The Raven

Weight of the Soul

Halloween or Hallowe’en is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31st

One theory holds that many Halloween traditions were influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain (pronounced saa-wn), which is believed to have pagan roots. 

Popular Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising and souling), attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror or Halloween-themed films. Some people practice the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, although it is a secular celebration for others. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.


Since the time of the early Church, major feasts in Christianity (such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost) had vigils that began the night before, as did the feast of All Hallows’. These three days, (Halloween, All Saint’s Day, and All Souls Day) are collectively called Allhallowtide and are a time when Western Christians honor all saints and pray for recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven.

Departed Souls

Thinking of the recently departed brings to mind the topic Weight of the Soul.  Despite its rejection as a scientific fact, MacDougall’s experiment popularized the idea that the soul has weight, specifically that it weighs 21 grams.

Fringed Science

In 1901, Duncan MacDougall, a physician from Haverhill, Massachusetts, who wished to scientifically determine if a soul had weight, identified six patients in nursing homes whose deaths were imminent. MacDougall specifically chose people who were suffering from conditions that caused physical exhaustion, as he needed the patients to remain still when they died to measure them accurately. When the patients looked like they were close to death, their entire bed was placed on an industrial-sized scale that was sensitive within two-tenths of an ounce.  One of the patients lost weight but then put the weight back on, and two of the other patients registered a loss of weight at death but a few minutes later lost even more weight. One of the patients lost “three-fourths of an ounce” (21.3 grams) in weight, coinciding with the time of death. MacDougall disregarded the results of another patient on the grounds that the scales were “not finely adjusted” and discounted the results of another as the patient died while the equipment was still being calibrated.  While MacDougall believed that the results from his experiment showed the human soul might have weight, his report, which was not published until 1907, stated the experiment would have to be repeated many times before any conclusion could be obtained.

Before MacDougall was able to publish the results of his experiments, The New York Times broke the story in an article titled “Soul has Weight, Physician Thinks“. MacDougall’s results were published in April of the same year in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, and the medical journal American Medicine.

In 1911, The New York Times reported that MacDougall was hoping to run experiments to take photos of souls, but he appears to not have continued any further research into the area and died in 1920. His experiment has not been repeated.

Popularized in Media

Despite its rejection as a scientific fact, MacDougall’s experiment popularized the idea that the soul has weight, specifically that it weighs 21 grams. Most notably, ’21 Grams’ was taken as the title of a film in 2003, which references the experiment.  The concept of a soul weighing 21 grams is mentioned in numerous media, including a 2013 issue of the manga Gantz, a 2013 podcast of Welcome to Night Vale, the 2015 film The Empire of Corpses, and a 2021 episode of Ted Lasso. Songs entitled “21 Grams” which reference the weight of a soul have been released by Niykee Heaton (2015), Fedez (2015), August Burns Red (2015), and Thundamentals (2017). Travis Scott references the concept in the song “No Bystanders“, released in 2018. MacDougall and his experiments are explicitly mentioned in the 1978 documentary film Beyond and Back, and episode five of the first season of Dark Matters: Twisted But True. A fictional American scientist named “Mr. MacDougall” appears in Gail Carriger’s 2009 novel Soulless, as an expert in the weight and measurement of souls.

Divine Existence

Your soul is the part of you that consists of your mind, character, thoughts, and feelings. Many people believe that your soul continues existing after your body is dead.  The soul is an incorporeal substance, akin to the gods yet part of the world of change and becoming.  Generally speaking, the human soul is the unphysical entity of the human being apart from the physical matter. Before modern science, humans defined the concept of the soul from a religious point of view. They portrayed the soul to be a mystical and divine existence that existed within the body. 

Is the soul important to our Creator?

The weight of your soul is not a physical thing but instead spiritual.  It is the seat of your memory, your feelings, your imagination, your convictions, your desires, and your affections. In Mark 8:35-36, Jesus says our soul has great value.  This soul is capable of knowing God and enjoying God, and it is capable of sinning against God. This is at the heart of what God is saying when he says, “You are made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). God has breathed life into you and that life will never end.

The early Christian philosophers adopted the Greek concept of the soul’s immortality and thought of the soul as being created by God and infused into the body at conception.

