Archives For Kurukulla

My mother died early last Friday morning.  She was 97.  Her body was worn out, but not her spirit.  I’ve had the privilege of sitting vigil with the dying in the past, and I was with my father during his dying days in a hospital 19 years ago, but this was the first time I’d ever been with someone dying of old age.  Besides, one’s relationship with one’s mother is the closets and in most cases the most complicated.  It certainly was in our case.

Named Elizabeth, called Betty by our father and her friends, our mother tended towards formality. She was a woman who knew her own mind, held strong opinions, and believed that women should have equal educational and professional opportunities with men.  Unfortunately, she didn’t live in an era when this was the case.  So instead of being an executive, a role I think would have suited her temperament and talents perfectly, she became a homemaker.
She came from a line of Methodist ministers.  Her maternal grandfather, Alpha Gilruth Kynett, preached a conservative form of Protestantism, more conservative than most Methodists today are known to be.  Mother saw life in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.  There was only one way to look at anything, the one dictated by the King James Bible and middle class Euro-American society.  She believed in Heaven and Hell, in salvation and atonement and reunion in God’s Heaven with those who’ve gone before. 
I’m a Pagan, with a less certain but more holistic view of the world and how it operates.  I also consider myself to be a Priestess of the Dark Mother, a death priestess, a midwife of souls.
For as long as the human race — the one race, that comes in different sizes, shapes and colors, like birds and fishes, dogs and cats — has been around, people have contemplated the puzzlement of death.  When we can clearly see that the mysterious energy that animated our loved one has left a body and an empty husk remains, we have wondered where that soul has gone.
A few people have had a glimpse of that place.  They’ve survived NDEs (near death experiences).  Their descriptions after they return to this plane of existence vary, but most commonly they speak of white light or a bright tunnel. Some speak of seeing departed loved ones, seeing Jesus with open arms, or even, for a small percentage, seeing horrors.
I don’t believe anyone, other than someone who’s undergone an NDE, who tells me she or he knows what happens when life leaves.  We just don’t know.  Or maybe we don’t remember.  Some of us may claim with “crippling certainty” to know.  Some of us have stories of the worlds beyond the veil of the world of the living.  We often speak in metaphors.  The question remains:  Where do we go?  Another question is:  Does it really matter?  I don’t know if it does not not, but I know people will continue to contemplate this.
When our mother took a bad fall in her early 90s, the hospital released her to a “convalescent hospital,”  For the first week or two she was pretty out of it.  I brought a painting from her house to hang on the wall at the foot of the bed.  It’s a large oil of Jesus as fisher of men casting a net from a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus is oddly alone in the boat.  She and our father bought this painting in their retirement years from an artist on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk.  Mom loved it.  She proudly displayed it over the living room couch.  So I thought that since she couldn’t walk without aid and would probably be spending a lot of time in bed, and she couldn’t see all that well either, having this familiar painting to view would give her comfort.  She had been declining both physically and mentally for some years at this point.  She believed in Jesus and the resurrection of the soul after death.
When my former husband, Rod, was dying of cancer, we hung a painting of Kurukulla (Red Tara) at the foot of his bed, in the West, the direction towards which many Pagans understand the soul to travel.  West is where the Sun sets.  Our daughter, then 12, stood at the foot of the bed to keep her father from leaving.
My friend John McClimans envisioned the place where he was headed as he approached his death as the yoni of his matron, Hekate, dark and mysterious and ablaze with glistening stars.
When I helped my friend Raven Moonshadow to die, I went with him to a place where he was taken into the lap of Kali Ma.  I went as far as I could while he went all the way.  I saw her jeweled toenails.
I have a painting (actually a fine print of an acrylic I watched the artist working on at CoG‘s MerryMeet in Minnesota in 1997) of Kali Ma done by visionary artist Paul Rucker.  This painting evokes for me the encounter I had when I traveled with Raven towards the Other Side.  I think I would find it a comforting sight when I am facing my own demise.
I phoned my cousin John in Honolulu this week to tell him of his Aunt Elizabeth’s passing.  He’s been writing to her all his life, and continued to write even after she no longer understood the words in his letters.  John has been a Quaker all his adult life and possesses a doctorate in religion and ecology.  We talked for more than two hours, about all manner of things, including this painting that hung on the wall of Mom’s room.  He suggests that each of us has a different conception of where we’re headed when we die, and that whatever image gives one comfort during the dying process is the one to use, religion aside.  I think he’s right.
My sister Catherine and I are giving the painting to Mother’s Methodist Church to hang in her memory.  I think she’d have liked that a lot.
~ Guest posted by M. Macha NightMare at Broomstick Chronicles.  Thanks, Jason.  I’m honored.