Nanna was from a long line of wise women, who informally served their community, from conception to beyond death. Visitors would sit around her kitchen table, chatting intently whilst drinking tea from cheap china.
Sometimes, she would pick up their cup to read their tea leaves. So the person's Ancestors and soul guardians could communicate wise messages or warnings from beyond the veil.
As a healer for the living, her ancestral charm was setting and knitting bones. As a wise woman, her task was recalling the relatives and family stories of each person she supported in her community. With a kitchen cupboard full of skeletons, their bones picked apart to tell fortunes, give warnings and dispense wise counsel and practical help in times of particular trouble or anxiety.
When someone was near to death, her task became consoling the living, sitting with the dying and assisting in preparing arrangements for the family funeral. Maintaining a deep connection to the bones of the person's Ancestors, ensuring they connected with their love and sensed their companionship, during their transition out of life and after death.
So that no one in her community could fear facing death alone.
Nanna always said after her death she would return to us as a garden blackbird. Reassuring us that she would always be there. Singing the song of our ancestors, whilst watching out for her living family.
In memory of my Nana, Agatha Leonard (ne. Archibold Shanks) 1902 - 1972 Tynemouth, Northumberland.
WiSE Dying with Stephen Jenkinson of Orphan Wisdom
Documentary - Choosing to Die with Terry Pratchett
'Congratulations on your forthcoming death.'
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