Celebrating Death

My first memories of celebrating death contain colorful Crêpe paper, the scent of the starchy cassava we used for glue, grownups stripping last year’s dress off the cross, the metallic sound of scissors cutting thin strips of paper, and my grandmother’s voice discussing the details of how some of us (often all of us) would go to the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of our dead.

The days prior to All Hallow’s Eve were happy days for us. My grandma would tell us stories about her mother and other loved ones who Life had given to her and Death had taken away—the uncle I never met, but would sure adore, for he got in as much trouble as I did; the relative who was gentle, hardworking, and as taciturn as my big brother… She would tell us stories that kept our dead with us, as part of our past, present and future. By the time we were done turning the cross into something that resembled a piñata, our dead ancestors and family friends were living memories in our hearts.

The paragraphs above show why I honor the life of those who came before me. I included death as one of the topics for All Hallow’s Grim 2013… So Good,So Dark because of a reason described by a quote found in chapter 13 of The Witches’ Book of the Dead by Christian Day: “Death is not always pretty… [it] is a reflection of the whole of life.” Like life, death is light and darkness.

If I had my way, I would probably quote the entire last chapter of Christian’s book. Yes, it is that awesome. The quotes that follow made me nod, in agreement, so many times that I’m surprised by my lack of neck injury:

“One might ask why anyone would want to celebrate something so dreaded as death, the dead, or anything to do with mortality. On a psychological level, I think it helps us to confront our fears and process the reality that people have left us, other will follow, and, finally, so too shall we travel through that doorway to the Other Side.”

“After all this research [for the book], I became somewhat discouraged to find that my beloved Dumb Supper may not always have been a ritual of the dead, and, if it was, there seemed to be no evidence for it. But then I realized that if Halloween and our cherished Festival of the Dead are truly a syncretic blending of all those traditions that have gone before, then I’m not sure that it matters. As we have discovered, leaving food for the dead is an ancient custom. So is the silent repose of mourning. To combine them into a beautiful ceremony may in fact be a twentieth-century invention, but it’s one that I will continue as long as doing so carries the dead through the doorways of spirit that we may commune with them once more.”

You see what I’m talking about, my Wicked Luvs? Wonderfully eclectic information, knowledge that speaks of our commonalities, words that reminds us to embrace all who and what we are… including the only certainty we are born with: one day we’ll die. But there is no reason to fret, for it is likely that those who love us in Life will celebrate us in Death.

I couldn’t copy and paste the whole book, but here is the next best thing: Christian Day has provided a copy of his book to go to a lucky Wicked Darling ;-)
Giveaway
by Christian Day
To enter, answer the following: In your own words, answer Christian’s hypothetical question: “Why [would anyone] want to celebrate something so dreaded as death, the dead, or anything to do with mortality”?

For Extra Entries – Worth one entry each
2. Visit the Festival of the Dead website, look around a bit, and come back to tell me which event you would like to attend and why. What attracts you to it? Check them out on Facebook
3. Be a Wicked Darling. Follow Pagan Culture (this blog).
* Enter by Oct 24th at 5:13 pm EDT. Visit the Giveaway Rules page for eligibility and details.    


So Good, So Dark PartiersPlease leave the links to your All Hallow’s Grim 2013 entries as comments on the original announcement post. Links left on other posts will be deleted. Gracias!

102 comments:

  1. Why celebrate death or Death? As finite creatures, death is just the other side of the coin. Celebrate life, might as well celebrate death. It's part of who we are. & a reminder to look towards the future our children will have. Mortality reminds that it isn't all about us. We will have our time, as did those before us, so decisions made (environmentally, for example) for the future should be what's best for our grandchildren, not us. I don't look at the Day of the Dead, or Family Shrines as celebrating the Dead as it is waving hello to those who have moved on.

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    1. Well said! Death should remind us that we aren't eternal in body, and that the physical world should be kept precious and whole for those who come after us.

