Deathscape

Skeletonised Remains, from the Forensic Archeology site

Of late, I have been thinking quite a bit about death. I have waking visions of putrefaction that distract me from my day to day routine for a few minutes at a time (though nothing yet that interferes profoundly with my functioning). In the most recent vision, I saw both human and animal flesh decaying. It was so vivid I could even smell the process. It was not “pretty” but it was increasingly beautiful, the longer I entertained the vision. I am having these thoughts, seeing these images, smelling these smells and I am growing more fearless of Death and Dying – and perhaps most important – more fearless of the Dead themselves (though not to the point of becoming naive and reckless). Prior to these visions, Death, Dying, and the Dead were fairly unapproachable for me on a deep emotional level. Sure, I had an intellectual understanding of Death and Dying and an intellectual connection to the Dead, but since the visions I feel Death and Dying on an emotional level; The Dead seem tangible on a relational level; I have an intuitive, emotional, visceral grasp of them that I did not have before! It’s actually been kind of amazing. I think that this new encounter with Death, Dying, and the Dead marks a huge step toward improved relations with the Dead and the Gods, Orisha, and Lwa that lead them. This whole encounter with the Three D’s has actually been life affirming in a roundabout way because ultimately we stand on the rot and decay of previous ages. We etch our roads from the bones of the Dead, from the processes of Death and Dying.

And now, I will leave you with a very cool article on decomposition from Forensic Archeology, the site from which the above photo was taken. Hail Dying! Hail Death! Hail the Dead!

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6 thoughts on “Deathscape

  1. I came up with the following one-liner on the subject when I was in my twenties:
    I’d rather be badly prepared to die well than well prepared to die badly.

    After the experience of my lady’s death, I’ve upped my goal to becoming well prepared to die well.

  2. Death didn’t really bother me as a child, everybody thought I was morbid because I had a fascination with the biological and social events that take place at death. Luckily my parents are very liberal and didn’t shield me from the real world. Years later I found myself working in a funeral home, seeing and smelling things that nobody except my father (who had worked some twenty odd years on the railways and had seen far worse than I) wanted to talk about it. The Victorian practices of life and death living side by side are long gone. Now we hide death away as if it’s evil rather than the beautiful thing it can be. I miss talking to those deceased at work, it was the best part of my day being in the chapel and doing their hair.

    Senneferet x

    • You are so right, Senneferet. Thank you so much for posting a comment; it’s always great to encounter a new person! I agree with your analysis. Death has been squirreled away into a corner of our psyche and of our society. And things squirreled away in corners become monsters lurking in shadow threatening doom. If we can face death head on and face it honestly, we can see the beauty in it as well as its grace! If we could return to a place in our culture where people die out loud and where death is not so far removed from the home and family life, folks could become less terrified of one of the most natural, normal, and certain processes known in the world.

      I remember couple of years ago I encountered a website (http://www.embalming.net/) on mortuary practices and I was surprised by how much effort the industry puts into making dead people look alive and preserving the body against the aggressively natural process of decomposition. After reading the site, I was actually more afraid of current mortuary practice than death itself because of the lengths it goes to in order to hide the true face of death (which is really not that bad under most circumstances). Some minor preservation of the body is necessary for our death rites but much of what I encountered on the site seemed to be in excess, a feeble attempt to thwarted death rather than simply and more reasonably delay its outward signs. Nora Cedarwind Young (http://www.thresholdsoflife.org/) offers some wonderful alternatives for those who are interested in having a “greener”, more natural death.

      • I loathe the embalming process. It’s horrible to watch and I’d hate it to be done on myself or my loved ones. It’s such a violation just to make you ‘look good’ for an extra week or two. The deceased isn’t sleeping, let them get the pallor of death like they are supposed to. We had a person come in from another company and they had been so badly embalmed their family didn’t recognise them. It looked like their face had melted and now the family has been left with that image rather than their loved one facing the next world as they are meant to.

        Don’t even get me started on the pollution the chemicals do to our environment!

      • Exactly! The deceased isn’t sleeping; it’s death, let it be! I feel like that’s a good enough reason to roll back postmortem preservation to the absolute minimum necessary to maintain the deceased for speedy and modest funerary rites before the body is committed to the cremated or interred.

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