What I think is really interesting about the Celtic wheel of the year is that at the start of the year you jump right into all the hard stuff – death, decay, sorrow and being broken. Mainly death. Samhain is the festival of death after all.
I hang about in graveyards a lot. They are nice and quiet, full of trees and birds, and you will find hardly any living people in there. It’s great. Graveyards are my peaceful places.
A year ago, I lived opposite a beautiful old graveyard, with a folly, lots of beautiful angel statues, and loads of gorgeous trees. It was quiet and it was out of business: no new graves for the few years I’d been visiting there.
My local graveyard today is in a churchyard, and still gets used for people burying. So every now and again when I wonder down there, there will be a new empty grave waiting for it’s occupant.
I’ve never belonged to an active graveyard before. I know graveyards are all about death and that’s why most people find them so creepy, but in an old unused graveyard it doesn’t really get to you. In an active one, you get really aware of your own mortality. There have been a few new graves this year in the graveyard – one was an old man, one was seventeen and the other twenty-six. Their graves are still covered in flowers, bracelets and gifts. I walk past them and say hello whenever I visit.
They make me think: I’m going to die someday too. This doesn’t freak me out, but I leave the graveyard feeling that I should enjoy every moment, live my life as well as I can, and never take those I love for granted.
I think people are wary of graveyards because they are afraid of death and they don’t want to think about it. People want to live young and forever, and (in my experience especially with post-religion atheists) they completely freak out about not knowing what happens and possibly not existing after they die.
Knowing that you only have a certain amount of time on this planet and then an ambiguous future after that really knocks your priorities into place.
If you are really aware that you have a finite time in which to be alive and do stuff, are you really going to waste your life-time in situations that you don’t enjoy and ignore all the wonderful things you want to do instead? I think not.
I have a provisional death date. I got the idea from a book I read – the author said that there would be three possible death ages for each person, and we just have to ask our angels/intuition to get the numbers. This means that you have an end by which to get stuff done by. I’ve got the number 68 running around in my head, so 68 is my provisional death date. That means provisionally I have 45 years to enjoy life and have a great time before I find out what happens next.
Buddhists encourage people to hang out in graveyards so that they can understand the impermanence of life. I think everybody could benefit from understanding a little bit about that.