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  2. I would attend the Poison Garden of the Mighty Dead. Why? Because I would dearly love to have one of my own.

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  3. I follow this blog. :)

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  4. ". . . those who love us in Life will celebrate us in Death" so much comfort in those words. Christian writes with such insight and pragmatism. I''d love to own his book!

    The Official Salem Witches' Halloween Ball is my favorite event - I think this old crone surely has one more dance in her bones.

    And, of course I follow this fabulous blog - LOL

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    1. One day, my Lori, we'll go to the Salem Witches' Halloween Ball, and we'll dance!

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  5. Megan Sparks10/14/2013

    Never stop celebrating the life of your loved ones even after their death.. They will never be forgotten. In one way or another thwy are always still with you.

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  6. I believe people have the wrong idea about death. Yes it is sad that our loved ones spirits leave their worldly bodies and pass on but I believe they are not really dying but passing to another life. That is something that should be celebrated as well as their memories and life they lived here with us. If I could go to any of the events I would go to the speaking to the dead with Laurie Cabot, my reasoning is because I've wanted to contact my son I lost, it would mean everything to me to know he's ok and that he knows how much he is loved, and to know hes safe and with loved ones.

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    1. I think some of us allow our fears to rule the way we live our lives... that is a sad thing, indeed.

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  7. I have to choose which one I will go to? Really? I would like to go to them all! The Tea, however, holds particular interest. First of all I love tea and I love parties, particularly those centered on the dead. But, then again... I love portals too... so I might choose the portals rather than the tea! In order to decide, I would contact the dead and ask their guidance! :)

    Follow you... everywhere...

    Liked Festival on Facebook...

    Now, Gimme dat book!

    Mario

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    1. Mario, I hope one day we can do The Tea together. And then dance...

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  8. Without death, an ending, life holds no meaning. Without death, we just exist instead of live. Death isn't the end, it's the next chapter in the story of our soul.

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  9. “Why anyone would want to celebrate something so dreaded as death, the dead, or anything to do with mortality”?

    To me it's not about celebrating but maintaining a connection. I don't think our ancestors ever truly leave us but just as with kinfolk in life those connections can be strong or weak. Doesn't matter if a person is living or no longer of this life, all family connections take work, patience and most importantly time. The connections grow weak to anyone you know if you can't spare them some of your time.

    Oh how I wish I could visit the Salem Festival of the Dead. If I ever got there I'd love to got to the Mourning Tea. I adore afternoon tea and talking about my ancestors anytime, combining them with a spot of history as in the Victorian Mourning Tea sounds a perfect afternoon of remembrance.

    As always I'm one of your wicked followers Magaly.

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    1. I think all connections/relationships that aren't acknowledged often fade away, so you are right.

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  10. Oh gods, how I wish I had something pithy or deep to answer with! I feel I've been at ground zero with death over the last few weeks - why celebrate indeed? I know with me, celebrating in a weird way makes it hurt just a smidgen less. Laughing over memories and quirks of the departed makes it feel, for a moment at least, that they really aren't all that far away. Maybe they are in the room, laughing too.

    I wish I could go to Salem one of these days for this. It's actually a toss up for me between the Mourning Tea (LOL, I can never resist tea) and the Ball (I love dancing too)

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    1. Kestril, your tone is pithy, deep, and powerful... I think this comment would have been strong, even if you had just written "I want this because." Hugs, my friend.

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  11. I suppose I would have to ascribe to the notion that everyone dreads death....but I don't. I have never thought of death as dreaded by "the next great adventure", Yes? But I do understand that so many normal souls are fearful and would not step over the boundries of "social mores" but then......normal is only a setting on the dryer and I ain't afraid death. I also celebrate the life of my predecessors without fear that even if I didn't get along with or cherish some, that I can honor their being a connection to my essence.
    I would want to attend The Mourning Tea. I just love high tea. Makes me feel special and being able to hear and see photos of others departed ones would be an interesting time. We have already begun to construct this years offrenda. Photos to follow on my blog nearer to All Hallow's. Gotta Fly, Oma Linda

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    1. I think many of us, those of the witchy persuasion in particular, don't dread the Dark Lady. She has been painted in such ugly ways throughout history, but we'll paint her pretty, won't we?

