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The Gate Opens Both Ways

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life and death. Sex and death. Those sorts of things.

The concepts of sex and death are linked in so many places, in so many cultures – not all of them, of course, but enough so that I think there is an awareness of an essential truth: that the gate that opens ekstasis, the gate through which new life can flow, the gate that fertilises the fields, the gate of orgasm, is also the gate through which life can ebb. “Life feeds on death”, people will say, sometimes, pointing out the cost of survival: that living depends on preying on the other, except perhaps if you are a photosynthesising plant (and even those draw trace nutrients from an earth partially defined by and composed from the lingering shadows of the bodies of the dead).

Le petit mort.
The Ghede.
Freya.
Literary analyses of Dracula and half of my high school English lit classes.
Dying and resurrected grain gods.
Etc.

A while back when I was working on calendars (when am I not working on calendars?) I noticed that the Mysteries of Wesir fell in November, and the Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley in May. And looking at each of those festivals, in which life and death are so thoroughly entangled, I could not help but see parallels, from an odd angle, to the Samhain and Beltane that so many pagans celebrate. (Never mind that the Mysteries are a planting festival, entombing the seed that it might grow – but perhaps that’s something that more people should contemplate in their Samhain, as well.)

And then I wound up in Craft circles where people commented that, oh yes, Beltane was a time the veil was just as thin as it is at Samhain, but the flow is the other way. Which felt like a real and true thing, and remembering that push-pull of sex and death, life and death. (These days I call the seasons defined between roughly-Beltane and roughly-midsummer and roughly-Samhain and roughly-midwinter as the Wolf Times, and I’m talking about it as that season where the flows are most intense, the undertows of the tides of life and death pull most strongly.)

I’m not sure I can conceive of a sex cult that isn’t also a death cult, at this point. At least not one that I could work with, resonate with, get to the blood and bone of. Because this right here, it’s essential: some shape given to the Wolf Times, to the Wild Hunt seasons. To the tides of life and death. To the way the dead are custodians of the gates of life, and that things flow through their hands on the way to us. To the fact that life and death are breaths of the cosmos, in and out, this side to the other side, and inhale leads to exhale, exhale to inhale, as a matter of necessity.

I pray for the dead. I pray for the dead as a matter of principle, as a matter of holy obligation, because the space between Here and There is a difficult and complicated one and my prayers may be a support and an aid. I pray for the dead, and light my candles and my incense and pour out cool water, because these are the ones who guard the gates of life. I and we breakpray for the dead, because one thing is certain: someday they will welcome me home.

I wonder sometimes if it is this separation between ourselves and our dead that makes so many things so brutal – this inability to deal with the flow. Whether a construction of the unreality of death makes it more likely that people will deal it out casually, the way the unreality of the lives of other people likewise makes it easier to treat their deaths as part of a story, a morality play about things one should not have done. I wonder if having a practice that includes, as central, as foundational, the honoring of the dead, the wishing them well on their journeys, the establishment of Wesir in all his forms in his place so that he might establish the yet-living in theirs, makes it somehow easier to deal with the brutalities of the world. Or at least possible.

And I got linked, in some of my internet perusing, to a video of a choral group performing a song from the musical Hamilton, “Wait for It”, and the three refrains hit me hard, in their minor variations: “Love does not discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes and it takes and it takes, we keep loving anyway, we rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes”, for the first, and then “Death does not discriminate…” but “we keep living anyway.”

Life does not discriminate, the last one.

These things all go together. Broadway knows too.

1 comment to The Gate Opens Both Ways

  • The refrains really spoke to me as well; I’m considering incorporating ‘death does not discriminate…’ into some artwork I’m planning for my Beloved Dead shrine.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about the separation we have between our living world and our dead, in modern society. If we weren’t so terrified of it, would it be as successful a weapon against us? Would we focus more on the names of victims of tragic shootings over those of the perpetrators, if we weren’t so desperate to forget that death comes for everyone eventually?