Saturday 7 May 2011

Death: We are the stars...

"The god of death, the wind, the underworld, the ever-burning entrance to hell, the knife-edge, poison, serpent, and fire - women are all of these in one." ~The Ramayana
The Throne of Hell
in the Superman comics.
Image from  ComicVine.
Death is very important in many cultures.  Gods and goddesses of Death, and ones of the Underworld, are quite common around the world.  In our modern culture's drive to avoid Death, we tend to demonize any god of death or the Underworld.  They become Satan to us.  It's interesting that Satan became the ruler of Hell in Christian mythology, since in the Bible, he isn't thrown into Hell until the end of the world, and he definitely doesn't rule there.  It is Hades ruling the Underworld that became Satan ruling Hell.

In Mesoamerica, Death was, and still is, especially important, and most of the cultures in that area had more death deities than any other type.  And most death deities and images were also those of fertility.  This connection is found in Europe as well, the seed dies and from it comes life.

One set of deities, Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, ruled the lowest, northern part of the Underworld, Mictlan, in Aztec mythology.  The story goes that the bones of the gods of the previous world, the fourth sun, were kept in Mictlan.  After Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca created this current world, Quetzalcoatl and his twin, Xolotl, went to Mictlan to get the bones.  Mictlantecuhtli agreed to give them, but didn't want to give them up to tried to stop them from leaving Mictlan.  Quetzalcoatl dropped the bones and some of them broke, but he gathered them up and made it out.  He gave the bones to Cihuacoatl, who grinds them up, then the gods add their blood and the humans of our world are formed.

Mictlantecuhtli sculpture at
the museum of the Great
Temple in Mexico City.
Image from Wikipedia.
Mictlantecuhtli's head is usually portrayed as a skull with eyes intact.  Sometimes he has a human body and sometimes a blood splattered skeleton.  Sometimes he has a head dress of owl feathers and sometimes of knives (representing the wind of knives).  Sometimes he has a necklace of human eyeballs, or clothes made of paper.  The plugs in his ears were made of human bones.  The Aztecs sacrificed humans to Mictlantecuhtli, and sometimes worshiped him by eating human flesh.  He is described both horrible, tormenting souls, and benevolent, giving life.

Image from Aztec
Gods blog
It was Mictecacihuatl's job to guard the bones of the dead.  As a result, she presided over Aztec festivals.   I can't find much more details about her.  Many believe she evolved into Santa Muerte.

Third of the stars falling.
Image from Catholic Caveman blog.
Both of them are described as having their jaw wide, to swallow the stars during the day when they enter the Underworld.  The idea of them swallowing the stars brings to my mind the third of the stars falling from the sky into the sea in the Book of Revelations in the Bible (which some relate to the fall of Satan and his angels after waring against God and the angels led by Michael, and then being kicked out; this is where the idea of a third of the angels following Satan came from) and of all the stars falling from the sky into the sea in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis.  It brings to mind the death of stars and the end of the universe.

Black Mother #1 by
Storm Faerywolf.
Image from his website.
I picture the Anna and the Arddhu standing at the Gates of Death, the stars falling from the sky.  I also think of Storm's description and invocation of Black Mother, the Feri Guardian of the North in some lines.

Close-up view of a
Santa Muerte south of
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Image from Wikipedia.
Santa Muerte (Saint Death) was underground and hidden in Mexico.  Only recently has she become more public, and she is condemned and not accepted by the Mexican Catholic Church.  She is depicted as a skeleton, and is usually robed.  Ofter she is holding a scythe and a globe, the scythe representing both the harvest and death, and the globe for Death's dominion over the earth.  She is the Lady of the Shadows, the White Lady, the Black Lady, the Holy Girl, and the Skinny One.  She is thought to preside over the Day of the Dead in early November, much like Mictecacihuatl presiding over Aztec festivals.

I'd like to look at a few mentions of Death in Robert Cochrane's writings.

Fire, as such is the province of Alder, the God of Fire, of Craft, of lower magic and of fertility and death. ~Third letter to Joe Wilson
Here we see the tie between death and fertility that's so prevalent in Mesoamerica.

The Thorn is Death or the process of Fate and as such the first principle, of the Broom. ~Fourth letter to Joe Wilson
 So Death is the process of Fate.
The Wizard is Merridwen, the Sky re-creating Life out of Death ~Fourth letter to Joe Wilson
This is what we see of the stars being eaten during each day but reborn the next evening.
 Even death is movement, one disintegrates and is recreated. The past moves in the future, since past shapes the future to come - this is Fate. ~Fourth letter to Joe Wilson
Here we bring together the two.  Death becomes life reborn, we are the stars, eaten each morning but reborn each evening.  This is Fate.

~Muninn's Kiss

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