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Death claims us at birth.

'Birthed by blood, charged by pain. Death comes to all, yet our voice remains.' - Conversations with Hel, Cris Ashburn, 2017 - Death comes to us all. How does she visit you? I have been thinking about my relationship with death and the history I hold with Hel. One of my oldest memories is of a skull-faced figure, robed in black, standing at the foot of my bed. Now, I remember running and jumping under my covers to hide from many things- zombie hands, spectral tigers, ghouls coming to drag me away from my home- but the robed figure was never one of them. When they were around I felt protected; a silent gaurdian keeping watch over my bedroom at night. They could see where my parents couldn't; around corners, through walls, and into the shadows themselves. I now know this figure to be the goddess Hel. While pondering on this memory, something much older sank in;

a realization that this physical bond went much deeper.

When I was born there was a complication with my delivery.

During labor my heartbeat became irregular and

the doctors had to perform an emergency C-section.

The umbilical cord had wrapped itself around my neck and I couldn't breathe.

I was choking inside of my mother's womb. I came into this world in-between. I came in hanging from a noose,

and that noose was made of life itself. Death greeted me, marked me as her own, at birth.

She raised me to see from the shadows, and she taught me to take on pain and shed blood where ever it was needed. I learned the importance of looking the grotesque in it's eyes, seeing past it's bark and behind it's bite. We all carry these marks of death with us; divine designs that our experiences have painted on our skin. We are learning to love the unloved. Joey Morris said it best in her blog post about Birthing Pains: "It is bloody. It breaks us apart. It forces us to elevate.

But it is the purest, rawest, most unconditional truth of self that can ever be found." These pains birth us into being, claiming us for the future, reminding us to live while we can. They whisper in our ears, telling us to settle at nothing less than a deeply drawn breath at the end of life's race. But, even more still... these Death Marks give us the exit wounds through which we are able to reach out and touch another's heart. So, we wear Death carved into our skin, bloodied and gasping for more... more truth, more soul, more ugliness, more connection. We ache for something to call real,

not knowing that it is the very ache that we seek to subside.

This aching opens ourselves up and lovingly

pours the sacred sanguine onto those who need it.

People say that we exist between the screaming inhale of our birth

and the silent exhale of our death, and yet... both are one and the same.

Within screams and silence there is a bridge that touches both the living and the dead; a voice of wisdom that spans the gap.

We are that bridge. We are the Living Ancestors; those who remember and seek to be remembered. Those who are bringing past to future and back again. Those who walk on wounds and bleed into the earth,

offering pain to pain...

touching tired hearts with dirt and bone.

"Hel’s child is dead inside, filled to the brim with those alive. Pain is a gift for those who see, healing the wounds of humanity."

- Conversations with Hel, Cris Ashburn, 2017 - Birth yourselves into being. Midwives. Wear your Death Marks and shed your pain.

We bleed to bless our soil and live to bless our death. The whiskey and cigarette voice of one who has suffered and remains is the voice of a wounded healer. And this world is in need of healing. Your wounds are your gifts. Use them while you still can. For Death has already claimed us

at the moment of our birth. And your heartbeat is it's clock;

Time is ticking, child. Leave your mark.

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