Friday, January 21, 2011

death, loss and grieving as depicted in Warriors

A few observations on death, loss and grieving as depicted in the Warriors book series.
  • There is an unpredictable nature to death. There may be instances where death is predictable (old age, bad cases of greencough, etc.) but there are many instances when death comes unexpectedly (in battle, thunderpath accidents, eaten by a fox, etc.)  Living each day brings the risk of death.
  • There is an element of powerlessness with death. Medicine cats have extraordinary wisdom in treating ailments, but their power is limited. They seem to know and accept the limits of their power. After doing all they can to treat an injured cat, they say, "her fate now rests in the paws of StarClan."
  • There is a theology of death which includes an afterlife. StarClan is the clan of all clan ancestors. They can be seen in the silverpelt (night sky). StarClan communicates with clan cats, in particular with clan leaders and medicine cats. They appear in dreams and visions to provide prophecy, guidance and comfort. Leaders and the medicine cat go to the Moonstone to commune and share dreams with StarClan. 
  • There are specific rituals and ceremonies associated with death. The body of the deceased cat is brought to the center of the camp where it is cleaned and positioned as if resting. Clan-mates come and say their goodbyes. Cats who had a significant relationship with the deceased (mate, kin, or close friend) will stand vigil by the body of the deceased. In the new day, the body is then buried and the grieving continues.
  • Each cat experiences the death of a clan-mate in their unique way. Every cat had a unique relationship with the deceased. The cat's mother, father, kits, mentor, and friends all grieve in their unique ways.
  • Grieving is communal, it does not occur in isolation. When a cat dies the clan grieves. Sometimes even cats from a different clan may grieve upon hearing of the death.
  • The life of the deceased are remembered in story and legend. Among the clan, the stories of the deceased are shared. At the monthly Gathering of all the clans, the leaders announce to everyone the deaths of their clan cats.
  • Life goes on for the grieving cats. Daily mundane tasks don't stop, hunting must occur so the clan can eat, borders must be patrolled so the clan remains safe. Life goes on and grieving must occur in the midst of life's duties. Sometimes the immediate kin of the deceased will get a short break from routine duties but they are expected to quickly resume providing for the clan in short order.
  • Death is certain. There is no escaping death. Even clan leaders who get an extended life will eventually exhaust their nine lives and die. There is no cheating death.
As I wrote out this list I found myself reacting differently to each item. Some of the items I am ok with and others are very disturbing to me. The idea of being so powerless over such a significant thing in life freaks me out. 

I am sure this is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of death, loss and grieving as shown in the Warriors series. If readers are familiar with these books, I would be curious to hear from you if you picked up on other themes related to these subjects that I missed.

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