Death in Art

A somber procession of three hundred robed and hooded men winds along the edge  of the sea. The deep power of their chanting  mingles with the ringing of the bells and the crashing of the surf, and the crashing surf rings against the shore.  In their midst, lifted high on strong shoulders,  a young Priestess lies on a bier wearing a long, purple gown. Her red gold hair undulates around her head like  rays of the sun; her face is covered by a sheer white veil. In her hands are lilies, flower of the dead

As the sun begins to sink below the horizon of the sea, the procession comes to a stop to stand opposite that point of dying light to set the bier upon the waves. A great howling rises up, cries and lamentations, as three torches are lit and waved on high before the flames are touched to the wicket of thorns surrounding the Priestess on the bier. Ablaze, it is pushed out upon the sea to burn, and slowly sink under the waves with the last rays of the sun.
A tomb is erected in the forest in honor of the Priestess who has left for the Otherworld in her fiery boat. A wolf is set to guard it.

I wrote this essay long ago…in the 1970s… in response to a question given by my favorite art history teacher of all time, Dr. Ellen Kosmer. She was teaching a unique class called ‘Death in Art’ and the first thing she asked us to do was to describe our funeral. As I wondered what to write, I found myself hovering above the scene of this barbaric funeral procession, knowing that the woman on the bier was me, and that this was my funeral.
I thought it was just my wild imagination at work…
I had been studying art most of my teenage years. My themes  were mostly moody, dreamlike, and mystical, and because of this tendency, I was introduced to the art of the Victorian Pre-Raphaelites by a fellow student.  After being totally infatuated by their work, especially the Grail paintings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, I assumed I was being influenced by the popular Victorian images of the Lady of Shallot.  I was very interested in Arthurian Legends and felt that surely these influences had come together to catapult me into this dream of an ancient funeral rite.
During the course of my life, I have learned things that perhaps provide  me with an alternate view of this. In much of my meditation practice, I would find my self hovering above my body looking down at myself before I entered the Otherworld. I also learned, during the hay day of ‘Near Death Experience’ literature, that after death one often hovers above one’s body and looks down at it, attached by what has come to be known of esoteric literature, the “silver naval cord” that ties the physical and spiritual bodies together.
Since then, I have wondered if this essay, written when I was 18 in an art class, was indeed a memory of  a past life death of mine.
To back this notion up, I was told by Jeff Green in my first ever astrology reading, that in a past life I had lived in Scandinavia and been a Rune master.
This essay seems to describe an archaic Viking funeral, the sea burial of a holy woman, and was definitely set in a Northern country.
Could it be so?

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