few of the guilds in lieu of the actual Renfaire, which was canceled. The Picnic is outdoors where the Faire usually is. I made myself a new costume that includes a full silk veil that goes down to my waist. It should be at least as effective as the cotton masks I've made, but looks Faire appropriate. I'm planning to take pics and post them on my social media.)

We held Tom's funeral sumbel via Zoom because many of his oldest friends and his kindred members from when he used to live in California could not come to Nevada for his funeral, due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic. I polled the people who wanted to attend to see what sort of online function would work best for everyone, and Zoom won because it could be accessed both via the net and by people who did not have internet and needed to use a phone. An online funeral just is not a good substitute for holding one in person. The extreme emotions present during a mourning ritual just don't mix well with trying to use cutting edge technology.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I raised this horn to my companion Tom Newman when I dedicated this shelf on my bookshelf to him. This is his shrine now. I moved some of the things from the temporary altar onto here. I added the photo of us at the San Diego Zoo, and some things I found when I unpacked the Patient Belongings bag I picked up from the hospital the day he died. Those things were candy that I had brought him that he had not opened, and greeting cards, both from me and from his out of state friends which I had picked up from his mailbox at his house and delivered to the front door of the hospital (I was not allowed in because of Covid restrictions.)

The day before I set up this shrine to my late companion, a fellow heathen had told me that she received gnosis that I was supposed to have elecampagne. We chatted online about the idea and finally decided that meant folk art, not the actual flower itself. So when I unpacked the Patient Belongings bag and saw the unopened card from me with the yellow flowers, I knew that meant I was supposed to keep and display this card. I had been thinking about throwing that one out because unlike the first two cards from me that I dropped off for Tom, it was less sentimental and more of a report of what I and our mutual friends were doing at his house and the plans I was working on for him, letting him know we were getting him set up with what he needed to qualify for a military funeral. But then after that conversation about the yellow flowers I knew when I saw the card that I had to keep and display it, even though it was unopened and he never saw it. He can see it now, from his viewpoint in Asgard with Heimdall. The other cards are in the stack on the left side of the photo. The final two cards he received were from out of town friends which I delivered to the hospital in the morning on Friday with a note asking the staff to read them aloud to him. (He could not read them himself because he had already been unconscious for several days at that point.) He passed that afternoon. I hope he got to hear the cards read aloud and that it may have brought him some comfort even if he didn't fully hear or understand.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

My companion Tom Newman died of Covid on Friday. His patron god was Heimdall. This is the temporary altar setup I made for a toast to Heimdall and Tom, mostly composed of things from Tom's house and car. The rum had previously been used in last year's Rainbow Season ritual to Heimdall and his mothers.

When I was assembling this, originally I was only going to include the Heimdall coin as a kind of portable Heimdall altar that could go in the assemblage, but the Tyr coin literally leaped out at me. I don't know if that is because of Tom's dedication to justice or if it's because this is so close to Zisasege. That's an Urglaawe holiday but I feel close to Zisa too so although as an Asatruar I don't do the exact same full Zisasege ritual that Urglaawer do I am planning to do a little something for Zisa on the 28th. Zisa is Tyr's wife in Tyr's aspect as Ziu. So, I was opening the boxes to see which one the Heimdall coin was in and when I opened the box containing the Tyr coin it sproinged right out at me, so of course I included it.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you, Victoria.
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    My deepest sympathies for your loss. May he pass swiftly to his ancestors and add to the deep well of love, support and wisdom fo

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Shortly after my mom died, the goddess Sigyn told me our relationship would change soon. She did not elaborate, but I did not have long to wait.

(To recap: I became sworn to Freya in college, and Freya gave me to Sigyn a few years ago.) About a week or so after mom passed on, Sigyn told me I was free. She assured me that she would always be part of my life, and she would help me through my grief and would still send butterflies sometimes, but I no longer belong to her. I would never need her again the same way I needed her while caring for mom. This is a grief unlike any other. I would now grow closer to another goddess.

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Letting go and passing on: what Death teaches us about the mysteries of life

Recently my dad died.

It wasn't unexpected or sudden. 

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    My dad and I lived in different countries, so we emailed almost daily and called once a week. After he passed, I missed that conne

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Farewell to Jane

On July 7th, at around 3:30pm, a dear friend passed the veil.  After over a year of alternative therapies, the cancer in her would not relent.  She chose death with dignity.

Jane and I met when my best friend brought me to Jane's home for a shamanic study group.  She practiced shamanism, read tarot, and had converted to Judaism as an adult. 

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[Books of the Dead] Crows and Giving Space for Grief

At a crossroads, I watched a crow had been hit by a car, laid to rest there on one side of the street. Crows descended from the trees, probably a hundred crows. In groups of maybe eight, ten, twelve, they would walk around that individual that was on the ground. And then they would fly off, and over a fifteen, twenty-minute period, eventually all the crows flew off, leaving that corpse of the crow in the road. Tony AngellGifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

Crows have been yelling at me a lot lately.  I'd like to tell you that I can understand what they've been saying, but I don't know.  In my experience, it generally means that something is going to happen.  Sometimes good, sometimes not good, but more than daily life.  If he is feeling generous, Crow may show up in my dreams to elaborate.  But he has been silent on the matter, leaving the tiny cousins to chide me.  Or praise me?  Who knows.  I've never had a terribly strong communication connection with the goddesses, ancestors and spirits.  My logical brain is quick to tell me that I am just telling myself what I want to hear, so I try to rely on omens, portents, dreams and divination.  Sometimes that gives me a clear path, most of the time it doesn't.  Sometimes when it's particularly murky, I do as my friend JohnM, the psych guy, suggests and I assign reasons and explanation as it's as good of an answer as any.  A very Roman approach to things, but sometimes better than nothing.

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