by M. Macha NightMare
RAVEN CLOSES THE DOOR
Raven Moonshadow closed the door on the Reclaiming Collective and community
when he broke a geis. He did this in many ways. At that time he entered the
Tenderloin, where he lived his last years.
RAVEN KNOCKS ON THE DOOR
At Samhain 1994, Raven executed a durable power of attorney for health care
and mailed it, with no prior conversations about it with the persons whom he
designated. With this action, Raven knocked on the door of the
When he became very ill not only with AIDS but also with hepatitis in late
'95, and was not able to be contacted at his hotel, I, as one of the DPOA
designees, called West Side Health Clinic to see what was wrong. Then began
a series of telephone calls among various health care, social welfare people,
Margaret and me, the upshot of which was that Raven was willing to move into
Maitri AIDS Hospice.
RAVEN OPENS THE DOOR
That was the point at which I think Raven began to open the door. People
from his community, plus other close friends, packed, helped him move,
adopted his pets and such things. His friends and family were greatly
relieved to see him in a loving, caring, clean environment where they could
Many old friends-Reclaiming connected and otherwise-visited Raven during his last months. Among them was Hilary, whose work with Raven during that time is evidenced by her transcriptions of audiotapes of his thinking during his last months published in this newsletter.
I find his memory in his dictations quite selective, possibly because of his increasing dementia. Some of the things he said were untrue. While I find this annoying, and unjust to some of us, in the long run it doesn't matter. During the last two weeks of Raven's life I saw him make huge leaps of spiritual evolution.
He told several of us that he wanted to go to all the Reclaiming Sabbats he could. He wanted to get to Golden Gate Park to attend the Spring Equinox ritual. On the day of the public ritual, Raven was hospitalized for treatment of meningitis and of grand mal seizures with which he had recently become afflicted. We tried to bust him for the day, but realized that his delicate condition made it too risky. So ...
Four of us went to his room at Maitri, to which he had just been released a couple of hours earlier, to do a Spring ritual with him. Raven was very magical that evening, accepting the working we were doing like a thirsty man at a desert oasis.
Raven had told Vibra that he wanted colored eggs for this ritual, so some Witches in San Rafael, where I live, colored and consecrated several eggs at the Spring ritual they had done that afternoon, and we had them for our ritual with Raven that night. Also, Beverly had brought Raven a special world egg from the Saturday ritual in the park. Jim buried it in the Maitri garden because Raven wanted it buried there and couldn't do it himself. We sang "Jack in the Green" about the seasons of the grain god; Raven saw and welcomed Jack when I was teaching the song to the others, before we had even used it to invoke Him.
Raven wanted to call Death, or a death goddess. We sang in the Three Fates-Lachesis, Who apportions each of our lots in life; Klotho, the weaver; Atropos, Who cuts the cord-with Thorn's chant.
Raven remembered a guided meditation that Kat had done many years before, and he asked her to do it. It was a meditation about an old blind woman in a cave, sightlessly scratching marks on the walls. "Scritch, scratch, scritch." The cave walls became the inside of an egg, full of all possibilities. The scratch marks were DNA patterns. Raven's wish and desire was for "tomorrow."
It was an unconventional Spring Equinox ritual performed in an unusual setting at the request of a unique dying Witch with four of his middle-aged sister Witches. The magic worked. We all went far, learned much-with Raven going the farthest and learning the most.
Though Raven was very, very sick and weak that night, I believe that (perhaps because of his extreme illness?) he was very, very magical as well. At the end of the ritual, Raven became sick. Vibra held him and rocked him to soothe and steady and ground him.
He said Kali was on him. I said, "Kali likes this-Like a bee my mind is buzzing round the blue lotus feet of my divine mother, my divine mother." We chanted that to steady him. I could see the influence of those chanted words, and the prayers that they were, on Raven right away.
We left him much soothed, with the help of medication from a woman on the Maitri staff. It was an Equinox which I will never forget.
That was on a Wednesday. The following Monday, Kat and I took Shadowfax and Lilith Nightmare, Raven's two black cats, to visit him at Maitri. Raven was even weaker and sicker.
On Tuesday morning, he was scheduled to go to Laguna Honda Hospital for a procedure to counteract some of the effects of his meningitis medication. His condition declined. At 2:10 p.m. Raven's mother called me to say that Raven was at SF General Emergency and was not expected to make it through the night. I phoned two people who phoned others. The first person I called was the one who was geographically closest to SF General-Vibra. Margaret called Starhawk in the country. I put a message out on email to those near and far who loved Raven and wanted to be included in workings.
By the time I arrived at the hospital at 4:00 p.m., four Witches were already there with him. Vibra had put a circle around him at 2:30, so he was in sacred space from then until he passed on.
For the last night of Raven's life, five of his Witch sisters were with him the entire time-Vibra, Margaret, Rose, Rosemary and me. Jody and Thorn were there most of the time. Many others came throughout the evening, including Raven's parents and long-estranged brother. Still others worked on the astral that night, with candles and other spells to aid Raven's crossing. (I believe Pomegranate said she counted 50!)
At one point we Witches were surrounding Raven, chanting, "Listen, Raven, listen to my heart song; I will never forget you, I will never forsake you," with our hands on our hearts, while Raven's weeping father patted Raven's foot and held his other hand over his heart and changed with us.
Each of us did what we could. We chanted a lot, especially "Like a bee ..." and some of the chants Raven had written. Raven appreciated the chanting, and tried to participate as much as he could.
I told Raven that I would go part way with him. I did. She delighted in the sleek splendor of his shiny black feathers. He and I saw Her jeweled toes. Raven was very afraid, but She dispels all fears, and She grants all boons. She welcomed him, with no concern at all about what he had or had not done in this life. She's like that, our Ma Kali.
After Raven breathed his last breath, and his family had been informed, we washed his body in spring water and laid him out. We put daffodils and other Spring flowers on his body along with the raven feathers I had used to help him fly to the other side.
I count myself privileged to have been among those who helped to priestess Raven's crossing.
One of Raven's challenges to us was to see if we could or would walk our talk. In my opinion, we met his challenge. For years I don't think any one of us-perhaps especially the black bird himself-believed that we would be with him to help him at his time of crossing. He and we feared he'd die alone in an alley or hotel room. Dominique attended him in the Tenderloin before he went to Maitri. Those of us who do needle exchange saw him sometimes. Most of us only saw him if he made it to a Sabbat, or if he remembered a date he'd made with one of us.
Raven's dying lead many people back to him, and back to each other. He had wanted to see the children. Amie, Julie, Bethany, Delaney, and Shannon all saw him in his last weeks. He had wanted to see Cerridwen; Cerridwen came to Maitri and did Reiki work on Raven in his last weeks. He had wanted to see Bone Blossom; Bone visited him at Davies in his last weeks. Rose, Rosemary, Robin, Rocky, and many more attended Raven on his deathbed. So in addition to challenging us to walk our talk, Raven gave us the gift of healing. May we make good use of it.