"Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate."
-- Ambrose Bierce
This weekend was a working weekend for me. I got together with two colleagues, who also happen to be two of my closest friends and we spent four days away from our homes attending to various and sundry spirit-work and God-inspired duties. As always, whenever the three of us get together, even when we're not working, we tend to talk shop. It's a rare time to kick back, relax as much as we're able, and discuss our projects and Work-related problems with other people who understand completely where we're coming from. This can often be enlightening in a plethora of unexpected ways and this weekend was no different.
As I was packing last night, carefully wrapping my runes, a carved Odin statue, and several other magical tools, pouring out the offerings that I'd collected, one of my colleagues brought up the question of how little thought is given to what becomes of the possessions of a Godslave, spiritworker, shaman, or magician when we die. Basically, it's more than just a question of who gets our stuff; but rather it should be a question of who should receive our stuff, and moreover who can safely handle it. What are the repercussions of what we leave behind? I've had to face this question last year when I, at the urging of the duergar Deity Andvari, wrote out my will. I clearly stated that a colleague, also a shaman, was to come in and take all my magical, ritual, and devotional tools and divine via whatever system he chose, to determine what should be done with them. The man I was talking to last night was that shaman in question. This was not the first time this topic had arisen between us.
Why is this important you might ask? Well, just off the top of my head, I can think of several particularly salient reasons: A) my tools are reservoirs of power. The degree of energy that those of us doing this Work deal with on a regular basis has the potential to seriously alter, even harm someone unprepared for it. We have to be modified by our Deities energetically to handle it. It could cause energy sickness, or even blast open latent gifts in someone unprepared, drive them crazy, or worse. B) Some of our tools are ensorcelled. This means that they may contain a living spirit. "Just bury it with me" doesn't work so well when you're dealing with another spirit who has been entrusted into your care. Maybe being buried with you isn't what its wyrd is about. When you contract with a spirit, or even when you bind a spirit you then have an obligation to that spirit. Period. C). Some tools need to be fed, usually with blood, regularly. The spirits involved can get very testy, aggressive, and in some cases dangerous if this isn't done. I think you can see where I"m going with this one. Moreover, harm can come from having powerful tools pass into unsuspecting and unprepared hands. This is a question of lawful responsibility. We, the spiritworkers, magicians, godslaves, and shamans in question have the obligation to make the necessary preparations (to the best of our abilities) to ensure that our working items are disposed of properly after our deaths. We can't take it with us and we need to be really careful about how we leave it behind too!
Part of this ties in to respect for one's tools and resources. For me, this awareness came from my obligations to Andvari. He is all about knowing what is yours by right and what is yours by accident. He taught me about respecting money, and viewing the exchange and transformation of resources as sacred. Part of those lessons was acknowledging that part of honoring that sacredness means making sure that we leave as ordered a house as possible for our descendants. This means making plans not just for disposal of magical items, but for disposal of mundane assets as well. It's all about mindfulness, respect, and responsibility. We're bound by Gods. Our obligations do not end when we die. As my friend and brother W. has said to me on more than one occasion: "In our line of work, death is not a career ending transition!" We are responsible for what we leave behind even after we're gone, if we do not take steps to prevent disarray. This means we can fall into unlawfulness. This means we can incur a wyrd debt. Neither is a particularly good thing whether one is alive or dead. Harm is harm.
This extends further than just writing out a will. I am a Master level magician. My house is tightly shielded. My workroom is even more highly warded. Those wards and shields are external to me. When i die, they don't. While i try very hard not to be brazen about what I do, even under concealment shields, to those with the senses and skilled motivation to ferret it out, my house is the house of a warrior mage of a significantly high level. That's fine while I'm living there. When something does manage to breach my concealment spells, I deal with it. I have that skill. But what if I died, no one tends to my wards and the house is bought by a family with several small children? What if my signature on the house, the power contained there, attracts something Bad then? Who is responsible? Who is going to clean up that mess?
There's an old saying: "prevention is worth a pound of cure" and that really is true in this line of Work. We as a community need to start thinking about what is going to happen when we're gone and what type of a mess we're leaving behind. We need to take steps, not just to ensure that our possessions don't fall into the wrong hands, but that they get to the right ones wherever possible. We need to take steps to ensure that our dwelling places are cleansed, and any operative magic or energy there undone and grounded out. We need to do this not out of any secrecy or territoriality (though these things aren't necessarily bad) but out of sheer responsibility for the safety of those who will come after us. We need to take the steps NOW to ensure that our houses physically, spiritually, magically really are in order while we live and after we die. This is partly something that the communities we serve also have to learn: you benefit from your God-bound person's skills, but there is a necessary protocol to dealing with them. This isn't hubris. It's for everyone's safety. What we do is real. It has consequences (usually to us). Sometimes it's dangerous. Sometimes it's dangerous when we least intend it to be. Alive, we can prepare for these contingencies and safely deal with them. Dead, not so much. Most mundane people have to face these issues when it comes to money, property, and resources. We have to face them there and here, in this area as well. It's a matter of professional responsibility. We need to start discussing this and laying the framework as professionals for dealing with these issues. They're not going to go away and one day, they may just blow up in our collective faces. The Gods don't allow us the luxury of hiding our heads in the sand over any other issue. They're not going to do it here.