Where Are the Dead Now?- Perdita Finn
What happens to the dead? Do they vanish into oblivion, their molecules assumed back into soil and strata? Or do they ascend into heavenly realms beyond our comprehension? Do they lurk in graveyards as vampires and zombies, ready to reach their bony hands up through the soil and pull us down into unspeakable horrors? My father decreed in his will that he wanted written on his tombstone the Latin words, Ubi Sunt. “Where are they now?”
Ancient tradition has it that a veil separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. We still speak of the times of the day and of the year when that veil feels thinner than usual and the dead come close. Dusk. The gray days of autumn. All Hallows Eve. We speak of “lifting the veil” and “seeing beyond the veil” and of the veil itself coming down like a final curtain when we die.
As a child I spent hours happily doing embroidery alone in my room. I loved how on one side of the fabric would be a tangle of threads—threads that led nowhere, threads cut too short, knotted threads, all of it a jumble of mismatched colors. But turn the cloth over and there on the other side would emerge a picture of flowers in a field or trees in a forest. Every thread made sense on the other side; every thread was part of the design.
What if our souls were nothing but threads piercing the veil first one way and then another, sewn back and forth eternally? What if the veil didn’t separate the worlds but was the world—the whole fabric of existence? From this side, we see only the knots, the tangles, the threads cut short too soon. What if we could feel the long thread of our souls entangling with other threads? What if we could follow a red thread through to the other side of the tapestry as it becomes a dress, a jewel, a rose, a pair of lips, a heart? What if we could glimpse the picture of our lives from the other side? That’s what the dead do, of course—they see at last what life is really for.
To touch that reality we have only to pull on a thread and wait for the tug on a heartstring.
We can start anywhere. We can say the names of the dead aloud. We can put their photos on an altar in our living rooms. We can offer them flowers, candles, incense, prayers. We give to them the faith that they are really there. We wait for them to send us a message or a gift. Pull on a single thread and the whole fabric shimmers.
The dead don’t really go anywhere. We all weave back and forth through life and death, this way and that way, but we’re all right here, right now. The dead are all right here. All the dead that have ever been are all right here.
Ubi Sunt? Where are they now? Right here.
This article is excerpted from Perdita’s forthcoming book, Take Back the Magic.
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Perdita Finn is the co-author with Suzan Saxman of The Reluctant Psychic (St. Martin’s, 2015). She and her husband are the founders of The Way of the Rose, an international community of friends devoted to the Lady “by any name you want to call Her” as well as the authors of The Way of the Rose: The Radical Path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary (Spiegel & Grau, 2019). Perdita began her career as a writing teacher and trained teachers at Columbia University in helping students free their voices and tell their stories. Creating empowering learning adventures has been her life’s work. Take Back the Magic: Getting to Know the Dead, a love story about the long story of our souls, will be published in 2021.