Thursday, November 10, 2016

Maintaining Death Positivity in the Face of Fear.

The death positive movement is not about the desire to die.

It is about changing our attitude toward death. It's about acceptance, and achieving peace with the reality of our own mortality through art, music, and the building of new traditions. There is a difference between seeking death, and the realization and acceptance of the fact that it comes to us all.

I used to be a thanatophobe. Aging and dying were terrifying to me. When I was diagnosed with intracranial hypertension, I had thoughts of my mortality forced on me and had no choice but to learn to accept them. These are points I agree with, taken from The Order of the Good Death:

  1. I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.

  2. I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.

  3. I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.

  4. I believe that the dead body is not dangerous, and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.

  5. I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.

  6. I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.

  7. I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes, and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.

  8. I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.


Right now, we're facing down a system where more people are going to die. Whether it's through escalating police violence, underserved hospitals, becoming uninsured, or through war. Part of me is tempted to keep my death positivity under the radar, because me and a lot of people like me are facing down very real, very dangerous consequences right now. Even before this election, I was told that my posts are "in poor taste," "morbid," or "not what people wanted to hear."

But is letting it go the right thing to do right now? In a time when people are facing serious losses because of their sexual, gender, racial, and religious identity, is giving up the fight for the right for people to have their death, dying, or care options honored a good idea? In the face of a climate-change-denying government, is it right to give up the push for sustainable burial practices? Am I willing to go back to supporting a culture of thanatophobia?
I don't think so.

The death positive movement is also largely headed by young women. In a time when women of all beliefs and ethnicities are facing deep setbacks, I am not willing to cede anything. Not on this frontier or any other.

As a mixed, LGBT, Pagan woman, it isn't easy to try to maintain a positive attitude towards death and dying when it has become an even more imminent fear for even more people. The right thing has almost never been the easy thing. I will continue to promote death positivity however I can.


If you're curious about the death positive movement, please visit The Order of the Good Death.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rabbits rabbits rabbits!

Do you remember to say "white rabbits" or "rabbits rabbits rabbits" first thing on the first of every month?

I don't, usually, but it's a fun bit of folklore. I enjoy it on the occasions I do remember.

But where did this practice come from, and how did it spread?

Nobody really knows where it started, but it was common enough (chiefly among children) to warrant writing down in 1909. There also doesn't appear to be a definitive phrase-- "rabbit rabbit," "rabbits rabbits rabbits," "white rabbits, white rabbits," and other permutations of colors and lagomorphs all show up periodically. They're all supposed to bring you luck for the rest of the month, provided they're the first thing you say upon waking. According to some accounts, they're supposed to ensure that you'll receive an unexpected gift before the month's end.

One thing that is certain is that it seemed to be a predominantly New England thing at one point in time. I watched a lot of Nickelodeon as a kid, so I still remember being reminded to say the words by Stick Stickly during "Rabbit Rabbit Day." Of course, my tiny brain was usually buzzing with too many things to remember to actually say it when I woke up!

Why rabbits? That, unfortunately, is also hard to say. It might be part childhood silliness, it might also be part rabbit's position in folklore. Stories from all over the world describe rabbit as a clever trickster character, akin to Raven, Coyote, or Anansi the Spider. Could saying "rabbits rabbits rabbits" on the first of the month allow you to tap into some of Rabbit's luck and cleverness? Rabbits have also been associated with luck and prosperity, likely due to their ability to multiply quickly. What is a little baffling is why there aren't earlier references to the practice of saying "rabbits rabbits rabbits" on the first of the month.

[caption id="attachment_2929" align="aligncenter" width="555"]Rabbit rabbit! Rabbit rabbit![/caption]

Why the first of the month? It could be purely in the hope that you'll be lucky the whole month through. It may also be because of their association with the moon-- not only does a rabbit's reproductive cycle lasts between 28-31 days, as crepuscular animals they are most active at dawn and dusk.

Here's wishing you good luck for the month of November!