 In Hinduism, the atman (“breath,” or “soul”) is the universal, eternal self, of which each individual soul (jiva or jiva-atman) partakes.

The Egyptian Soul: the ka, the ba, and the akh. The Ancient Egyptians believed the soul had three parts, the ka, the ba, and the akh. The ka and ba were spiritual entities that everyone possessed, but the akh was an entity reserved for only the select few that were deserving of Maat kheru.

The Bible teaches that we consist of body, soul, and spirit: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:23). Our material bodies are evident, but our souls and spirits are less distinguishable.

How does the soul leave the body?

“Good and contented souls” are instructed, “to depart to the mercy of God.” They leave the body, “flowing as easily as a drop from a waterskin”; are wrapped by angels in a perfumed shroud, and are taken to the “seventh heaven,” where the record is kept.

When someone is dying what do they see?

Visual or auditory hallucinations are often part of the dying experience. The appearance of family members or loved ones who have died is common. These visions are considered normal. The dying may turn their focus to “another world” and talk to people or see things that others do not see.

Five Ways to Honor the Dearly Departed on this Holiday

1.  Create jewelry with their handwriting, ashes, or hair

The unique longhand script of your loved one can bring back memories.  If you’d like to wear a one-of-a-kind reminder of their handwriting, consider memorial jewelry that features printed or engraved images of their actual written words.  If you’re unable to find their handwriting, you can always create a memorial necklace made with their ashes or a lock of hair.

2. Keep something of theirs with you

You can make a simple and meaningful tribute by wearing something that belonged to your loved one.  Whether it’s a hat, a scarf, or a piece of jewelry, you will have their memory close to you all day.

3. Frame something they’ve written, like a poem or a recipe

There’s nothing like seeing something written by your loved one and then framed.  Consider putting a treasured letter or another handwritten item in a special frame and remember that special someone whenever you pass by it.  You can buy a pack of simple 8×10 frames, fill them with photos, and hand them out to friends. Or pick up a pack of frames in assorted sizes and make a memorial wall in your home.

4. Live a life of worthiness

The legacy of our parents and grandparents also lives on in us as people. Think about what they valued in life and see how these lessons can inspire you today.  Whether it’s your education, ethics, or other life choices, remember what they would have wanted for you and let yourself be guided by the life they modeled for you.

5. Save them a seat

A respectful commemoration of the loss of your elder might include giving that person a “seat” at special gatherings and events for a period of time after their death.  Setting a place at the table at your holiday meal in their memory can be a reminder of their lasting presence in your family. 

Happy Halloween!



Marc Ward/Shutterstock

There are many things whizzing around our solar system besides the planets. There are asteroids and comets. Most of the time they are all properly classified, but there are times when things can change. According to Space, Pluto went from being a planet to a dwarf planet, which changed the way people remembered the order of the planets — from “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” to “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos,” which disappointed pizza lovers.

Pluto is not the only one to have its designation changed. NASA tells about Ceres, which went from being an asteroid to a dwarf planet. Ceres was first deemed an asteroid in 1801 when the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi saw it through a telescope. It resides in the asteroid belt, so it makes sense that it was first considered to be an asteroid. This was its classification for the next 205 years until scientists changed it to a dwarf planet.


Marc Ward/Shutterstock

Another thing about Ceres, according to National Geographic, is that it is geographically alive. In a 2015 mission where a probe named Dawn found water on its surface — a briny kind. Apparently, running water may have also frozen on it, causing hills and mountains of ice. Scientists also think that there is a deeper reservoir of water under the surface. There may have been conditions for life at one point, and it may even have some clues about its past on it.

NASA has more facts about Ceres, whose size at 296 miles is smaller than Pluto and the Earth’s moon. However, it is still the biggest thing in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is why it became a dwarf planet instead of an asteroid. Its orbit takes a little over four-and-a-half Earth years. It rotates pretty fast, though, in a mere nine hours. The name comes from the Roman goddess of grain crops and harvest — cereal also comes from her name.

Ceres remains a place of interest for scientists since they know that it is one of the denizens of the solar system that has markers for life. They will likely decide to visit it again in the not-too-distant future to learn more about it and build upon the information that they got from Dawn. As far as its designation goes, chances are extremely low that its status will ever be changed back to an asteroid.


