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Dancing with Death

Friday Natural Healing Corner: Dying, Death and Mourning

In many quarters of the globe, the word death seems to burn the lips, particularly here in the West.  To utter death, we move our lips in such a way that bitter feelings, gruesome thoughts and the pain of finality is wrenched from the depths of the soul.  This dance with death begins clumsily yet with practice it can become increasingly more graceful.  Those of us involved with Hoodoo deal with various realms, including the "other-side" on a daily basis.  A gift of Hoodoo is that within its domain lies a plethora of jobs, tricks, rituals and incantations, inspired by the wisdom of indigenous and rural people. 
Death, dying, grief and its attending depression and depletion are processes without an easy solution.  Using elements of Hoodoo can help you come to terms with the inevitable.  Hoodoo conjuration keeps you in touch with the spirit realm affording opportunities to glimpse and interact with spirits of nature, the ancestors and the great beyond.
Those who linger in limbo between life and death, deemed 'terminally ill,' require spiritual assistance.  Thank the heavens, there are now Death Midwives. Our ancestors constantly thirst for acknowledgement and inclusion, after all, without them we would not exist.  Funerals bring families and old friends together.  There is darkness; blackness physically manifested by our clothing and flow of tears yet there is also the light, laughter, joy and wonder of reflecting on life, memories, and the ultimate mystery called death.  Following are some of the ways Hoodoo acknowledges the spiritual realm that may be useful as you maneuver the dark passage.

Altars-These can be simple or as elaborate as desired.  Altars are a collection of objects with personal, magickal or spiritual significance set up to conjure, remember, invoke or draw energy.  Hoodoo remembrance altars contain photographs, symbolic charged stones or crystals, graveyard dirt, candles, incense, candy, fruit, flowers and sweet water.
Binding-Ephemera from the graveyard is used for binding and tying down the spirits or to employ their energy.  One of the most popular binding tools is coffin nails.  Last touched objects are considered potent and are typically buried with the deceased or placed near the burial site.  People who use spirits to negative ends are also sometimes bound.  I have heard of photographs being buried, placed in the freezer or sent out to sea as a banishment and containment rite.
Clearing-Chants, incantations, herbs like rosemary, sage, dragon's blood, juniper, mugwort, and cedar; salts or resins such as myrrh, frankincense; are burned ceremoniously to clear the home of hants and other troublesome spirits or negative vibrations.  Special powders like gopher's dust, uncrossing and stay away powder also play an important role in clearing work.
Conjuring-In the day when smudging has become popular it can be quickly forgotten that not all entities are undesired.  Hoodoos strive for balance and do not just smudge to clear but also engage in drawing spirits.  Conjuring is a practice widely employed in hoodoo to attract or draw energy, entities and various spirits to aid magickal work, healing or rituals.  Lodestones and magnetic sand have a great deal of drawing power, as do specific herbs like, Orris Root powder called Queen Elizabeth Root, pure Rose oil called Attar of Roses, Lemon Grass, Patchouli, Vetiver and Lucky Hand root.
Crossroads-The crossroads is a sacred place where not only two roads intersect but also the world of humans and spirits.  Oaths are taken at the crossroads and magickal work is performed there.  Invocations are made to crossroad orisha, spirits, gods and goddesses as well, like Eshu Elegba since that is his natural space.  It is interesting to note further that the crossroads represent the four corners of the universe and the nexus of energy from the four directions.
Libations-pouring liquids with special significance on the earth, at the grave site or on altar objects, is a way of paying homage to the ancestors and spirits.  Liquids include spirits such as bay rum, gin, beer and vodka.  Old fashioned colognes like Florida water and Kananga water (which is a specific treatment for mourning and grief).  Hydrosols, commonly called floral waters or sweet water, like lavender, rose or orange blossom water.  Honey, saltwater or tears.
Rituals-include incense burning, mineral and herbal floor washes, planting of specific types of trees and other symbolic plants, spiritual baths containing herbs and sometimes minerals, metal and stones; communal gatherings for soul food, songs and personal reflection.
Signs-paying attention to the signs and signals can help divine future events including death.  Typically in Hoodoo, careful attention is paid to the way candles burn, movements and sounds of animals especially cats and birds, as well as the symbolism within dreams.

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