Cinnabar Art-Ré

Cinnabar on the Faery Mound, Eilean nan Dóbhran, '91

January 25, 1984 -- August 8, 1998

Door of passage to the other side,
the soul frees itself in stride. --jdm

Cinnabar Art-Ré, Guardian of Moonstone Circle, our beloved companion and packmate, died on Saturday morning, Aug. 8, at 9:09 am, of acute systems failure brought on by swift-moving, metastasized spleen cancer.

Also known as Cinnabar G. Katharsis, Cinnabar of the Red Mist (She Who Fights the Waves), and Sionnabharra the War Dog -- she was fourteen and a half years old, fabulous, beautiful and brilliant. A veteran of many rituals and political meetings, her passing is mourned by Moonstone Circle, and the many, many people she encountered over her brief (for us) but very long (for a big dog) lifetime.

An Aquarius, with Aries rising and moon in Scorpio, she crossed over to the Spiritworld during the lunar-calendar festival of Taillte -- the morning after the full moon eclipse in Aquarius.

The three of us (Cinnabar, Kathryn and Paul -- the core members of the pack) were incredibly close -- enmeshed ever since she came to live with us as a tiny puppy. She was the guardian of our circle and very much a participating member of our magical/spiritual work.

Her specialty was in sensing spirits and energies. When we tried to ignore our intuition and go into areas that were unsafe, she'd sit down and refuse to budge, saying, "No. Unsafe. No." (And she was a big dog; when she stopped the procession, there was no getting past her.) Other times she'd suddenly start looking at fixed spots in space, barking or whining; we'd check it out and she was always right -- usually it would turn out to be a spirit who was trying to get our attention, or sometimes energies that needed to be shifted for things to be safe. When something was wrong, she almost always knew, and almost always did something about it.

And she loved rituals, especially if we let her dance in the center of the circle while power was raised. However, when she was a puppy she sometimes had to be kept out of the ritual area, as she wanted to spin and dance even when it wasn't, er, appropriate for the type of working going on. At those times she'd wait anxiously till she heard our voices rise in chanting, and she'd join in, her wolflike tones (or puppy squeals) adding a striking counterpoint to the more human sounds of the circle. Thankfully, she grew out of her hyperactivity and became a solid, watchful presence -- always right at the boundary of the circle, no matter how large or small it had been cast; she'd find the exact edge and lie right there, monitoring the energy and watching for the spirits. (But woe to anyone who tried to smudge her.)

She was a hero-dog: Once, when paul accidentally left the stove on and left the house, she figured out that this was dangerous and rooted a sleeping kathryn out of bed, dragging her into the kitchen just in time to prevent a fire. And another time, when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night, she rooted a passed-out paul out of bed, refusing to listen to his mumblings to leave him alone. She knew when we needed help.

And during the worst time of Kathryn's illness, Cinnabar took her role of Guardian very seriously. She kept vigil by Kathryn's bed and would stand at attention in the doorway whenever anyone would approach. She knew that Kathryn was weak and unable to fight for herself, and she made it clear that anyone who intended to harm the sickly Alpha-bitch would have to get past her first.

Though her health had been in decline for the past few years, the end was rather quick. She became bloated and very weak on Thursday night, and the cancer was only suspected on Friday. We weren't sure of the extent of the cancer, as none of us wanted to put her through exploratory surgery -- we knew she couldn't survive it in her weakened state, and we didn't want her to die on the operating table, disoriented on anaesthesia, among strangers and in a strange place. But the advanced state of the cancer became apparent by late Friday night, and by Saturday morning she had crossed over.

Her passing was (and is) deeply painful for us all, but also fiercely beautiful in its own way. After an extremely intense vigil of two days and sleepless full moon nights, during which we slowly prepared, confronted our fears and denial, and began to say our goodbyes, it was time. She had made it abundantly clear that she was ready, and it was all too clear that her body could no longer sustain life. She died at home, outside under the trees, in a spot she herself chose, just as the sun rose above the treeline here at our home in the forest. She was gazing out over the waters to the west as her beautiful eyes began to glaze over. We held her close and talked her through the passage as she left her aged body; her shining spirit surged free, leaping the gate between the worlds, bounding into the arms of Bríghid.

The red-gold butterfly suddenly appeared and circled the Birch tree three times. Two herons flew over the altar. The coyotes sang a beautiful and complex song that night, closer to the house than we'd ever heard them before. Three and then nine crows flew with us as we took her body to be cremated. Three hawks circled as we arrived. Back at home, as we cried and spoke of her, suddenly the power went out and the fire alarm barked three times... then all was silent as the power came right back on. All these things and more have been punctuating our thoughts and words about her. We'll be meditating or in ritual and suddenly smell her (! *OH* !) -- just for a moment, then the sensation will be gone. Well, she's got places to go and things to do...

We miss her so much. We stumble over the empty space on the carpet. We stub our toes and bruise our hearts on her absence. Though we feel her spirit flying free on her journey to the Otherworld, and share her joy at no longer being limited by a painful, arthritic, cancer-ridden and broken-down body, there is such a huge space she leaves behind.

We are grief-stricken and mostly unable to think or speak in a linear manner. Fatigue crushes us. We are emotionally volatile. We cry and cry and process almost constantly.

Though our spiritual practice -- and the many beautiful (or sometimes weird) omens that have confirmed her spirit-presence -- has sustained us through this Initiation, we think it will be a long time before we fully integrate this.

Thank you so much to our support system, and everyone who has called, e-mailed, and checked up on us -- family and friends, the wonderful and compassionate people at our vet's office, and all the members of our online community. Your love has helped all of us, and your prayers have been placed on our altar next to the flickering candles, pictures, and ashes of our beloved friend.

To everyone else out there who knew her and mourns her passing, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail or leave a message in the housebook.

With love and grief,

kathryn and paul
August 16, 9998
Eilean nan Dóbhran

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more cinnabar pictures

one year later -- september 1999 -- the wheel turns

sheena and mara


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