A few weeks ago I had a meditation unlike any other I’d had before.
In the visualization, I was walking out along the high ridge that looks out over the sea. It was very early in the morning — the sun had not yet come up, but the sky was ruddy and growing lighter every moment. Suddenly, at the edge of the ridge I saw a strange black figure, wearing a robe and hood, and carrying… a scythe.
Death in meditations usually indicates some kind of change, symbolic death rather than physical death. This I was not afraid of. I walked up to the figure — its face was invisible behind its hood — and I saw that it was looking out over the sea, as if waiting for the sun to rise.
“Why are you here?” I asked. “What are you waiting for?”
There was no reply.
But I was not content to simply wait. I walked around Death, examining him closely. He ignored me and continued to stare at the place the sun would rise.
At last I was struck with a very odd notion, and I decided at once to try it. I stepped up and placed my body inside Death’s, as if he were nothing but a three dimensional apparition, or a hologram. I put my feet right where his were, and moved my body, head and arms to match his stance.
He didn’t move, but I could feel his body around me, enclosing me. It felt as if I were wearing Death’s skeleton like a costume.
Standing there “inside” him, I felt much more strongly his slow, timeless attentive waiting. So for a few minutes, I simply stood there, with the patience of Death.
Then the sun came. At first it was just a spark dancing on the edge of the sea; and then, bit by bit, the whole mighty golden disk lifted up from the water, setting the sky on fire around it.
And then Death — and I — lifted the scythe, and I realized what was about to happen but couldn’t stop it — I felt the bony arm extend to a horribly unnatural length, and the scythe slashed out in a great arc under the sun.
Immediately the sun toppled with a thunderous blazing crash into the sea. The world’s light was extinguished, and darkness fell.
Until the stars came out. There were millions of them, of all different colors, dusted over the sky like shattered diamond.
I couldn’t remember ever having seen stars in my inner landscape before.
And I couldn’t help but remember the lines from the Steve Miller song, “Wild Mountain Honey”: You can only see the stars after a setting sun.
A Meditation Sundial
Usually when I stand in that spot in meditation, the sun is high — or perhaps just dipping towards the afternoon — and there is a brisk cool breeze. It is close to Apollo’s temple, so it makes sense for solar imagery to be prevalent there. You can see this same kind of thing in my article On Thanksgiving, in which I called on Apollo:
“Standing on the cold haunted hilltop, I remember this lesson. I fall on my knees and lift my arms up to the sky. Apollo, where are you?
And there he is –
– One shaft of light right through the gray clouds, the sun is there, as it is always there, waiting for my call. It is blinding, it is beautiful, it is golden like liquid warmth, golden like a thousand prides of lions, golden like joy; and He reaches out his long hand, the long hand of Lugh, and touches my face. The darkness and rain and fear and wraiths are gone; and Apollo’s light washes clean the grass, the trees, the sands and waters. The breeze laughs and plays with my hair.”
Usually the sun is high and bright throughout my inner landscape, but some areas of it have their own usual times of day. The Faerie Pool and the Forest of the Horned God exist in perpetual early-to-mid-morning. It is always as black as midnight near the Abyss of Fear; and the tangled woods around it stand in a thick gray twilight. It is usually dawn or dusk down by the sea, though it is often windy and cloudy, too.
Slade does this sort of visualization meditation as well, but for him, there is almost never any significant weather or time of day. His landscapes exist in a kind of eternal gloaming, in utter timelessness. Interestingly, when I visit the part of my own inner landscape that serves as my connection with him, it is always late evening or night, and always with a prominent moon.
In Norse mythology, the sky is the skull of Ymir, the first being, who was killed by Odin and cannibalized for parts to create the nine worlds. Ymir’s legend is related to the ancient Indo-European tale of the twin brothers, one murdered by the other as a sacrifice to create the universe — murdered, and crowned Lord of the Dead.
Lo, I am become Death, destroyer of worlds… (Bhagavad-Gita)
Usually I think of myself as a creative person. But there is never, never any creation without destruction. Even if the act of creation doesn’t physically destroy something, it changes the world irrevocably. If you create, say, even something as simple as a little poem that you never show anyone, then the world-without-poem comes to an end, and the world-with-poem comes into being. There is no escaping it — you wield the might of Odin — you have destroyed the old world and brought the new one into being. You are wearing Death’s skeleton.