This post is part of sporadic series on Working with Spirits. The previous post in this series was "Working with Spirits: Making Friends with the Genius Loci." Future posts may cover offerings, communication, how spirit work can benefit your practice, as well as preparing and using zoological remains.
It's not something I came to deliberately. It's not something I ever put much thought into, but so often throughout my life I have found myself in that position, cradling the dying, singing them across the Veil, feeling my body shudder and shake as their soul leaves their body. Of course, it isn't always that dramatic. Sometimes, death comes in a burst, a growing heat-like intensity that suddenly explodes, leaving you trapped at that peak, unable to come down from the physical sensations that seem to be a natural response the living have in response to experiencing the end of living.
Whenever there's death ensuing, people always call the nearest witch. It's just what they do, regardless of whether or not they know that person is a witch. I'm not sure of the mechanics of it, perhaps we can just naturally feel when certain people walk with a foot in both worlds, maybe there is something that marks the healer, the shaman, the witch, that strikes a cord in us, especially in times of need. I can't be sure, it feels likely, how else does one account for some witches' uncanny ability to feel our own? Whatever the reasoning, it is one of those unspoken but deeply known facts within humanity that some of us are not capable of handling or even being around death, yet others of us are clearly marked to help where others are helpless.
There really isn't much difference in death between a human and an animal. Perhaps the human death feels stronger, if only because of the energy being more familiar and because the echos of the death trigger an ancient instinct within us, that same instinct that causes us to naturally fear the unknown and to create religion to better understand our world. But, in the end, it is the same. Death is death. The chakras slowly shut down, beginning with those that keep us rooted to the earth, to the physical plane. Next, the chakras that keep us bound to ourselves, to our loved one, and to community fade and then shut down for good. In the last few moments, what's left of life is gathered up and then leaves. Sometimes that leaving is clean, with the soul just suddenly gone, crossing over neatly on its own. Other times it is messy, with the soul hovering about the body, sometimes scared, always confused.
This can happen for several different reasons. If the death comes unexpectedly, especially with the young, the spirit is very likely to not know what to do, to not understand what has happened. This is where the work of the Death Midwife becomes so important, if only for the comfort it brings to the spirit.
The work of a Death Midwife can take many forms, but the common factor of all is that the Death Midwife brings comfort to those dealing with death. For this reason, a Death Midwife may serve to comfort the living, though more often the work involves helping the dying and the dead directly. Energy healing and song help to sooth the dying, allowing them to break free more easily, better ensuring an easy crossing. But, song is a great tool no matter the circumstance, as it can be an effective means of taking hold of the spirit and easing it towards the veil, opening the door, and ushering it through.
Within my own work as a Death Midwife, I have helped both animal and human, but it was in assisting with the burial of an animal many years ago that the title of Death Midwife was formally bestowed upon me. It stuck in my head for a bit, something I thought about occasionally, but never took seriously, never pursued. And then came further energy training, dedication to my Lady, the opportunity to assist the dying wife of a local Priest, and my Lady's insistent pushing to better my skills at spirit communication. Now here I am, at a point where I see how so much of my training from others, my work as a witch, the lessons from my Lady, how all of it has come to a point where I am, dare I say, good at this. I've fully stepped into my role as a Death Midwife and I welcome the opportunity to help where so many feel helpless, albeit I do not seek out these opportunities.
For me, being a Death Midwife is intimately tied to being a witch, and is really just an extension of the shamanic aspect that is so prevalent in witchcraft. It is not much of a step forward to go from speaking with the Dead to helping the dying comfortably take their place amongst the Dead.
If you're wondering how to develop your own abilities as a Death Midwife keep in mind that just like with witchcraft you will have far better success in doing rather than reading about it. I strongly suggest to keep honing your visualization abilities, strengthen your intuition, learn to pay attention, learn to know your body and to feel what it is telling you, become competent at moving energy without the use of tools, and stay open minded -there are no hard and fast rules in this except that Death await us all.
Throwing the Bones