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  12. I realized some time ago that it isn't death I fear, but the manner of dying I may have to go through to get there. So really its a fear of pain and suffering, not death. I truly believe this life is but one stage of the souls progress. One stage of many.

    I feed my dead at Samhain by burying an apple at my front and back doors. I feed my dead all year by remembering them and talking to them and praying to them.

    An interesting aside (that I just realized) it wasn't until AFTER I started making the apple offering that I started "hearing" the faint whisper of my great grandmother giving me advice on cooking or gardening.

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    1. Death is "One stage of many," indeed.

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  13. I think that celebrating the dead is a way to remember them, and I think that just because we don't see our departed loved ones, does not mean they are not with us. I know that when I do die, I won't be afraid, I will be happy to go, I know that I have people waiting for me on the other side of the veil. I will still be in contact with those that are here, and not far from their thoughts.

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    1. I don't think I will be scared either, maybe curious... and hoping my soul will find a good place to sit for a while and continue writing stories ;-)

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  14. I would love to attend the Dumb Supper, I would bring my grandfather's belongings and photo.

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    1. I hope you can go one day ;-)

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  15. I love this book and if I don't win it, I will be buying it! I think celebrating the dead is important! When my grandpa died, we came home, all had a drink and started laughing! We were talking about how he used to sneak cookies. Our cookie monster! Those memories are our treasures! Their souls should be celebrated. They will always be with us! My mom has brought me up not to be afraid of death, because it is apart of life. I think "the way you are going to die", scares me more, than death itself!

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    1. The book is a gem. And it will certainly add to any treasured memories...

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  16. I would love to go to the Dumb Supper. I have never been to one before. I think it would be truly fascinating and very meaningful!

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    1. Maybe one day we'll go together. Let's see how long we can sit without speaking!

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    2. That would be a fun experience! ;o)

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    1. And I you, so I guess we are running around in happy circles ;-)

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  18. to celebrate death is to celebrate a new beginning starting over

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  19. Messages from the Spirit World: An Authentic Salem Seance LOOKS BRILLIANT!!! Why? Are you kidding LOL I almost booked a flight, I think it's the old Catholic in me, as school girls me and a few nerdy outcasts would get together and scare the night lights out of each other (& ourselves) sitting around our homemade ouija board, in my girlfriends haunted house, the nuns freaked about it... I think it was because they believed you could contact those spirits not only in prayer but alternate ways too... Probably best to leave to professionals, and this looks amazing.

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    1. In the future, soon I hop, you need to come over in October. We'll go to Comic Con first, set a booth together for your paintings and my words. We'll sell lots of stuff and give away some, then we'll go to Salem and party until we drop ;-)

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  20. Hypothetical 'why celebrate?' Because we were so lucky we got some timeshare with these amazing souls.

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  21. I love this blog, Magaly. Don't enter me in the contest, I already own this book. I love it. It is one of my most favorite books!

    Celebrating death is celebrating a life. You look back on that person's life and accomplishments. You remember them fondly and you cry and you laugh and you release.

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    1. "Celebrating death is celebrating a life. You look back on that person's life and accomplishments. You remember them fondly and you cry and you laugh and you release." Some words must be quoted... over and over ;-)

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  22. 1) I celebrate death because in celebrating the death of a loved one I also celebrate their life and who they were.

    2) I would say the one event I would attend if I could is the Salem Wicthe's Ball, and why you ask? It's in Salem and I so want to go to Salem.

    3) I follow/stalk/love this blog :)

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    1. I celebrate their live, too.

