A Thousand Tiny Deaths

Not that long ago, I observed an exchange where one person was talking about how their God had killed them and brought them back as what They wanted them to be. This isn’t weird to me as I know more than a few people who have either undergone a spiritual death to be brought back as whatever it is their Powers have in mind for them or whom have literally died, as in their bodies have quit, only to have come back to life with a completely changed existence. This is a common phenomenon among people who undergo a shamanic crisis at the hands of the Powers—they are killed in whatever fashion and then are rebuilt as a tool of the Divine and/or Spirits, if they survive…big if.

I haven’t undergone one of those crises and I hope I never will. Of all the misguided and ignorant things I have said over the course of my spiritual existence, I have never once asked to be a shaman or to undergo a shamanic crisis. Yet, as I consider who I am, how I live, and how my Powers have shaped me, I can’t say there has not been death along the way for me.

I have a lot of theories about how the universe works and where all this spooky stuff comes into play and one of the theories that I really have grabbed onto with both hands comes from my former teachers. They detailed that when someone does something magical or spiritual in nature, a groove in the universe deepens and strengthens. When I dress a candle and set it to burn for love for a client, I am tapping into something that has been done over and over for decades and I can draw on that as well as contribute to it’s evolving strength. When I light the devotional candle I have for the Mister and I offer Him prayers and devotional activities and physical offerings, I am deepening the groove that is His in the universe. That means He can move more in this realm. Maybe He reaches more people that need Him. Maybe He can accomplish more of His agenda. I don’t know what He does with the effort I put into His groove, as it’s not my business, but I know that it does something and provides Him with more than my love and attention.

If I work from there, there’s also my groove within the universe. I view that as quite different than the grooves magic creates and the grooves devotional activities create. When I think about it in my head, it looks like a hole I’m digging. Each time I do something magical or spiritual, that’s another shovel full of dirt that gets tossed up over the lip of the hole. Each bit of dirt that flies over the edge has me standing deeper than before and makes it that much harder to climb out. Every shovel full is another little death.

I can’t even count them at this point, or likely even remember every instance when I stabbed the shovel into the dirt, loosened it a little, and then heaved it as hard as I could out and away from me. There’s every time I say no when I want to say yes, or when I say yes when I would really rather say no. Every time the razor scrapes the stubble from my scalp, the hole grows. When I comply with my food taboos, I am flinging dirt away from myself. When I turn the wheel on the cheap plastic lighter that I use to light my candles, the walls of the hole grow a little bit. Writing casts me down deeper. When I put my feet to the floor every day and make the implicit or explicit decision to live according the expectations I have been given and agreed to, the shovel cuts more earth away. When I pray. When I make art. When I step outside my comfort zone and go to new events and gatherings. When I listen to people’s stories. When I show up to my paycheck job and listen to a client cry over a recent medical diagnosis. All of this makes my hole deeper and makes it that much harder for me to be able to climb out.

With how things are now, I’m not even sure I could climb out, even if I wanted to. It’s been eight years since the first time I got smacked in the face that, yes, these things that some of my friends talked about were real and I had better sit up and pay attention. My life is structured around these little deaths now and I’m not sure I would know what to do with myself if I decided to break my oaths and cut ties with my Powers or if They decided to withdraw Themselves from my life. Not being bound by my own words is such a foreign concept to me.

The hole, by the way, is a joyful place for me. It’s not a prison and I don’t feel tortured. I gladly dig because it binds me to the Ones who have brought meaning to my life and welcomed me to a place where I find happiness and fulfillment in working under Their will. I don’t want to climb out and I don’t want whatever could be perceived as my freedom. The light shines brightly down here.

Each death changes me a little more, too. I barely recognize the person I was before the applecart that was my life got upturned. Heck, I even have trouble recognizing the person I was two years ago or six months ago. It’s like viewing everything in gray scale—it’s there and I know it’s me, but it is completely unfulfilling and, as I heard someone say once, it tastes like ash. When I think about how empty I was before They showed up, I struggle to reason through why I’m still alive. When I think about how self-focused I have been in the past, I am astounded that They have cared enough to stick around and work with and on me.

It’s a constant kind of death, but it’s not death with the intent to completely rewrite who I am. If I was completely unsuitable as is, They would have chosen someone who fit better with what They needed. Instead, it’s little deaths that strip away what isn’t useful or helpful to me or to Them. They oversee these little deaths in that They are often the catalyst/boot in my ass needed to carry them out. It’s a calculated dying with a purpose in mind and, even though it has sucked mightily at times, it’s glorious.

Part of these little deaths for me has been discovering happiness. It’s funny that death should birth happiness, but it has, at least so far. I can’t guarantee that I will always be happy, but I can guarantee that I have known happiness through my own bizarre series of sacrifices that have landed me at the bottom of my own personal hole. I’m down here playing in the dirt and happily flinging it upwards and outwards in the hope that my hole will continue to grow.

I’ll never reach the bottom, though, except maybe with my own physical death and even that’s a serious gamble. There is no goal except ‘better’ and every taste of ash in my mouth and lack of connection to what was pushes me further along towards ‘better’, which stays tantalizingly out of reach. This is the best thing I have ever done for myself, and I have done it myself—with my own choices and under my own steam. And yet, They are behind me and before me and beside me at my best and at my absolute worst, driving me to choose at every single turn.

There is never enough gratitude to express the blessings They and these tiny deaths have brought me. Language is insufficient, as is any action I could take in Their name. So, in the interest of expressing how absolutely thankful I am for Them, I will keep choosing to die these small deaths in the hopes that I become what They see in me.

Ayibobo Papa Gede, who eats off my plate and knocks His boney face against mine when I am stubborn. May He continue to pour blessings and inspiration into my hands as I work to be the prosperous individual He sees me as.

Dua Sekhmet, whose implacable oversight drives me to do more, always, and whose patience will withstand the crumbling of any monument erected in Her name. May She continue to keep me in Her service as She sees fit.

Bendición to You, Eleggua, who opens the way for His children and loves them fiercely and with fire. May He continue to protect my head in the ways that help me best while not allowing me to escape from my own personal demons.

Hail to you, silent shadow-dweller in my life whom allows me to address Him as the Mister and half a dozen other epithets, who I would crawl over flaming broken glass in pursuit of, who knows my heart, who has answered every desire I have ever had, even the unspoken ones. May He see fit to keep me and continue to love me in all my pieces, as poorly as they fit together sometimes, and may I continue to seek Him in all that I do.



~ by Alex on January 8, 2014.

5 Responses to “A Thousand Tiny Deaths”

  1. I cannot love this post enough. Your metaphor is so very perfect for what the experience of this kind of path is like. Yes, we are down here in our holes making little caves and palaces in the dirt through our daily choices. If being bound in this way isn’t freedom, I don’t know what is.

  2. […] via A Thousand Tiny Deaths | Rock of Eye. […]

  3. ” It’s like viewing everything in gray scale—it’s there and I know it’s me, but it is completely unfulfilling and, as I heard someone say once, it tastes like ash. ”

    LOVE the phrasing here, and I absolutely agree. WELL stated!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

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