I know I sound full of angst to describe my best friend as Death, but I promise you it isn’t some angst (these days). While complicated at times for me to understand I’ve made peace with my understanding of it. I’d even call it a friendship with Death. It goes beyond an understanding of what it represents in my culture. For me it goes into my understanding of Death and how close it is to me at all times.
While Death is usually portrayed as a masculine character in the culture I was raised I found it didn’t work for me. For me Death is sexless, though loving, though I see why people characterize it as male. The motif of Death and the maiden is one that has been around since Medieval times. It morphed into a role of essentially the death of a woman’s virginity, as if Death were the one to deflower her. It was never my relationship with Death. I had my virginity taken against my will, and while Death was there for it I’ve since learned to look at my rape as an initiation. It was one of many throughout my life.
Death was around when my mother taught me about what happens when we die and the afterlife. It sat there and coached my mother on what to explain to a small child while still honest and frank. It is because of that coaching I didn’t fear it, but the spirits of those Death took. Death was there when my psychic abilities emerged, even when I didn’t fully understand why I could sense these things better than family members with similar abilities. It frightened me at times because while I knew of Death and didn’t understand its nature completely. Knowing about Death and my experiences with it flew in the face of my religious beliefs and that was hard to reconcile for a long time. My knowledge of Death and the dead was one of my first initiations.
I had another initiation with Death growing up, though I didn’t understand it as such until much later in life. My psychic abilities aside I was always considered “different”. I’m bizarre, and with a misdiagnosis of autism stigmatized by everyone at my school. My social skills were inert. Since I wasn’t included and didn’t understand human nature at the time I was left with myself to observe often. To this day I learn the most by watching others. It’s also why the arts came so easy for me: it requires observation on some level. In much of Medieval art Death was not only an artist but often an observer. During these years growing up I was initiated into the coven of observation, as a watcher and a dancer in life. I grew into my abilities more, but I didn’t grow in my understanding of them. I knew when someone close to me would die, and while my family believed in such abilities they didn’t understand my relationship with Death. As a result my understanding of it didn’t develop, and I became distraught. Due to other circumstances in my life I was suicidal from that distress as well as my checkered relationship with Death. Obviously I failed in my suicide attemtps, but Death was there to pick me up even after I felt like a failure. While Death didn’t comfort me it did initiate me into the knowledge of human suffering. It held me while my soul cried. I didn’t understand any of this at the time, but it took time to understand it today.
I didn’t begin to fully understand Death until I became more serious about my spiritual, and eventually my religious path. It was through my path that I became acquainted with Het-Hert and Her associations. While I don’t always associate Her with solely music, dancing, joy, love, and death these days She did help me understand why Death was around. In the early days of my path I found others who encouraged me and provided a safe environment to explore my abilities with those who died. In speaking with those spirits and helping spirits cross over thanks to what I learned helped me understand Death so much more. I learned those spirits were probably always around and had little to do with me. If they came to me, and it wasn’t a chance encountering, I tried to help them. This had led to some interesting adventures (literally!) and friendships. The spirits showed me things that were hidden. I uncovered things and comforted people. I even uncovered a few family secrets thanks to becoming more open to Death. I learned Death was always there and whispering not to frighten us, but to remind us of life. Death was there for me because it was there for everyone, but it meant no harm. It wanted us to know of the world around us, both seen and unseen. I wasn’t bad or even misunderstood for getting initiated by Death. It didn’t even make me special. It meant I was ready for what Death could offer anyone.
During this time I had another initiation with Death. I took on a hobby as a music critic and honed my observational skills and my own knowledge and experiences with art. As cheesy as it’s been I took my understanding of Death and use its name as my own. I decided since it was so cheesy to combine a bit of humor with it to lighten some of the tension for people. I don’t think it ever came off that way, though I was happy to have inspired and helped a couple of people with my endeavors. I even learned how to improve my artistry by observing what is and isn’t effective and why. When I abandoned that hobby I was initiated again, but this time with the idea of loss. Luckily I groped my way around and found some spiritual strength. There I struggled in many areas in spite of my preparations.
One place where I struggled to let Death come in had to do with my own ancestors. Knowing my family history I didn’t know how open they would be to my path and new ways of honoring them. I also remembered my relationship with spirits in the past, and I worried if my ancestors would act in ways I wouldn’t understand nor welcome. When I went through some stuff where I turned to them for help did I understand why I needed to allow Death in this part of my life. I learned honoring our ancestors was just as much for me as it is for them. The ones that will listen and care about me won’t really care how I go about it. My relationship with Death deepened when I learned honoring the dead isn’t a scary thing, and was initiated into ancestor veneration. It certainly hasn’t been my only initiation.
In the past few months my relationship with Death was further realized. In my despair of losing my partner I attempted suicide. I felt I lost everything at that point, and the past few years made the gradual erosion of my dreams and visions of my future worse. Death was ready for me, and I was ready for it. Once again I failed, but Death was there to hold me during my initiation. I have experienced the loss and death of so many things I felt I had nothing left, even though before I thought I lost everything. What I didn’t remember was how death is treated in alchemy. In order to acquire great things one must “die”. Death delivered as promised. My music critic hobby that I had revisited a while ago took precedence. I’ve been swamped with many tasks and opportunities. Everything I worked for was bearing fruit, but in a different garden than I originally cultivated. I have been initiated into something new and had to cultivate this new garden.
While cultivating and weeding my new field I further evaluated the people I want in my life. I looked at what it would take to be my best friend. I wanted someone who is there for me when I need them, encourages me to grow and will grow with me, who is honest, strong, and helps me be the best person who lives to my fullest potential. In that evaluation I found Death fit this. While I’m not willing to take Death as a lover, I’ve valued it as a close friend. Death has always been around and is consistent. Death helped me become a better person once I let it. Death is my best friend.