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  23. I don't really have any cultural context for celebrating the dead, other than sharing memories, but I like the way certain cultures commemorate their lost loved ones in a joyous way. When one of my beloved cats died, I had her name etched into a beautiful river rock, which now sits on my desk, does that count? :)

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    1. My dear, I celebrate the life of trees and sunsets, cats definitely count! If not, ask them, they'll tell you ;-)

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  24. My family regularly ask me how I can be so "flippant" about death. My reply..." we are always looking for something solid and reliable to cling to in life, some "certainty" that we can use as a focal point to build around. The only true "certainty" in life IS death, so why fear it? " :D XXX

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    1. We celebrate death because we respect it, don't we? Who throws a party for someone they don't like or respect?

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  25. Having read through the list of events(if I lived nearby) I would have most liked to join the Dumb Supper. Moments of tranquil meditation are rare in my life, and being able to relax and reflect in this manner would bring tears to my eyes :D XXX

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  26. Why would I want this book? first of all I don't have it. second, I have had an obsession with death in the form of O.C.D. fro many,many years.I am slowly getting thru it and I believe this book may be able to help me overcome this. I do believe our ancestors are never far away from us and I honor them always in my heart.

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    1. Some obsessions are kind of sweet ;-)

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  27. I celebrate Death because it's an inevitable part of this journey we call Life. No one or thing can escape it, no matter how hard they try, yet people get so hung up on fearing it. If we celebrate it as a part of the life cycle, that can only help to demystify and make it less frightening. When our time comes, we can welcome it as an old friend. That said, when I celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, I'm not revering death but celebrating the life in my bones and accepting the inevitable journey to the underworld once that life is gone.

    I celebrate the Dead as a way to cherish and honor their time here with us and to let them know that they are still loved, cherished and always welcome to share a laugh or a meal with me from beyond the veil. Just because one is gone, does not mean they should be forgotten.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder why people celebrate birthdays with such love, but feel uneasy about celebrating the ultimate right of passage. I guess we witchy people tend to be weird... and I like it.

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  28. Oh, I would have loved to read this book. The excerpt you provided made the author sound both wise and humble.

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    1. Christian Day is very wise... and about as humble as me LOL

      But in all seriousness, I think you would find this book really interesting. I found it thought provoking, and a tad scary at times.

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  29. Celebrating death is like celebrating life. As someone already said here, it the other side of the coin. The yin side of the yang. I personally spend time in prayer on Nov 1 to remember loved ones who have left us. My children and I start on Oct 31 until Nov 2, we cut out skeletons and decorate skulls. Pictures of those who've passed come out again. (It's painful to see them thorughout the year). I use this time to also make sure I'm living up to the standards my family left. They are amazing role models.

    I'd love to go to Conjuring Spirits: A Night of Necromancy because I'd love to have a few minutes with my grandmother and mother-in-law again. My grandmother passed 19 yrs ago, my MIL 9 yrs ago and I miss them both so much.

    I followed your blog, I found you on Facebook,

    Thank you.

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    1. I, too, celebrate All Hallow's Eve on the 31st of October and All Souls Day on November 1st. It's what my grandmother used to do. It feels right.

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  30. staci wells mefford10/15/2013

    I believe we aren't necessarily celebrating death but the life that person lead the memories we made with them. That if they were ill they are no longer in pain or sick. That their spirit/soul lives on with us in our daily lives. So I see it as we are celebrating this persons exhistense. Thank you so much. Blessed be

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    1. Celebrating a difference stage of existence, I like that. It is true; almost like celebrating the next stage of "life."

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  31. Heather Reynolds10/15/2013

    Why celebrate death ,why not celebrate death? We celebrate a thing as precious and beautiful as life,and death is just as beautiful and precious as life. We are entering a new life after in our death after all so why shouldn't we celebrate that. Our souls moving on to a new life how beautiful and wonderful to celebrate.

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    1. Change can be such a good thing...

