Sunday, October 31, 2010
42, La Calavera
Alexei Kondratiev and Len "Black Lotus" Rosenberg were two friends of mine back in the 1990s when I was a Neo-Pagan. Both men were brilliant, hugely knowledgeable about Pagan paths and fonts of lore and tales. Alexei was a Celtic scholar, and Black Lotus was a student of the Shakti path of Hinduism; both were also "witches" of NeoPagan tradition. They projected a kind of quirky eccentricity. Len was a bit of a bear, bearded and bellied and balding; Alexei had a wild mane of unruly graying hair. They both had the air about them of being too concerned with the cosmic forces swirling around them to be too concerned about such trivialities as unwrinkled clothes, but they were wonderfully warm and open men. In a fortuitous stroke of cosmic fate, they found love in each other and were partners as long as I knew them. Len had some terrible health problems; when I knew him he walked with a cane, often grimacing though never complaining about his physical limitations. I ran into Alexei out and about a few times after I left that circle and he seemed always unchanged. Both Black Lotus and Alexei passed on this past year, a few months apart. Ibaye. I'm sad to think I won't be running into them again this side of, well, that cosmic veil said to be so thin on Halloween night, what Len and Alexei would have called Samhain. But I'm hoping their spirits, having shuffled off the proverbial mortal coils, are running together, united in the mysterious world on the other side.
It's what Halloween is traditionally for, this day of the dead, besides donning amusing costumes and projecting momentary alternate egos: remembering the transformational passage at the end of this plane of life. Those skulls and bones make us laugh, but they're a reminder of both the temporary nature of our flesh and also the core of bone at our center: a dialectical alchemy of the ephemeral and material.
This world lost a lot of wonderful musicians this year. Marion Brown, the creator of hauntingly evocative jazz suites in the early 1970s. Aminata Moseka Abbey Lincoln, who brought the fire of the civil rights movement into jazz in the 1960s and then aged and mellowed like fancy cognac. Soul singer Solomon Burke. Calypso singer Arrow of "hot hot hot" fame. Lena Horne, actress and singer, one of the most elegant women who ever lived. Malcolm McLaren, innovator of punk rock, hip-hop, and house music who approached and then curated urban music as high art. Ibaye. Fortunately for us still on this side, the music, the sounds they made, are left behind.
It's a good night to light candles for the spirit world. It's a good night to offer up a few prayers for the spirits on this side and for the spirits on that side. It's a good night to remember those who have passed, and to ponder the mystery of it all. You can't know yet what happens in that fearsome transition. There are hints, and you can hear whispers from the other side, but get used to it, sooner or later you will know. And this is the night when it's not dark or morbid or obsessive to look at the skull like a kind of magic mirror. What do you see there? Boo!