London Faeire photographed by Matt Christie
Blog post by London Faerie
Not much about human life is consistent from culture to culture, from place to place; but wherever you go you'll find birth, sex and death. Why? Because without them, there is no human life.
As well as being universal and constant, they are subjects that arouse fear and taboo in many cultures - particularly in the West, where we are somewhat squeamish about and uncomfortable with all three. We have medicalised, sanitised and regulated birth to such an extent that it has become something that we can only imagine as pain and heavy sedation. Sex is everywhere and nowhere, co-opted by the mainstream as a way to sell products while the deeper possibilities for heart connection and intimacy remain challenging and problematic for most people. And death - death, the great leveller, the great constant we hold in awe and terror - death is the biggest taboo of the three. In our skinny latte super youthful grow grow grow and never stop late-Capitalist society, death is too horrific to contemplate, too 'anti-life' to permit in polite conversation.
We can run, but we can't hide. Death will get each of us when *it* is ready, and in a culture that's terrified of ageing and unable to speak openly about death, many will be found deeply unprepared for its arrival.
The irony is, turning away from death is much more anti-life than facing it square-on. And this is the beauty of Death Café: it enables us who are living to talk about death, so we can make the most of our finite lives.
At Sacred Pleasures we do a mean line in exploring sex and sexuality, taking people from co-opted and societally-vetted 'alternative sex' spaces like Torture Garden and Fever, and inviting them into a deep open-hearted community where so much more is possible.
Earlier this year we also explored new approaches to birth through Birth Into Being, a beautiful workshop faciliated by talented shamanic healer Avi Esther. BIB was an exploration of ecstatic birth, a space for people to revisit their early years and their birth, to 're-imprint' those (often unhappy) memories with brighter, sweeter ones.
So it made perfect sense for us to open our last month at our venue "The Pot" by hosting Death Café: a fitting way to celebrate and mourn the end of phase one of this exciting (ad)venture.
As Death Café approached, it was exciting to see the amazing collection of people assembling for it. It felt particularly good to have Death Café's founder Jon Underwood serving the group while grief specialist Kristie West facilitated one circle and I facilitated the other. I was also excited to welcome birth doula Avi Esther, shamanic writer and teacher Shokti and Sacred Kink practitioner Claire Black into the space - many of my chosen family coming together as I moved into mourning for this beautiful space and the magic it has held.
The day came and the energy around it was wonderful. It was a rainy day and almost everyone turned up: a lively 19 participants arrived bearing homemade brownies, skull biscuits and other deathly delights.
Kristie's group discuss life and death
I can't say too much about the things we spoke about over the Death Café table, to respect the confidentiality of those who attended. What I can say is that it was clear from the depth of the discussion, and the beautiful feeling in the room at the end, that this is powerful work indeed. There's something really profound and empowering about lifting the lid off a taboo and giving people permission to dive right into it. From what Jon says about the various Café he's been involved with, people really want to open their hearts and share their experiences about death and dying. They just don't have a space in which to do it, and Death Café enables that beautifully.
After the two groups had talked for an hour and a half, we came together in a big circle and people shared whatever they wanted to with the wider group. Some expressed gratitude, some voiced grief, some remembered loved ones who had gone. Jon, who'd been standing all afternoon doing the tea and cakes, sat down. The feeling of openness, love and connection was palpable. It was a beautiful and fitting way to begin the mourning process for The Pot, and to bring some 'death energy' into our magical space.
After the Café ended people were invited to stay for a movie. In this case I'd chosen "What Dreams May Come" as it felt resonant with the theme and I'd found it heartful and moving when I watched it before. 8 participants from the Café stayed on and watched the film together, and it split people down the middle - half the group really enjoyed the film and resonated with it, the other half did not. No-one was in the middle, and there was an interesting discussion afterwards about what it meant to each person.
As they were leaving one of the guests pointed out that another one was looking quite fragile and might benefit from some grounding. I did a simple grounding activity I'd learnt at a recent Northern Drum workshop, and they immediately started crying. Over the next three hours me and two other practitioners worked together to support this beautiful being to open up a little, and to release some of their own pain around death and loss. It was a very intense impromptu session that felt absolutely 'necessary', something that had emerged naturally from Death Café and could not be denied or postponed. It was happening right now, and I was glad to have support in working with it.
This powerful ending to the day showed the potential of Death Café to help people open and connect with deeper parts of themselves, and although it was quite tough at times, it felt really worthwhile to end the day this way.
All was said and done around 2am, and I collapsed in my bed a contented heap. So much had happened and it had been a beautiful day - not at all morbid, and full of love, heart and soul. I'm glad I had a chance to host a Death Café at The Pot, and look forward to facilitating and attending more of them again in the future. This is beautiful work!
London Faerie is a practitioner and teacher of Ecstatic BDSM. He is the founder of Sacred Pleasures, London's sex-positive space for personal growth.