What is the simple definition of a planet?

A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

What is dwarf planet?

A dwarf planet is a type of space object that is smaller than a regular planet. Dwarf planets are spherical (round), but they have smaller space objects nearby them (unlike a planet). Pluto is a dwarf planet because, although it is round, there is space junk floating around it.

What are asteroids?

Small rocky bodies orbiting the sun. Large numbers of these, ranging in size from nearly 600 miles (1,000 km) across (Ceres) to dust particles, are found (as the asteroid belt ) especially between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, though some have more eccentric orbits, and a few pass close to the earth or enter the atmosphere as meteors.

What are 5 facts about the asteroid belt?

Image result for the asteroid belt
  • The asteroid belt was first discovered in 1801. …
  • The asteroid belt is a disc shape, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • The asteroids are made of rock and metal and are all irregularly shaped.
  • The size of the objects within the asteroid belt range from being as small as a dust particle to almost 1000km wide.

Magickal Arts

With Halloween right around the corner let’s talk about Magick.

Most people have heard the term “Wiccan” or “Wicca” and know this to be one form of Magickal practice. And yes, Wiccans are referred to as “witches” – which has created an unfair stigma in some ways. I’m sure many of you reading this will already be conjuring up images of witches standing over a cauldron during a dark Halloween night!

Looking deeper into the practice of casting spells as a witch, the imagination soars with curiosity, possibility, and wonder.

I’ve heard these questions from almost every beginner…

  • “What is a Magickal spell?”
  • “Does this really work?”
  • “How do I cast a spell?”
  • “Do I have to join a coven to be Wiccan?”

The truth is, Wiccan or not, we cast spells every day. Every time you HOPE or PRAY for something or every time you WISH someone well…  You’ve cast a spell!

A Magickal Spell is nothing more than a fun, crafty, creative way to put your intention out into the Universe to let it be known what you desire… and what you need right now in your life.

If you do this properly out of a place of goodness and raw emotion (as well as follow up with real action toward your goal) you’ll be amazed at what can happen.

Today, I’m going to share with you 3 very simple spells for prosperity, protection, and developing your psychic abilities.  But first, let’s start with the “what”.

What is Wicca?

Wicca is a spiritual practice based on nature and the idea that everything is connected. In practice, the main ingredient in Wicca and the Wiccan faith is intuition. Your curiosity has led you here – and that means you already have a healthy intuition that is talking to you right now!

Wicca is the largest of the modern Pagan, or Neo-Pagan, religions. Its followers, who are called Wiccans, typically draw inspiration largely from the pre-Christian religions of Europe. Having publicly emerged in England during the 1950s, Wicca is now found primarily in Western countries.  Followers often use the pentagram, or five-pointed star, as the main symbol of their religion.  There are lots of interpretations of Wicca, but the most traditional worship is the Great Goddess and the Great Horned God, who manifest as the Moon and the Sun. Their many yearly holidays follow the cycles of nature. 

Pagans believe that nature is sacred and that the natural cycles of birth, growth, and death observed in the world around us carry profoundly spiritual meanings. Human beings are seen as part of nature, along with other animals, trees, stones, plants, and everything else that is on this earth, and that we are created beings.

Pagan religions follow the female divine principle, identified as the Goddess beside or in place of the male divine principle.  In the Bible, it says we are created in His image.  Since there are both male & female beings it is reasonable to believe our Creator is both.  We should not put our Creator in a box by thinking of only the male aspect.

But is worshiping a Pagan deity, or subscribing to the modern Wiccan religion necessary for you to use magick to manifest your desires?

Wiccan ceremonies are a way of prayer. Lots of other world religions use the same techniques and tools. Have you ever been in church and you see the pastor or priest using an incense burner, candles or blessing an object?

Think of a prayer or ritual like meditation. Anyone of any religion can learn to meditate, and still practice their religion as usual. When you practice magick, you are becoming connected with the life force of the Earth, and all the wisdom that is found there.

What is magick REALLY?