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  32. Without Death, how would we know what Life is? What would memories mean to us? Death is a natural part of living, that reminds us to grab on with both hands and shake everything we can out of living. Why else did the gods in the old stories have such a fascination with mortals? Because beings that don't know what Death is can never experience the fullest extent of what Life means. It should be celebrated because it reminds us to Live.

    The Poison Gardens of the Mighty Dead. I'm far too fascinated by plants to want to let that one slide. Studying plants so closely linked to Death... I can imagine the revelations they'd whisper. Their voices would be much like those of the bones, I'd bet...

    -Fox

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    1. The fruit that doesn't rot, never gives chance for the seed to grow. It's a cycle, and each part should be celebrate, methinks.

      We need to get a really huge bus and drive to The Poison Gardens...

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  33. “Why [would anyone] want to celebrate something so dreaded as death, the dead, or anything to do with mortality”?

    Yes death can be considered a dreadful thing since many of us lose loved ones that we hold dear. However death can be celebrated as a time to remember we are not immortal, and should cherish the life we do have. Also people may celebrate death because for many it is a renewing point for the soul. Death is the time when a should sheds its mortal flesh and becomes essentially immortal to move on to many new journeys and adventures.

    For Extra Entries – Worth one entry each
    2.I would love to attend two different events. I would love to attend the Spectral Evidence: Ghost Hunting 101. The reason be is that I have a strong passion for paranormal investigations, and would love to get views and ideas from other people to learn different techniques. The other event I would love to attend is the 2013 witch's ball. I think it would be marvelous to dress up so wickedly elegant, and dance the night away with people that love this time of year as much as I do.
    3 Following blog ").

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    1. Renewal is a great thing to celebrate; and change, too, for it reminds us that we aren't stagnant. "...new journeys and adventures" indeed ;-)

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  34. Who is to say that death is a "dreadful" thing? Death is for the most part a thing of beauty, it ends the suffering that some feel, may it be physical or emotional pain or a long journey of not knowing who your loved ones are.... Death is a chance to start life over. I know you miss the person that has moved on, but they have move on to the next thing their life has for them... I never could understand those who prayed to keep their suffering loved ones with them, why would you do that? So they could suffer more and you wouldn't have to suffer the thought of life without them? What kind of life are they living?
    I like to celebrate that person's life and then celebrate the fact that they are on the road to their next journey

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    1. I think many people are so afraid of the physical implications of death, that they see as totally ugly. Hopefuly they can find a comfortable in-between...

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  35. I say that one would want to celebrate it because it is easier to get past mourning states if you do. But, beyond that, there is so much pain and fear associated with death. If more people took the time to celebrate death and the dead, I believe the would come to embrace death more easily than if there's just a mourning period. This is why I've told my loved ones that I don't want a funeral. Funerals are so morbid and full of sorrow. Sure, there's sorrow when someone dies, but people have forgotten to celebrate the lives of the people who have passed. Plus, we don't know what they've passed onto! I want to celebrate the passage of that soul onto whatever is next. People tend to forget the dead, that's criminal in my view. I celebrate my beloved dead.

    The real question is, which one of those events at the Festival of the Dead WOULDN"T I want to go to. I'd like them all please. After looking those over for almost 36 hrs., I think I'll choose the Dumb Supper for this entry. I'd really like to do that.

    I are a Wicked Darling. :P

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    1. The pain, the loss, the ultimate goodbye... there is suffering, indeed. I think the celebration doesn't start right away, when the feelings are raw... but later, when we are well enough to remember the good times.

      I IS Wicked, indeed ;-)

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  36. Death is not an ending it is simply another step in our life. We should not mourn the loss of a person but celebrate their passing to the next phase in their enlightenment. How exciting it is to move on to something unknown and different. That is what should be celebrated. Yes they are missed in our lives but they are never truly gone from us.

