Winter Solstice 2015
Wise Women on this longest night,
I am torn this time of year on what to write about. Solstice is here, with the longest night and coming of light. However, I feel I must address the subject of dying and the afterlife. For a shaman, we look upon dying as the coming of the light, a time not to fear but to look forward to making the transition to spirit.
During the holidays, at one time or another, we all have faced a loss of someone close to us, making us sad and bringing memories to the surface makes us melancholy. It is indeed a long winter night.
Psychopomp is a guide, whose primary function is to escort souls to the afterlife, but they can also serve as guides through the various transitions of life. When people are unprepared to face death, they often need additional assistance. They may not be aware of the fact that beings are waiting on the other side to help them, or they may be too preoccupied or anxious to acknowledge such assistance. This can leave people lost and confused, or can create a situation where they may not even know they are dead, and instead attempt to continue on with their human existence instead of crossing over. This is most often the case when people have died in a sudden accident, committed suicide, died under heavy medication/overdose or where addictions may be involved. The number of people who are emotionally unprepared to face their own death is increasing.
This is where a shaman doing psychopomp plays an active role by helping the deceased find their way. Powerful healing and transformations can occur for the deceased and their loved ones.
Throughout much of human history, such archetypal escorts have been of great comfort to the dying. They confirm that there is some form of existence after the death of the body, and that a compassionate being will be waiting to offer their assistance through the transition. Unfortunately, many of the myths and rituals that once contained images of psychopomps and helped prepare people for this final rite of passage seem to be largely lost or forgotten in the Western world—a world that is also plagued with fears of dying.
The number of people who are learning how to fulfill the sacred role of the psychopomp is growing. Some choose to offer their assistance in conjunction with their function as a hospice worker, or as a midwife to the dying. Others prefer to focus more on helping those who may be trapped in the spirit realms, and go by such titles as soul rescuer, “deathwalker”, spiritual guide, or shaman. There are also individuals who quietly offer aid to those in transition as they go about their routine jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, and other such locations. In addition, many of us are currently discovering how we can apply such skills to help both people and the planet as we go through the various earth changes that are now occurring.
Once the family has agreed to release the departed one, and once the deceased soul has accepted their death, I close the circle with the family, then journey up along a beautiful river to the gate and bridge into the upper worlds. My allies call the person’s ancestors, who come to welcome the individual’s soul. Once the lost soul sees his/her ancestors, there is always a sense of happiness and peace; this is when the departed is released to the care of the ancestors and Creator. At this time, I can return to my natural consciousness.
Back to the Solstice, the longest night of the year, and the coming of the light. The season of dormancy, darkness, and cold, the December Solstice marks the “turning of the Sun” and the days slowly get longer. The Pagans believe in a time when the ancient celebrated the rebirth of the Sun God and days with more light. Lighting fires in celebration to symbolize, light and the life-giving properties of the returning sun, of fire and passion.
Making a shamanic journey through the spirit world with the allies and ancestors, the wheel turns. Billions of sparkling stars shinning up above watching over all, spreading their light, happiness and dreams. The Sun God lurks just beyond the horizon, and so does the upper worlds where the spirits of the departed live with Creator.
Light a candle and reflect on those who have gone to the dark waiting to for release at the gate, to see the light again. Solstice is a time for reflection; reflect on your life, what it would be like if there was no light. If you can have a wood-fire, write down things that you regret and burn them in a fire releasing them.
As the light returns, celebrate with a small feast. Decorate the table with pine-cones, candles, evergreens, or other nature found objects. Here is a blessing you can use if you like:
“The Wheel turns, the light returns, from the east to the west
The Wheel turns, the sun returns, bringing warmth and light
The Wheel turns, we are blessed with life and light
The Wheel turns, we send love and light to the departed
The Wheel turns, the sun returns, with love and light Blessed be (Aho)”. (Nightsky©)
This post has double intention, solstice and psychopomp work. At the beginning of the post it was decided to combine the two. Personally, I have no fear of death and accept the inevitable, actually look forward to meeting my maker. Creator, takes care of us this I accept as I accept my place in making the wheel turn.
Letting a loved one cross can be difficult. Holidays, always dredge up memories and more. I have lost ancestors, and had a hard time letting go. However, once I did there was more light in my life. My ancestors still visit, checking in/advising or just being there. Psychopomp is a beautiful experience for the departed when the get to the gate and see the light.
So on this day of darkness and coming light–
May you have Beautiful Winter Solstice!