death’s gatekeeper

The day edges toward its balance with the night. September is golden light through fading green, a nip in a clear sky, days of tumbling gray.

Today, I will celebrate Mean Fomhair, the time of the encroaching dark. Traditionally, I led the grove in a Warrior Woman rite dedicated to the Morrigan — painting our faces, dancing fiercely with swords, dancing the darkness.

This year, I am alone by choice, a wolf curling into the cave. And I am reluctant to face Her — she who is death and decay, the raven pecking at the entrails, the harbinger of eventual defeat. Strap yourself to the rock like CuChulainn, waving your blade against insurmountable odds. But She will alight on your shoulder nonetheless, Death Mother who waits for us all.

Interestingly, I see Morrigan as the death process itself, and not the ruler of the land of the ancestors: that would be Donn, first to die. The Morrigan keeps the gate. I see echoes of Hades’ witch-wife Hecate, who has similar powers — leading the spirits with her twin torches through the three realms of the world. In my experience, the Lord of the Dead — whether you call him Hades, Donn or Yama — is a decently kind god, but not much involved in the realm of the living, except to offer some well-meaning advice on occasion.

Perhaps Persephone herself originally had the Morrigan’s role; her name means “destroyer.” She’s not just the eternal victim, the gentle spring maiden swept into the deeps.

No, the Death-Bringer is the fierce red woman and the heckling black crow. She sweeps you up in her feathered cloak, her strange chariot distorted by motion. She is the inevitability of time and its decay, the great recycler. You can fear her, but your fear changes nothing — not the endings and the deaths that parade toward you with their heavy tread, not the slide of sand in the hourglass.

I am reluctant to face Her, to paint my face alone, to dance with Her alone in the darkness. But perhaps this reluctance means that I need to do these things — to let go of my iron grip on summer, its light and its green, on my youth slipping away, on choices that once seemed sure and now crumble at the path’s end.

Oh yes. I should dance.


About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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