Talking about Death

Nobody likes talking about death, it’s one of the last taboos but there comes a time when we need to talk about death and dying either to a family member or to ourselves, after being told we only have so much time left!

This was brought home to me recently on a personal level, suddenly needing to think about death in a personal rather than abstract way and finding that being Pagan made the coming to terms with and talking about End of Life even more difficult.
In our, at least nominally, Christian society there are quite a few concepts and words to express thoughts, ideas and concepts in the task of helping others, or yourself, to come to terms with the idea of dying and what, if anything, comes after. The thought of a ‘loving’ God that even in this time of struggle is working out his plan and caring for you, the thought of an afterlife in heaven, possibly reunited with others or simply comforting words from the Bible, or holy book of your choice if you are not Christian.

And there, for Pagans, lies the problem. Society really doesn’t have the concepts, or words, to talk about death in a Pagan framework. This is particularly true when talking to a non Pagan, whether that person is trying to support you or you are offering support to him or her. Yes we can talk about the ‘Summerlands’ but even to most Pagans the concept is ill defined and shot through with Christian, or more accurately Abrahamic, concepts. Most Pagans, for example, have this thought picture of some sort of ‘bodily’ existence in the Sumerlands and express what it might be like in terms very much like those used to describe the Christian Heaven. Try to think of the Summerlands differently, as a place where the ‘soul’ – see already having to use words replete with Christian meaning, – as a place where the ‘soul’ can exist in a state of non-corporeal existence interfacing with that life force we might term the Goddess. It simply doesn’t have the right ring about it and certainly isn’t going to provide a sense of peace and acceptance of the approaching end of life in anybody.

The fact is we simply do not have the cultural framework to allow these ideas and concepts to be anything more than a theological standpoint when what is really needed is a framework with a real emotional resonance. This is not to say that such a framework doesn’t, or cannot exist, but that the cultural baggage is such that it is difficult to see beyond the Christian concepts and even more difficult to express thoughts in a truly Pagan way.

At the moment I don’t have any answers, I certainly don’t feel that that I have a grip on End of Life from a Pagan perspective in such a way as to be able to really talk to somebody else about it, to provide or receive help and comfort. But at least I have started to think about it, and maybe, if I do find any insights I may share them.

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