The Promise Asked: Remember Me?

 

The witch has been created by the land to act for it.

– Peter Grey/Rewilding Witchcraft

 

 

 

Ten years ago, on sacred land, in space made sacred by intention and community, I made a promise. To myself. To those assembled. To the gods. To My Lady. Promises like that don’t get made, and discharged, and are done with. Promises like that show up at your door again and again and again. Knock and, when you answer, say “remember me?”

I re-read this essay (link above) recently. Knock knock.

 

The witch acts for the land, I think. And then I wonder, but what if the land is dying?

It isn’t, of course. We humans will die out long before the Earth does. But isn’t that, in effect, the same thing? This relationship is ending. It is ending horribly. It is ending in great suffering, with greater on the way.

We are forcing our Mother to let us die, to save Herself. That is – physically, morally, spiritually – a desolation.

The witch acts for the land, I think. And then I realize, I am a witch in a time when those covenants have been broken. How do I act for what my own kind have betrayed?

My hands feel empty. I am an urban creature. A child of the technological age. I don’t know plants, I don’t work roots. I am all philosophy and ideology. I cannot make a fire without matches. I have never slept on the ground. I bring nothing of value to the New Beginning we may – if we’re lucky and work very, very hard – be privileged to birth.

And that’s sort of OK, really. I’m not young. Those like me will be the first to go – either because time runs out for us, or because life becomes too hard. That’s the way of things. What is unsustainable will not be sustained. Those like me won’t be much missed. May the space we make open room for those who can act for and with the land. It is time – past time – for that kind of magic.

Ah but this, this I can do. I can contemplate my own ending with equanimity. I can bring, and have brought, that fearlessness to the deathbeds of others. I can sit with, and through, the throes. I can reveal to you what your soul already knows about the hard mercy of the inevitable. This is my magic.

How do we act for the land in a time when the land is dying to us, from wounds inflicted by our own hands? The land will need tenders and teachers. Dreamers and builders. Those who can shepherd and support what is – if we’re lucky and work very, very hard – coming to be.

The land will also need mourners. Those who will make the death rites for what is ceasing to be. Those who will stand with and comfort the grieving. Who will journey, fiercely, clear-eyed and compassionate, with everything that is dying.

This is my magic. In the face of inevitable change, this is what I was taught to do: Sit down and take the ride. Smooth, if you can, the rough spots. When you can’t smooth them, hold on tight and keep each other company through the shaking. Watch out for all the opportunities for joy along the way. You’ll be surprised at how many there are. I have said, over and over, to myself and to others, that there is no place more real than the room in which someone is dying. That space exists at high altitude. The air is thin and intoxicating. Amazing things may be seen, and felt, and learned, in that place at the edge of time-as-we-know-it.

The witch was created by the land to act for it. Including to sing its dirges, and to speak its elegies. To honor what is lost in the keening of the losing. If our wails spur others on to heroic measures, if through our skriking something is saved, that would be wonderful.

But absent any hoped-for outcome, the land still deserves our sadness at its suffering. Its children deserve deep witness in their grief.

This is magic I can do. This is respect that I can pay. This is some small comfort I can take in being of service to the times I live in. And this is a promise I keep making, at different times, in different ways:

I will gaze unflinchingly at what is dying, and I will speak its name.

And if I happen to meet you there, in that darkness, I will hold your hand.

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10 thoughts on “The Promise Asked: Remember Me?

  1. Sandy Cawthern January 24, 2018

    Deep gratitude for your words…ecstatic

    Reply
    • Laurie Dietrich January 24, 2018

      My deep gratitude for and to you. You are one of those who have shown me what it is like to be unflinchingly present on this path.

      Reply
  2. Maggie January 24, 2018

    Yes. It is good to be among the ones who can be spared, and to know the magic I can still do. The Earth will not grieve our loss.

    Reply
    • Laurie Dietrich January 25, 2018

      And it is good, for me, to count as friends those who find comfort in our expendability. And even service and joy there. That seems, to me, a rare and particular view, and it is so nice to be able to share it.

      Reply
  3. Sara Berry January 24, 2018

    Beautiful piece, Laurie; hard to contemplate, holding space for a dying Goddess. I will take your hand in that place, Sister, and will sound with you the dark lament, but I’ll keep a sword in the other hand!

    Reply
    • Laurie Dietrich January 25, 2018

      That’s probably the best stance of all. Release wholeheartedly with one hand, fight fiercely with the other. Love you!

      Reply
  4. Lowell Hummer January 26, 2018

    It is good to learn from you. Looking forward to more learning at the next Expanding Inward event.

    Reply
    • Laurie Dietrich January 26, 2018

      Thank you. I so look forward to seeing you both.

      Reply
  5. MarilynSue February 17, 2018

    Witchcraft and midwifery have so much in common whether attending birth or death and a death is also a birth. I, too promised to stand with the earth and to support Her , and as a little kid each morning I pledged to support my country so I get do both as each is in their waning phase. I get to mourn that the actions I take will frequently not have desired outcomes. Yet I still get to do the work of fierce compassion of witches and midwives. Thank you for reminding me of my Covenant as well . And for being a part of that covenant. ❤️

    Reply
    • Laurie Dietrich February 18, 2018

      Oh gods yes they do. The process is so similar. That actually gives me hope, today, as I look at what seem like death throes of this country and possibly even this planet, happening all around me. I remind myself that if something is dying, something else is being born.

      Reply

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