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Sister Death and Samhain Pilgrimage

Blessings on this All Hallow’s Eve!

I love this time of year as the darkness of the world grows, inviting me into more contemplative space, more rest, more dreamtime, more mystery.

This time of the thinning of the veil also invites me to reflect on death as a spiritual practice. As the world turns inward and things outwardly appear to release and die, inwardly there is a profound nourishment happening and preparation for the bursting forth of seeds in the spring. The rest and darkness of this womb space is essential.

Giving honor to our ancestors, those who have traveled through this tender, painful, exquisite, beautiful world before us, is an act of honoring the reality of death as well. If we have a cyclical view of the world, as we find in nature, death and birth are always intimately intertwined. It is only in our modern linear view that death feels like the very end.

The ancient monks all counseled meditating on death as a way to live life more vibrantly. When we come close to endings, we are able to see what is most essential and precious.

We resist death, we try to numb ourselves from life’s inevitable stripping away of our “secure” frameworks. We spend so much energy and money on staying young. But when we turn to face death wide-eyed and fully present, when we feel the fullness of the grief it brings, we also slowly begin to discover the new life awaiting us.

St. Benedict wrote in his Rule: “Keep death daily before your eyes.” (RB 4:47)

St Francis of Assisi referred to death as “Sister” in his famous poem Canticle of Creation. Rather than the presence at the end of our lives, death can become a companion along each step, heightening our awareness of life’s beauty and calling us toward living more fully. Living with Sister Death calls us to greater freedom and responsibility.

As we approach the Christian Feasts of All Saints and All Souls and the Celtic Feast of Samhain, let us call on the beloved well dead to support us in our own journeys of welcoming Sister Death as a friend and wise teacher. Let us ask for their blessings on the things we are letting go of and the things we are hoping to be born.

(This is the newest dancing monk icon of Sister Death from artist Marcy Hall)

TODAY Simon de Voil and I (and many wonderful guest teachers from Ireland) begin a Virtual Celtic Pilgrimage at this threshold time of Samhain. Join us for nine days of journeying in community, a gathering of kindred spirits, fellow pilgrims, and the spirits and ancestors who are there to guide our way.

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