Tag Archives: Loss

Loss

cornucopia3

We often speak of Autumn as the season of harvest. It is often represented by an overflowing cornucopia spilling apples, pears, corn, pumpkins, brown nuts, and heads of golden wheat. This is the time when we can begin to rest a bit and consume the fruits of our labors. Winter and Spring may be lean times and Summer may require hard work in hot fields (at least here in the South), but Autumn brings more comfortable weather and (if we’ve been both industrious and lucky) enough to eat. Time to be grateful, take stock of all that we have, maybe even feast a bit with family and friends.

And, yet.

Autumn is also a season of loss. The veils grow thin and we remember our Beloved Dead (and, if your family was like mine, some of our not-so-Beloved Dead, as well). The trees lose their leaves — because they are no longer needed. We pull the now-exhausted squash vines and pepper plants out of the garden and throw them into the compost pile. The warm sun makes shorter and shorter appearances and the birds gather in flocks to head away down South. The landscape becomes sere, almost barren. Fog rolls in and obscures what was once clear.

We don’t do too well with loss, here in the Patriarchial States of Western Civilization. Loss seems a lot like death and Patriarchy has a huge shadow relationship with death. On the one hand, it runs on death, selling bigger and better (and more expensive) ways to kill as many people as possible. Movies, tv shows, and video games show death every few minutes and encourage us to view it as exciting, fun, inevitable, a sign that justice has prevailed. Open-carry ammosexuals flaunt their guns in restaurants, outside schools, at town halls where the President speaks. On the other hand, we hide death. Our old people die in hospitals, away from public view. Millions of dollars are spent to extend our old age even a few more weeks, often at the cost of comfort and humanity. Look away from death, we are told: Go towards light, and life, and love, and joy! (How interesting that it is in Autumn, the season of loss, when we celebrate our fear of death. Only at this time of year do we see pictures of graveyards, plastic skeletons hanging in trees in our neighbors’ yards, headless horsemen (ah, an Americanization of the Wild Hunt!), and ghosts in store windows.)

But to be a Witch is to reject the false duality of Patriarchy, to embrace the dark along with the light, to refuse to make an enemy of our own death. We can use the tools of the Craft to deal with our losses in a responsible, Witch-like way, rather than in the irresponsible, puer-tainted way that Patriarchy encourages.

We can ground and center.
We can breathe.
We can sit with our loss for as long as is good.
We can trance and invite our loss to talk to us, to chant for us, to dance with us as the leaves fall.
We can do ritual around loss.
We can compost our loss, sending it to where “all things become another — in the Mother, in the Mother,” allowing it to make the ground fertile in preparation for the day when we attempt to grow something new.
We can meditate upon the Wheel of the Year and see its cycles in our own lives, reminding ourselves that it always turns and no season lasts forever.
We can create art around our loss, letting Younger Self teach us things about our loss that we didn’t even know that we knew.
We can talk about loss with each other.

How do you deal with loss?

May you enjoy your Autumn harvest and may your Autumn losses inspire you to Witchcraft.

Picture found here.

Leaving with Her Lord

There are several things that make me love this song, above and beyond, well, duh, Leonard Cohen.

One of them is the inherent appeal to the completely Pagan value of honor. This song is, for me, all about Cohen’s call to Antony (and, thus, of course, Cohen’s call to Cohen) to behave honorably, even in, especially in, defeat and loss. It’s his call to a lover to live up to the virtues of the love affair at exactly that moment when the love falls apart.

Another of the things that I love about this song is the way that it’s essentially a well-played move in the The Glass Bead Game. Cohen’s song is based upon Cavafy‘s poem, The God Abandon’s Antony, which says:

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive — don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say [that]
it was a dream, [that] your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, [not with] the pleas of a coward;
listen — [as] your final delectation — to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.
– Constantine P. Cavafy (1911), Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Wiki explains that Cavafy’s poem:

refers to Plutarch’s story of how Antony, besieged in Alexandria by Octavian, heard the sounds of instruments and voices of a procession making its way through the city, then passing out; the god Bacchus (Dionysus), Antony’s protector, was deserting him.

And, so, well-played, from Antony, to Plutarch, to Cavafy, to Cohen, to the person who paired the pictures with the music on YouTube. The city of Alexandria becomes the woman Alexandra, becomes anything both worth attaining and, when lost, worth losing with honor. I’ve sometimes thought that I’d lay down my life for The Glass Bead Game. Ascendent in Gemini, there’s not much that I enjoy more. And it just delights me when I come across it.

Finally, I love the way that this song fits like a puzzle piece with some of Cohen’s other songs about loss. One thing that his songs say to me — as a lawyer, as someone who goes every day into the gladiator’s ring and either wins or loses (and we lawyers, we’re great, huge, honking examples of people who come too easily to love our own arguments and to be sure that we have to win (it’s an occupational hazard of lawyers, gamblers, and prize fighters and one not well-enough explained by law school profs)) — is that even a bad loss can be ennobling when you face up to the shadows involved, integrate them, and take your loss like a person of nobility. Being noble doesn’t always mean winning (ask Boudicca, Arthur, the ancestress eaten by the cave bear). Being noble means behaving nobly, whatever comes. (No, I haven’t had any losses recently. But one thing I know is that, in this job, as in life, they come, they come, they surely come.)

Here’s one of Cohen’s best songs about the nobility of at least admitting when you’ve lost:

And, here’s Cohen in a bad mood about losing:
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And, here’s Cohen resigned to loss and still making love to it (to her):

“I’m old, but I’m still into that.”

That’s how we come to accept our losses.

With the thin veils, I’ve been making peace with old loves, mostly in dreams and with early-morning sex magic.

“It’s been too late for years. But you look good. You really do. They love you on the Street. If you were here, I’d kneel for you, a thousand kisses deep. . . . And I’m still working with the wine, still dancing cheek-to-cheek, the band is playing Old Lang Sygn, but the heart will not retreat. I ran with Diz, I sang with Ray. I never had their sweet. But once or twice they let me play, a thousand kisses deep. I loved you when you opened like a lily to the heat. . . . But you don’t need to hear me now. And, every word I speak, it counts against me, anyhow. A thousand kisses deep.”

Cohen may have written this years ago, but he had to get this old to honorably perform this poem.

May it be so for you.