Ancient roots, Modern branches

A rite of passage is a ceremony and marks the transition from one phase of life to another. Although it is often used to describe the tumultuous transition from adolescence to adulthood, it does refer to any of life’s transitions (Births and Beginnings, Initiations, Partnerings, and Endings or Death). There are many passages in our lives if we choose to mark and celebrate them.


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By Holley Rauen

May 9 1999
From a letter I wrote to a pagan friend of mine:
...the art of Death and Dying.  Yes.  It is an art, like midwifery. Hospice work and having a dying parent has made me very focused on this subject in the last three years. Especially lately. I have so many funerals in my life time,  especially the last fifteen years (AIDS,Cancer)   So many of my friends have died way too young.  I have seen such beautiful rituals appear out of our needs to grieve,  to ease the passing for the sick and dying, and to celebrate the continuity of life, death and rebirth.  As I become a crone, my midwifery work is shifting from guiding the entrance of souls in the birth process to midwifiery that includes aiding the passing over again through death.  My mother is now making that passage,  She has suffered a long illness and wants to let go.   I try to give her the support she and my dad need,  I would like to share this prayer/poem I found.  It has given me great strength.  I believe it is written by Starhawk and M.M. Nightmare from their very helpful book The Pagan Book of Living and Dying:

For One Assisting Someone To Die
Goddess of death,
I stand here as your priest/ess
Knowing that life must be winnowed
to thrive.
This is a holy act I perform:
to open a gateway
for a willing one to come to you.
This is an act of healing,
a release from suffering,
and to end pain.
Here is one whose arms are open
to embrace you,
who does not turn her face
from the kiss of the hag.
May her passing be easy.
May you enfold her
and become more beautiful to her
and gather her into your orchard
to grow slowly to life again.
Bless my hands, Mother,
that do this work.
Bless my eyes
that are willing to look at your face.
Bless my lips
that speak these words.
Bless my heart
that loves and grieves.

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