Our dog, Corbie J., has chronic heart failure. He’s had it for two years (roughly), during which time we’ve kept it nicely managed with expensive medication. During the past few months his bad days have been getting worse, and more frequent. His cough has returned; there’s no fluid in his lungs (we’ve had the vet check for that), but his heart has probably enlarged to the point where it is irritating his larynx. He’s having problems eating as much at any one time, and his energy has flagged a bit. There are signs that add up to our coming to terms that he is likely entering his last stretch–and then suddenly he’ll have a great day, or a great week, even. This up and down pattern keeps recurring, and likely will for the rest of his life.
On Friday, the night of the Black Moon, he was having one of his off days, and the eventuality of certain transitions was very much on both our minds–mine and Jo’s. I generally try to tidy up my various shrines at the New Moon (the Black Moon is a New Moon–the special title means there are two new moons in the same month, instead of just one) and our shrine to the beloved dead was on that list. In our household, we are pretty intimate with death; we have both lost a lot of loved ones, and we don’t discriminate much between animal-dead and people-dead in that regard. But this particular shrine is for our animal dead specifically. (We don’t have the remains of our familial dead, so their memorials tend to consist of photos and other wall-mounted things because we live in a small space.) The shrine takes up one shelf of a bookcase, and there are photos, candles, a tea cup and shot glass for offerings, a statue of Bast, and the boxes and jars that house the remains.
The Black Moon is said to be a time of extreme psychic potency, and–especially coming now, when the veils between the worlds are already thinning with the coming of Samhain–a time when it is easier than usual to contact the dead, spirits, gods, and all other beings not of the mortal plane. This could very well have been the reason for what happened, or I could be experiencing a permanent enhancement of abilities I already possess. (As I said, we are intimate with death.) But as I was dusting the boxes and jars holding the remains of our pets who have transitioned into spirit, the containers seemed to change shape in my hands and become the animals themselves. My fingertips caressed the living fur of my Grim Greyling, who transitioned just last year and has made his continued presence in the house very much apparent. They also brushed the living fur and warm living body of Amadeus, a black and white cat who died when my daughter was a baby. Along with everyone in between–all except two cats, whose remains are currently elsewhere; when I recounted my experience to Jo, she shuddered and told me they had both let her know their bones need to be retrieved and housed in the shrine this season.
Most people assume contact with the dead to be a function of bridging the gap between this world—the world of the living—and whatever lies beyond it. For the first time, it has occurred to me that it could also be a function of bridging another type of veil: that of time itself, the time separating the living existence of a dead person or animal from the moment in which a loved one is reaching out to them. Because the dead do not change—at least in my view; when we make contact with them, they are always what they were during life. Change and evolution are for the living. When they move forwards on their journey, when they begin to change and evolve, they are no longer the dead.