Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life and Death

I try so hard to remind myself that death is a part of life, and that it shouldn't be something to fear. After Greg’s gran passed away, his aunt asked me what I believe about what happens to us when we die; mom also asked me when her bff passed. My answer was this: Matter is never destroyed; it only changes form. The stuff of which we are made was born eons ago, was part of something else many, many times over, and eventually became what we are now; when the spark of life is gone and the physical part of us is consumed and transformed, we become something else. The matter of which we are made goes on to nourish trees, animals, and, when the planet finally takes the next step, every particle of us will go out into the universe until it accretes into something new. In a sense, there is immortality. It just doesn't happen quite the way a lot of people expect--and I apologize if I’ve offended anyone by saying any of this.
As a Bastist, I can only assume that the belief about the afterlife is similar to what the priests of the ancient world taught. Rather than the afterlife being vaguely skyward, the Field of Reeds was believed to be far to the west, where the sun finished his journey through the hours of daylight. Because the lifespan of the typical Egyptian person 10k years ago was relatively short--due to disease caused by lack of sanitation, insects, poor nutrition, dental problems, etc. and other causes--the notion was that the afterlife would give the soul a chance to have the kind of long, happy life the physical part of the person didn’t necessarily have a chance to live. The dead were often buried with little statues called ushabtis who would function as servants and laborers in the afterlife: planting and harvesting crops, brewing the beer, building the monuments, and so on, leaving the blessed souls to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. 

Only souls whose hearts were lighter or in perfect balance against the Feather of Ma’at were permitted to make the journey to the Field of Reeds; those whose hearts were heavier went to the Egyptian version of hell. A place filled with dangers, this also provided an explanation for what happened to the sun during the hours of darkness. During the approximately 12 hours of dark, the sun also passed through the twelve precincts that punished those who weren’t sent to the Field of Reeds: being cut to pieces by creatures resembling the Furies of Greek myth, being pursued by the serpent Apep--the sun god’s mortal enemy; physical tortures like being left at the doorway to the place of judgement in such a way that the door hinge continually squished the eye every time the door opened. (See the Amduat, found in the tomb of Thutmose III.) Oh. And having your heart fed to the Devourer if it was heavier than the Feather of Ma’at ensured that the soul was condemned to eternal wandering, which was viewed as far worse than suffering the horrors of the hours of the dark.
It's neither more nor less valid than any other system's teachings about what happens to us when we die: they're all attempts to answer a question that is seen as unanswerable just as they're all attempts to give some comfort to the bereaved. 

So much has happened in the past three years. I moved to Vermont, became engaged, got married, started volunteering at a shelter for abandoned and feral cats, made a lot of good friends, and lost my beloved kitty. I spin, knit, honor the Lady Bast, keep my husband's and my nest in a way that suits us both, and occasionally dabble in gardening. I adore my husband and my kittens at the shelter; I'm loved in return. I have a social life that's unexpectedly lively, and I have learned--and continue to learn--a lot about all manner of things.
In the Spring, there's mud during and after the thaw, and there's life burgeoning in the woods; there's maple syrup. In the summer, there's rain--lots of rain--and the sunny days are a delightful treat. In the autumn, the leaves are spectacular and there are lots of fiber events to enjoy. In the winter, there's peace in the hush brought by a snowfall; the whole world seems to be muffled in a dense cloak of white.
I love being here.

2 comments:

Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth said...

Well said.

Dorothy said...

I won't pretend to understand your feelings about afterlife, but I do hope and pray that you find true comfort. I'm glad that you are happy where you are - isn't that a wonderful blessing?