Magick is just energy and the craft of moving energy around. And there is a real abundance of energy! (The ‘K’ in magick is added to distinguish it from stage magic performed by a magician.) This is an anonymous quote from a Wiccan source that sums it up beautifully:

“Magick is the mystery that lies in the secret soul of the world. It is the essence of creation. What we imagine, we have the power to create!”

In film and T.V, magic is supernatural. But Wiccans and other magickal practitioners believe just the opposite. Magick is the most essential part of nature itself. It is the vital essence of the Earth that we find within us. Magick connects you to your best, most organic nature. So yeah, it’s super…natural!

To practice magick is to tap into the unity of the God, Goddess, and the Universe. It is about being a part of the LOVING force that holds everything together. That’s how it works! We are so connected to the world around us, that by using our imagination, and the tools of ritual to aid our imaginations, we can create REAL PHYSICAL CHANGES in the world around us. Magick works, and by its very nature, it is a good and positive force.  One of the main sayings of a Pagan is “Do no harm”.

How do you get started casting Magickal Spells?

Witchcraft combines the tools of ritual with the force of the imagination.

Ritual doesn’t have to be complex though. It can be as simple as making a wish and blowing out your birthday candles. Imagination too is easily within reach. It’s like a muscle and can be developed and trained to respond through repetition. That’s what the ritual is for!

You don’t need to be initiated in a coven or have a lot of special Wiccan “stuff”. Almost any spell can be done with ingredients from your spice cabinet, craft drawer, and backyard. Magick spells can be flexible and creative, so feel free to substitute ingredients or even write your own spells. It is good to have input and guidance from a friendly source or a trusted book, but the magick is truly already within you.

Do these three simple spells and you will be practicing magick, just like that!

Three simple magick spells in three simple steps: for prosperity, to sweep away negativity, and develop psychic powers!

Wiccan Spell #1: Prosperity Spell Candle

Using manifestation for abundance is like turning on a magnet for good luck. Do the work on your end, and the universe will respond with prosperity, as never before!

Get a green candle and a penknife.

Carve an amount of wealth or money you want to manifest on the side of the candle, something within reach.

Burn it each night. As you light it and blow it out, keep the image in your mind of how your life will change once wealth or money arrives. 

The power of positivity is powerful.

Wiccan Spell #2: Sweep Away Negativity

Visualize your way to a home or business that is bright, light, and ready for wealth and success.

Stand in the center of a room holding a household broom.

Imagine golden light coming off the bristles as you sweep the room in a spiral.

End by sweeping out the door, saying, “Shadows be gone, so mote it be!”

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Wiccan Spell #3: Develop Psychic Powers

Psychic powers are really just the ability to use your intuition and recognize patterns. This exercise will trigger your intuition and open the floodgates of synchronicity.

Pick any number, let’s say 11.  Now pay attention to your surroundings and notice the number everywhere you go.

Keep a little diary of what you’ve seen, and jot down any other “coincidences” that start to happen.

If you see two elevens next to each other in an unexpected place, you’ll know your intuition is on the rise!

So what are you waiting for?

And last but not least always give thanks to our creator!

The 5 Largest Meteorites to Ever Hit the Earth



Meteorite impact occurs far more often than you might expect. Cosmos Magazine notes that an estimated 17 collisions occur on the Earth’s surface every, single day. However, because the majority of the planet is covered in water, and vast swaths of the land area remain uninhabited or sparsely populated, it can be easy to overlook these strikes. Still, the majority involve relatively small objects hurtling through the Earth’s atmosphere. When they do eventually land on the surface, they have been minimized significantly by friction and burnout forces (via NASA). While the majority of impacts from meteorites involve small objects, this is not always the case. Scientific belief holds that a massive asteroid is likely responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs on our planet (via Scientific American).

The reality of meteorite impacts is that they are random and happen with an incredible frequency. when paired with the extinction-level impact that scientists believe blotted out the Sun and killed off the dinosaurs, it’s easy to see why asteroid, comet, and meteorite movies are so popular. Similarly, NASA scientists just last month succeeded in a proof-of-concept test designed to understand whether or not diverting a meteorite through satellite impact is possible (as movies often utilize as their central premises).

These five meteorites are the largest known to have hit the Earth, leaving behind hulking remnants that are still studied.

