Normally I hear my stories on the wind. It sings them to me on storm winds and sea breezes, it whispers them to me beneath the full bellied moon. It brings them up from forgotten places and plays me echoes of secret memories. Normally I share what I hear, this time let me tell you what I lived.
Some people have a knack for walking in the other world. It is a talent that can be learned, it can be trained and it can be honed. But some people, they just have it from birth. They walk through life straddling worlds, sometimes seeing in this one, sometimes gazing into others. This is a story about such a man. He is married to a dreamer, she is many things make no mistake, but above all else she dreams. Together they have a son, a toddling thing best described by his mother’s wide eyes and his father’s thirst for adventure. Completeing their family and filling their home is the Bear, a large man, shaggy and strong, gentle save when stirred to anger.
Now living where they live, and being what they are, they are no strangers to death. They have seen it from afar and they have held it in their arms. To the Dreamer death was a mystery and a puzzle, to the Walker death was an adventure and a promise.
So, tell me; what do you think they did when confronted with a situation where death and the newly dead were in their hands… why they Fucked it up of course. And therein lies the story…
It isn’t just humans who can become lost in the here after. The spirits of Birds and beasts can as well. Aye, they live closer to death, they have fewer walls erected between them and the truth of it. They are born knowing its nature, they live with it day to day hour to hour. Death however comes in more forms than there are stars to light the sky, so when it comes in a shape foreign and sudden… then can be a problem. If a deer is taken down by a wolf that is the nature of things, if a mouse is taken by an owl on the wing, that too is the nature of things. There is little shock and a clear understanding in the mind of the prey. There is fear. There is pain, but no suprise, no confusion. Death has come and they must surrender to it.
But what happens when death comes sudden, swift and strange to the predator, what does the wolf, or owl, the bear feel when they are struck down by the doings of Men. I think that for prey animals it is easier, they’re constantly dogged by the spectre of death, but for the hunter to be struck down causes a disconnect. The wolf knows old age, it understands thirst, and famine, disease. But what’s a rifle, what is a car to barrel up and pounce so brutally, to pulp flesh, snap bone, and savage organs. Whats worse it rolls on without a pause, no memory of prey to humble the predator, no flesh taken to fill an empty belly no purpose beyond clumsy power and inconsiderate speed. How does the predator reconcile its death to this?
Simply put, they often can’t. If you ever find yourself near the results of such a collision, take a moment and observe. There is a palpable miasma of confusion and indignity, an alpha predator reduced to a ragged bundle of fur or feathers crushed and tossed without a second thought.
I know what death is to me, through this experience I also have found what it means to me as a witch.
The Dreamer found the body, a wind tumbled ball of feathers left without ceremony on the roadside with its neck broken. She called the Walker to bring it home. He approached it with the care he would the honored dead, with gentle words to sooth it, and if truth be told to sooth himself. He was no stanger to spirits, but this one was lost and confused and its presence was echoe and emptyness. With what ceremony he could afford it, and such dignity as he could grace he brought it home, laid it beneath the familiar oak and begged it peace and easy sleep.
A day passed, then two, and he stopped feeling the spirit so strongly, he looked with eyes open in both worlds and saw nothing and so they put the body to the knife, passed it through incense and blessed it with prayer, some parts they preserved and the remains they put in the ground there beneath the sun and the branches of that oak.
Naive of the Dreamer, Foolish of the walker.
The Walker you see, he went walking the other world under the eye of the sun. Small wonder he found no sign of the lingering spirit then. It was nocturnal in life and so too in death. It wasn’t gone to its rest, only sleeping… Foolish, naive.
Only the oak bore witness to the momement when the spirit found its buried body. Only the oak and the wide night sky. The Walker wasn’t there to bear witness, he didn’t feel it, didn’t notice at all. The credit for that goes to their son, the toddling child all eyes and curiousity. “What’s that?” Sometimes that’s what it takes for that voice in the back of your head that’s been screaming “Hey idiot pay attention” to get its point across. The Walker didn’t see the how of things, he only saw the results. The wretched thing, lost and bearing the wounds of its death and the marks of its body’s internment in the ground. Shambling up like a night born creature from someone’s bleak and blackest dreamings. Empathy was never a gift of the Walker, but understanding… that he bore the burden of. This he understood on a primal level, the knowing of it settling on him full and heavy. With slow and deliberate care he reached out to the spirit. He wrapped it in threads of himself, spun thin and strong as spider silk. He tied it to him and made it whole. In his trance he saw it flying, and amidst the incense of cedar and lemon grass his son saw it too. “Flying, mama, happy” he giggled, pointed and signed.
Now in a fairy tale this would be the happily ever after. But fairies and their endings have no place in this tale today.
I think that this is not an end at all but a beginning, and that is where I will leave you. At the beginning.