Eliot Cowan 1946 – 2022
Eliot Cowan passed away early in the morning of March 5th, 2022. As we gathered at the Blue Deer Center in Margaretville, NY on March 9th where his body laid in state we connected to our grief and were reminded that not only is life wise, sacred, and mysterious but so is death. Therefore, we came together to experience death as an important, enigmatic, and extraordinary part of life rather than something to be denied or defeated.In order to wisely touch and relate to this difficult-to-fathom transition from living, dying and beyond, ancestral wisdom traditions conduct spiritual rites to help the deceased, the family and the community transform and benefit from this divine process that we will all eventually experience. Eliot was a devoted tsaurirrakame-mara’akame and elder in the Wixárika (Huichol) tradition. The ancestors, the elders, and the Gods establish that the rites of müüqui cuevirra, (“bidding the dead farewell”) be performed. These funerary rites help the soul embrace the accomplishments of life, and also assist in confronting and resolving one’s life-blindness, while facing remorse that was not addressed during one’s lifetime. This allows the soul to move on through the intervention of a trained mara’akame who locates the confined spirit and escorts the departed through a journey of their life to a resolution and then onward to the House of Ancestors.
This work was sponsored by the Blue Deer Center and was performed by the attending shaman and tsaurirrakame-mara’akame David Wiley with the support of mara’akate, as well as the funeral padrino and madrina, Patrick Hanaway and Lisa Lichtig. Many people had a chance to come to the Center and pay their respects, share loving memories, place offerings and items on a special altar (müüquitapestiéva), and sit around the fire while watching the gentle snow fall outside. Many others joined virtually via Zoom.
The community came together in a beautiful way with diversity and unity. Everyone stepped up, stepped in, and discovered their way to help. We could feel and appreciate the support of many people expressing emotions, holding vigils, and sharing stories around the world. What was offered at Blue Deer and through our communities helped everyone to be present, feel their grief, and embrace the process of ‘letting go’.
The memorial service and funerary rites happened in phases, continued through the night and into the early morning. They were potent and complete. The soul and spirit of who we knew as our beloved has moved on. In the experience of the tradition, for a period of one year a special space is created to allow the deceased to move more fully into the House of the Ancestors. To assist this process the living are asked to refrain from engaging in stories about him, the use of pictures, videos, writing, recordings, and even caution in using his name. Expressing grief without ‘grasping’ for the one who has passed helps support the ancestralization process, through letting go of the individual. To engage otherwise creates attachments to the person, which can interfere with this spiritual journey. After this time period, the memories, teachings and gifts that we have received from his life will return in a more potent way and will fully honor him for his service and sacrifices.
In this way, we can let the wisdom of death be present in our lives to transform and help us.
With love and appreciation,
Patrick Hanaway, Amanda Kerner and Scott Reid
Board of Directors, Blue Deer Center
A Modern Way to Access Ancient Wisdom
In ancient times we used to gather around the fire, where we connected with each other and received guidance. The deep medicines of sacred places and plant spirits helped us with health concerns. Animal spirits befriended us. Wise elders advised us. When loved ones left this world they were escorted to the place of our ancestors.
Today we have material comforts and advantages not available before, yet we often find ourselves feeling alone, estranged from the natural world, longing for relationship, experiencing health concerns and wondering about our life’s purpose.
Eliot Cowan makes the wisdom and healing of the old ways available to us here and now.