One of the things that I have always loved about learning witchcraft is the odd bits you pick up here and there, sometimes with no obvious meaning; we all learned things that were written in books, or known by many, but it’s the peculiarities, the eccentricities of other practitioners that has always stuck with me. One of the first crones (a term she insisted on) I ever learned from would speak in whispers of the month of two moons, warning me that it meant an overturning of the order, and that spells and even casually whispered words could go wild and have unforeseen consequences. But most of all, she would speak of death, of endings, that the month of two moons was a time when death was in her words, “sharp.”
She who was my teacher is now gone, may the Earth rest lightly on her bones, but I think of her words often, especially at present, since this August is just such a month, one with two full moons, the second, or blue moon, will be on the 31st. It is a powerful time for magicks of every sort, especially spells that you wish to transcend the normal boundaries of time or being, and a great time to touch the world of the dead. The voices of spirits are powerful things at this time, so be careful where and upon whom you call. Myself, I have been thinking of death, of the strange fact we still have not quite managed to come to an understanding of one of the few constants in this universe.
Aside from the waning of summer, there are several reasons for this; some of you know my mother has been battling cancer for some time now, and though she is a woman of great constitution (and iron Irish stubbornness!), I have to accept in my mind that, soon or late, she will die…as will I, as will we all. Few welcome death, and fewer still have need to, and it seems that we still wrestle with wringing meaning out of the marriage of life and death. I think of Phyllis Diller, Neil Armstrong, and Jerry Nelson (the latter was a puppeteer for Sesame Street and the voice of my childhood favorite, The Count…I am listening to him singing “The Batty Bat Song” as I write this), all folk who died after achieving things that gave their lifer meaning and significance. I’m not comparing being the first man to walk on the moon with voicing the Bride in Mad Monster Party, but I mean that each of these persons found success in their chosen endeavors, and as their lives reached their ends, I imagine that success was a source of pride and comfort. My wife recently heard that a teacher who she had I n high school and was much liked died very suddenly (while he was actually in his doctor’s office) and again, I muse on my own mortality…what will my students think of me when I die?
The opposite end of the spectrum id the disregard for life that some folk have; it doesn’t surprise me that people kill, if history and experience teach us anything, it’s that it’s all too easy to stop seeing other people as human, to see them as base things only to be destroyed. But I am always surprised when people so willingly throw their lives away; now, I’m not talking about a person choosing to end their life, I do believe that adults should have the right to end their lives under some circumstances, but I was struck by a message posted by a teenager in Rhode Island who shot two other students on the first day of school. “First day of school, last day of my life”; and just today, there was a report of an 18 year old girl who was starting at Columbia, and leapt to her death, before setting foot in her first classroom. It is hard to see any sense in such reckless disregard for life, the only one you’re likely to have.
Part of this, I suppose, is the idea of what comes after, and I confess I am skeptical about an afterlife of any kind, so perhaps I judge too harshly; do folk who believe in Heaven or Hell hold life less dear? We are all familiar with the religious mindset of suffering in life to gain entrance to heaven, and though that seems medieval to me, I imagine some folk still live by it. I suppose that the Koran sums it up well, when it says that life is a series of questions, with the biggest one saved for the end. We all must die, to make way for the new, but I don’t see why most folk would be in any hurry. To quote the wise Aratak, He is a fool who holds his life too dear, but he is twice a fool who holds it cheaply enough to throw away.