Yesterday on a brief afternoon walk, I witnessed the most significant grouping of crows or ‘murder’ of crows as said in a folklorish way. They were flying in tightly knit circles as if in a group dance and continuously cawing. I don’t know whether they found a potential food source or were gathering for a funeral. Though crows are very intelligent birds, they are considered the messengers of death, gloom, and mourning in common parlance. But does death needs a messenger?
There is a famous folktale regarding death and its messengers.
Once upon a time, the God of Death entered into a pact with a young man. Death promised that he would not come to take him along until he sent his messengers in advance.
After many years, death knocked on his door. The not so young man panicked and said, ‘You can’t take me. You didn’t send your messenger.’
Death said, your teeth have all gone, your hair is all grey, your back hurts. Your eyesight has dimmed. You can’t walk straight, and you cough all the time.
“That is true,” said the man, but how can I die? I was waiting for your messengers. You didn’t keep your promise.
“Those were my messengers,” said death.
Your failure to recognize them changes nothing. Your time has come.
Death surrounds us like a shadow. It dances all around us all the time. Death is in a constant dance, and the background music plays on uninterruptedly, whether we sleep or are awake. It never leaves us from morning till evening and from dawn to dusk. It never leaves us.
Whether you believe in one birth theory of Christianity or multiple birth theory of Hinduism, Death remains an eternal and subtle truth. Our physical bodies are subject to death, disease and decay over time.
We may not get the drift of music and get a glimpse of it whirling and twirling.
Or do we see it gyrating but still choose to ignore it?
Perhaps, for the normal functioning, our everyday monotonous and routine life, it is essential to close our ears to the music it plays. We need to turn a deaf ear; how would we function? Right?
The fear of death all day, every day, would not let us live.
Maybe it is essential not to think about the end; that’s why we distance ourselves from any conversation regarding death and dying.
Our society and cultures have created a barrier between us and death. We don’t discuss death. We aspire for only good, pleasant things, and death is certainly not good, acceptable and comfortable. There is no dignity in death and dying.
Various cultures have dealt with death in different ways. New life grows with every death, a common theme around the discussion of death and immortality, regeneration and eternity.
Goddesses like Kali and Vajrayogini from India, Baba Yaga from Russia, Ginitine from Lithuania shouldered birth, death, and regeneration. These goddesses can be unclothed, ferocious, and extremely ugly, old or witch like in their appearance. Snakes, vultures, dogs, cats and crows are common animals associated with death.
The idea was to make the death fearful. Understanding death is the beginning of the highest realization and wisdom. It’s an opportunity to reflect and is the highest intellectual pursuit we can hope to attain in life.
You can read my post on Death and Grief here.