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    1. For me, mourning starts the celebration. When my little brother died, I had to give myself time to hurt and cry, to feel terrible about the fact that his baby-daughter would never see him like I did. But after the tears were under control, I was able to smile and dance... I reminded myself that he knew love, had a child like he wanted and was loved by many. Today, I celebrate his life often... even when I cry a bit ;-)

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  37. Celebrating death to me, ifs celebrating a part of life, the end of a cycle. It's about change and acceptance, and releasing the old to embracing the new; it's about transformation, remembrance, and honoring or loved ones who have made the transition. It doesn't have to be morbid; it can be a touching celebration of love and joyful memories. My queston is, why wouldn't someone celebrate it?

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    1. Sorry for the typos...darn phone :(

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    2. I was just thinking that this year will be extra special for me and for you, too. Our losses are so fresh, so we can celebrate together from afar...

      P.S. I will NEVER forgive that typos!!! Just kidding ;-D

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  38. Visited the website and liked the fb page. Regarding the website... I want to do them all!!!! If I had to choose just one though, it would be Learning to Hear and Speak to the Dead with Laurie Calbott. Why? I have always been able to sense spirits, but it scares me. I would like to learn how to embrace that gift and overcome my fear.

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    1. This seems to be an usual problem LOL

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  39. I already follow your blog(s) :-)

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  40. One would celebrate death as a natural part of the cycle of being, a piece of existance and another form of being. Celebrate death as moving forward.

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    1. Renewal should be a celebration, indeed ;-)

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  41. I am a follower and enjoy visiting when I can.

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  42. I checked out the FB page and watched the most recent video. They do look like they are there to have fun.
    The event or gathering I would like to experience is the Magic circle.
    The one about the witch trials would be historically interesting but the magic circle is more about honor and renewed connections.

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    1. Way too much fun, I would say! Then again, that can be my mild jealousy talking. I can't go this year ;-(

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  43. What a fitting question for me....Death isn't the end. We may not "see" our loved ones again, but they are always with us. Death sometimes comes as a blessing, but they are still with us. All you have to do is open your eyes.

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    1. So fresh for you, my darling. I've been thinking about you; your name has been in my heart. I hope your Daddy's soul traveled to where he's happiest. And that he watches over you.

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  44. We celebrate all of the passages or milestones of life. Death is the final passage or milestone. It's better to celebrate in ritual than to cower in fear or pretend that the Angel of Death doesn't come for everyone.

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    1. Indeed, pretending has never helped anyone...

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  45. I am following via email and GFC.

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  46. Oh man....I would love to attend the Salem Witches' Magic Circle. One of these days.

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  47. I celebrate death because it is part of the circle that is called life, just the turning of the wheel, and as I celebrate all other parts of this wheel, I must also celebrate death. It is the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.

    I would love to attend The Poison Garden of the Mighty Dead. As a gardening pagan witch, the garden and all within and without are sacred to me. The Official Salem Witches' Halloween Ball? Well, who wouldn't want to go to that!

    Pagan Culture comes to me via e-mail and I read it each and every night.

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    1. We can truly appreciate the circle if we skip some of the parts!

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  48. Out of all the events listed I think I would like to attend The Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo. I have always wanted to have my cards read or my fortune told, but have also always been somewhat afraid of having it done as well...but if we don't face out fears at some point are we really living? I think that is part of why we should celebrate death. Death is something most people fear, whether they admit it or not. By talking about it and celebrating it (as well as life) with our loved ones we take out some of the mystery and fear. By taking that away we make more room for joy and happiness. Also I think by celebrating death we are also celebrating the lives that came before. What they taught us, what they brought us, and the possibilities that transition (death) brings us.

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    1. I agree, with every rite of passage come new possibilities... even for those who aren't doing the passing.

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  49. I think it's important to celebrate their moving on to a new place and getting to leave this dark twisted world behind!
    makeighleekyleigh at yahoo dot com

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    1. I think it's important to enjoy all the twists ;-)

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  50. I'd love to attend the Spectral Evidence: Ghost Hunting 101 event! I'd love to have an encounter with the dead!

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