The Hoba meteorite

The Hoba meteorite is the largest single piece of space debris currently on Earth’s surface: Scientists think it landed around 80,000 years ago, coming to rest in what is today Namibia, according to Info-Namibia. Hoba is about twice the weight of the next largest meteorite discovered on the planet and it is uniquely shaped, showcasing a slender, flat form rather than a round and bulbous shape. The meteorite has never been moved from its spot, so scientists don’t know how deep the rock is embedded in the soil. However, scientists believe that this meteorite likely crashed into the Earth at a very oblique angle, causing it to skip along the surface like a flat rock on a lake (via Geology). This would explain why such a large celestial object failed to create an enormous crater at the point of impact.

As with many meteorites discovered across the world, the Hoba meteorite was found by chance. The 60-ton rock, composed predominantly of iron, was found by a farmer who was plowing his field in 1920 (via Geology). As the story goes, he was using a traditional plow pulled by an ox and experienced a scraping sound when the metal blade came into contact with the iron meteorite. Excavation to discover what lay under the surface began, and the resulting find is the largest single meteorite known to humankind.

The Mbozi meteorite

The Mbozi meteorite was discovered in Tanzania and weighs approximately 25 tons. Some of the space objects on this list remained undiscovered for a very long time until scientific methods were located and led to the excavation of hidden gems beneath the soil. The Mbozi meteorite followed a different historical trajectory. This object was partially buried and therefore found centuries prior to its scientific cataloging. The stone has been revered as a sacred icon to local communities in the area for generations and is known as Kimondo (via TripAdvisor). Mbozi is composed of similar material to other large meteorites that have been found on earth, with 90% of its mass made of iron and about 8% nickel, according to Lonely Planet. The meteorite was found in 1930 by those of the scientific community, but as noted, has been known locally for much longer. In 1967, it was deemed a protected monument by the Tanzanian government and is now administered by the department of antiques in Tanzania.

The country is full of unique tourist destinations, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Island, and plenty of destinations for safari opportunities. However, the Mbozi meteorite remains one of the country’s top draws.

The El Chaco meteorite is part of a larger field of fragments

The El Chaco meteorite is part of the Campo del Cielo group of meteorites found in a 60 square kilometer crater field located in Argentina. This meteorite is 37 tons and was found in 1969. Unlike the Hoba meteorite, El Chaco is far more rounded and struck at a more direct impact angle, it was therefore found five meters beneath the Earth’s surface using metal detectors. Having taken a nosedive toward the Earth’s surface, the meteorite and its surrounding fragments all created substantial impact craters and are buried at similar depths (one new piece was recently recovered, in fact, via Science Alert).

One unique feature of the Campo del Cielo meteorite field is that thieves continue to target the area in an attempt to steal fragments of the large El Chaco meteorite and others in the area (via Scientific American). As a measure to combat this problem, the Chaco regional government declared the meteorites as cultural items of interest in 1990 in an attempt to protect this unique impact site.

Scientific American also notes that because of an almost 90-degree attack angle toward the ground, El Chaco landed at a speed of about 14,000 kilometers per hour, and alongside an enormous field of additional debris.

The Bacubirito meteorite

The Bacubirito meteorite was found in Mexico in 1863. The stone is composed mostly of iron and weighs around 20 tons. Today, Bacubirito can be found in a gallery called the Sanctuary in Sinaloa, Mexico (near its landing site). This meteorite is the third largest known and is the longest meteorite ever discovered. The object is 4.25 meters long and roughly 2 meters wide and high (roughly 14 feet by 6.5 feet). Google Arts & Culture also notes that the Bacubirito meteorite has a unique chemical composition when compared to others discovered on the surface of Earth (also discussed by Mindat). While it’s made of mostly iron, this only accounts for around 89% of its composition, with 9.6% nickel, 0.87% cobalt, and 0.14% phosphorus. The meteorite also contains traces of Iridium, a rare earth element, and 117 ungrouped irons (via Google Arts & Culture).

