I learned some sad news the other day. One of my favorite fantasy authors, Sara Douglass, passed at the end of September from cancer. Her books are fantastic, filled with rich detail, action, and the strands of mythology and history woven into new stories. Her series, The Troy Game, even featured reincarnation as part of the basic premise of the plot in all four books. It is a fascinating series. I’m saddened that she is gone, though I’m glad she’s out of pain. I never met her, though I would have liked to, but her work spoke to me and became a staple of my library. Her spirit lives on in her work, and I can think of no better way to honor her or express my appreciation than by passing the word on to others about her books and to reread her work when the mood strikes me.
The reason I’m mentioning this on my Pagan blog is to ask the question: how do you honor the dead? Especially when you’re honoring people you don’t know, have never met, but feel some sense of kinship with or appreciation for?
I like to light a white candle for the person and leave it lit as long as I can. The flame, to me, speaks of the flame of the soul and the eternal spark of life. Then I may close my eyes and say a thank you to the person’s soul, or send out a wish that their soul rest in peace. I just want to focus on that other person, maybe remember their life and their work, and not focus on me for a time. It reminds me that there are other people in the world and it’s not all about me. Even if the act is not public (and most of the time, such acts are not), I think it’s important to honor and remember those who have come before us, whether they came before us in our bloodline, by creative work, or just before us in age.
Even if you don’t think the souls or spirits of the passed appreciate such acts, if can be good for the living to acknowledge the deceased. It makes a good reminder that life is short and shouldn’t be taken for granted. It makes a good reminder that each person’s life intersects with others and can have profound effects, for better or worse.