Few people are more qualified to talk about death, dying and bereavement than those who worked with the deceased on a daily basis.
Writer and researcher Kristoffer Hughes is one of those people who’s work in a morgue in England allows him a unique perspective on the nature of death—but what makes Kristoffer slightly different is that he is a practicing Druid and is someone who maintains an essentially Pagan perspective to his life and work.
In many regards Kristoffer is caught between two worlds—that of the Christian-based civil systems that were established over an hundred and fifty years ago to deal with the recently deceased and his spiritual recognition of the eternity of the human spirit.
Both personal and professional conflicts must surely arise between the two from time to time!
In The Journey Into Spirit, Hughes explores the Pagan approach to death, funeral rites and burial and reveals how its principles can be integrated into a wide spectrum of spiritual philosophies. Hughes identifies three realms of existence. these are known as The Circle of Abred, The Circle of Gwynvyd and The Circle of Ceugant. These are said to correspond respectively to our physical world, the spirit world that interpenetrates with ours and the realm of the soul.
Part one of his looks at the first of these, The Circle of Abred. It is at this level that we are reminded of our own mortality as well as the need to deal with our practical lives at a purely physical level. As an example of this the author describes his own twenty-five years spent in the hidden world of morgues and the work that following this career-path has entailed.
Following his own heart-rending experience following the loss of a dear relative the author then ponders on his time spent with the dead and calls upon his readers to consider the nature of their own burial, when the time comes, and whether it might conform to Pagan practices.
The Realm of Spirit is considered in Part two of the book. Here the author examines the thin veil that separates us from the world of Spirit and once again Kristoffer calls upon his own real life experiences dealing with the passing of individuals that he has known directly into the world of spirit.
At this point he also records the stage at which he started to develop psychic talents of his own and the extra-sensory skills that led him to consider a world of Druidism and Celtic Magick.
He also examines the painful process of grief—once again from an essentially Pagan perspective, and openly criticises the medical professions’ increasingly common approach to consider grief as a treatable medical condition—usually through the application of pharmaceutical remedies.
Part three looks at the Realm of Infinity and the mystery of divinity. Here the author explores our concept of deity and the personification of natural powers as gods.
At this point he calls upon the reader to consider the meaning and role of archetypes in one’s life and how the personal relationship with them operates. He follows this with a look at the varying ways in which death has been symbolised throughout the world as psychopomps or ‘guides of souls’. These are nearly always male in gender hough he does point out that in Slavic, Scandinavian and Celtic traditions they are often depicted as females.
From a magickal perspective Hughes also reminds us of the more commonly symbols that are used to represent death. These include the skeleton and the scythe as well as such figures as the Grim Reaper. Hughes explains that the psychopomp that he works with in his Celtic magickal operations is Gwyn ap Nudd—a primary figure from the Celtic Tradition who is associated with the Wild Hunt.
In. part four the reader is presented with rituals and ceremonies that honour the dead with particular guidance on the best way to administer comfort to a dying Pagan companion. This even includes advice on how to conduct a deathbed ritual. In addition to this Kristoffer also offers guidance on how to perform a Pagan funeral along with specific instructions on how the ceremony is performed by the attendant priests.
The book closes with the inclusion of a glossary and bibliography.
Our Review of ‘Journey into Spirit’
So often you come across members of the Pagan community who when confronted with their own death, or that of a loved one, recourse back to traditional Christian values and practices as a way of coping and dealing with their situation.
Up until now, there has been no clear instruction manual on how to deal with the impending loss of a relative, the proper storage of a cadaver or the correct funerary rites to employ, from an essentially Pagan perspective. In this regard Kristoffer Hughes has done a great job in dealing with a difficult and sensitive subject in such a caring and compassionate way.
The story of how he personally arrived at such an empowering and empowered place in his life is worthy of this book alone and so as both guide and collection of memoirs and anecdotes this book proves that it is possible to challenge society’s most entrenched traditions and as a consequence create self-empowering alternatives.
This is a book that will be appreciated by anyone looking to bring a sense of life back into death. Whilst not exclusively Pagan at source the advice and expert guidance that Hughes offers his reader throughout this book is both thought-provoking and enlightening and will be of great benefit to a broader non-spiritual audience.
It lifts the darkness from death and helps restore a more personal involvement in the process of passing into spirit.