In my Druid training course work, the second year of training is called the Ovate year. Ovate translating to “egg.” The Ovate year is about facing one’s own inner shadows and disruptive phycological patterns that do not serve your highest good in life. At one point during this year one undergoes a “Death ceremony.” This is of course a symbolic death not a literal one. In many cultures a healer/ medicine person/ or shaman must undergo such a process. It’s considered a spiritual death. After much self investigation and rearranging, one sets out to “die” and be reborn anew. In our program the Ovates had to dig our own graves and spend the night in them. There was of course much more to the ceremony but not for me to share the mysteries of a mystery school on my blog. It was a powerful and profound experience. However, nearly the end of my Ovate studies I felt drawn to do another death ceremony on my own this time not with the group. This is what led me to building this shrine.
I had been wanting to do a second death ceremony when I reached that chapter again in my home study course. I went to Dreamland for an overnight and meditated on it. Dreamland is our sacred land where we do our Druid training here in Vermont. I was going to do it there on my own, in the woods. I build a nature shrine, as I’d been doing this past year, in the spot where I wanted to lay out overnight. A long, flat, human body sized/ shaped stone. The shrine I built there was profound in its symbolism. A friend had given me a bird’s nest with the remains of a sky-blue egg shell delicately laying in its center become the center of the mandala. The egg being the symbol of the Ovate cracked open and empty seemed to represent the transcendence, the culmination of Ovate work. To break the shell of that egg and burst out into the light. Into new life, with stretched wings, having spent the dark night of the soul in the safety and protective darkness of the mini womb for gestation. I placed in the center of the nest some mala beads from a mala I had used for prayer and mantra for many years that broke. It is said when a mala breaks its work is done. It is filled now with prayer and should be buried or thrown into a lake or somehow returned to the land. This particular mala I loved because it was made of colorful semi-precious multi colored stone beads. What better place to return them to the land but Dreamland? Also- they represented the years’ worth of spiritual practice I had done to get to this point. I also put a piece of my baby blanket into the nest and the ashes of a dear friend and lover I had lost. Again, filled with symbolism. Around the nest I put layers of rose petals of red orange and yellow to symbolize the funeral pyre from which the new spirit will emerge. After my over night there and this project, I somehow still didn’t know what to do for my death ceremony. But in the coming week I had sort of a “spontaneous” death ceremony on a hike up Spruce mountain. I had gone to the mountain by myself and wound up caught in a down pour at the top. I was most certainly in real life danger the entire way down and had some profound spiritual realizations. But that’s a story for another day.
Death is a wise teacher. When we recognize and embrace our impermeant condition it allows us to fully live in the moment now. It pushes us to want to experience life to it’s fullest with all its ups and downs pains and joys. It’s all beautiful, it’s all fulfilling and it won’t last forever. Death tells us to embrace it all. Also to not sweat the small stuff because its not worth wasting your precious energy and time over. It also reminds of that we are all one. You don’t take anything with you when you leave this plane of existence except maybe your experiences, thoughts, and feeling. In the eyes of the great teacher death we are all one and we are all equal in the end.