Chapter 3: Welcome the Psychopomp
Sarah Baxter, age 88, has been sold out of her house and moved into the
Towers by her son. She has a broken hip, is miserable, and just wants to
die. Members of the circle make friends with her and conduct a ritual that
allows her to decide for herself whether to live or die. They do not do
anything to hasten or cause her death.
A psychopomp is a priest or priestess (or god or goddess) who leads a
dead person from the land of the living into the land of the dead. Anubis
and Hermes are early psychopomps; today, hospice workers often assume this
role. (I’ve had hospice training.)
Sarah’s situation shows what can happen to old people, especially unimportant
ones, especially old women. Thinking he’s doing the right thing by her
by parking her in the Towers, her businessman son destroys her life.
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated in 1990.
It’s on Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, which is in northeastern Orange
Co. I once lived (for about six months) less than a mile from the Nixon
Library. The gardens are very pretty.
The ritual is held in Cairo and Margaretta’s suite in the Towers, which
is the most elegant setting in the book. I’ve never seen a suite like theirs
in any retirement residence I’ve ever visited. It’s a true fantasy land.
Suzanne Ciani (b. 1946) is an American pianist and composer.
The Velocity of Love, her best-known album, was first released
in 1986. It’s still available on CD.
The medical conflict is established in this chapter. Dr. Kingman (who
does not actually appear until chapter 13) is insensitive and incompetent.
The nurses (Holde and Marie) sometimes substitute alternative treatments
(herbs) for the sedatives, steroids, and other drugs he always prescribes.
Totally self-absorbed, he would rather keep his elderly patients quiet
than heal them.
In the ritual we are introduced to the Victorian language of flowers,
which we will see again in chapter 19. There are dozens of books on the
subject. Here’s a new one,
The Victorian Flower Dictionary.
Before the mid-1980s, old women were unimportant and mostly unnoticed
or ignored. Consider the history of the feminist movement from 1848 to
the present. Consider women in government and entertainment, then and now.
What has changed? How have these changes come about? Why do some people
consider “feminist” a dirty word?
How do we look at death? Do witches and pagans see death in different
ways than followers of the standard-brand religions do? Why?
How could you use the language of flower to create a ritual for your circle
or coven? In
Pagan Every Day (May 7), I suggest one such ritual. Try it.
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
granted to print this page of the
Secret Lives Reader’s Guide for personal use only.