Like other meteorites on this list, the one’s significant level of iron is expected for an object of its size, but the unique composition of specific geochemical properties is striking. National Geographic notes that not all of the meteorites found on Earth are composed of high levels of iron, but the massive stones that humans have uncovered are almost exclusively iron-dominated. This gives them the ability to withstand intense temperature and pressure changes as they make their way through the atmosphere and toward the surface of the planet.

The Cape York meteorite

The Cape York meteorite landed on earth about 10,000 years ago, and its history is uniquely tied to the development of human civilization in the region.

What sets it apart from other celestial objects that have crashed into the surface of the Earth, is that it was clearly found and utilized by humans for thousands of years before being identified by the scientific community (via the University of Washington). The meteorite weighs about 20 tons and shows distinctive signs of scraping and breakage from local area inhabitants who used it to make tools. This makes the meteorite an integral part of early human civilization and the great history of ancient human society in pre-contact North America. Like other meteorites on this list, the Cape York stone is composed primarily of iron, allowing it to fall through Earth’s atmosphere without experiencing an extreme breakup, according to the University of Washington.

This meteorite is still fragmented, however, and pieces of it can be seen in a number of locations around North America. The American Museum of Natural History has three fragments of the Cape York meteorite on display, named The Woman, The Dog, and Ahnighito (via AMNH). What’s interesting about these individual fragments is that they were recovered from various impact sites, with one separated from the others and located on an island across the bay from the primary point of impact. The largest fragment of this meteorite can be seen in the geological Museum of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

What Disappears First During a Crisis

Although North Korea is believed to have a small arsenal, its continued nuclear tests have raised widespread concerns over possible nuclear conflict.  However, the realities underlying the menacing vocabulary lately are a far greyer area than the bluster suggests. It is far from certain that Putin would be prepared to be the first leader to use nuclear weapons in wartime since 1945, over his territorial ambitions in Ukraine. If his primary goal is to stay in power, that could be exactly the wrong way of going about it. 

A nuclear attack could cause substantial fatalities, injuries, and infrastructure damage from the heat and blast of the explosion, and significant radiological consequences from both the initial nuclear radiation and the radioactive fallout that settles after the initial event.  A study last month found that the countries with the best hope of at least seeing their civilization survive during the ten years after a nuclear war would be Argentina and Australia.

How would you survive a nuclear war?  Lie face down to protect exposed skin from the heat and flying debris. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, if possible. If you are in a vehicle, stop safely, and duck down within the vehicle. After the shock wave passes, get inside the nearest, best shelter location for protection from potential fallout.

How far can you survive a nuclear explosion?  At a distance of 40-45 miles, a person would have at most 3 hours after the fallout began to find shelter. Considerably smaller radiation doses will make people seriously ill. Thus, the survival prospects of persons immediately downwind of the bursting point would be slim unless they could be sheltered or evacuated.

How long would it take for the Earth to recover from nuclear war?  Recovery would probably take about 3-10 years, but the Academy’s study notes that long-term global changes cannot be completely ruled out. The reduced ozone concentrations would have a number of consequences outside the areas in which the detonations occurred.

Nuclear attacks are not the only disasters to prepare for. 

In the State of Washington, on October 20th at 10:20 am will be the Great Shakeout.  If you live along the coastline be prepared to hear the drill as the tsunami sirens will be used

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are large-scale geological or meteorological events that have the potential to cause loss of life or property. These types of disasters include:

Severe storms and floods are the most common types of natural disasters reported in the United States. These meteorological events are occasionally preceded by presidential “emergency declarations” requiring state and local planning prior to the event, such as evacuations and protection of public assets. Disaster Distress Helpline staff are available to speak to those who call or text before, during, and after a natural disaster.

Survival Essentials

This is why we are always on the lookout for survival essentials that we can store in case SHTF.

The following list has items that will run out quickly when a national disaster strikes. The list is in no particular order; some items will run out faster than others.




Seasoned Firewood

Oil Lams with Lamp Oil & Wicks

Garbage Bags

Clothes pins/line/hangers

Fire Extinguishers

Batteries (all sizes…buy furthest-out for Expiration Dates)

Matches (“Strike Anywhere” preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first

Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators

Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches

Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting – if with wheels)

Duct Tape



Garden tools & supplies

Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies

Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel

Sleeping Bags& blankets/pillows/mats


Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)

Wagons or utility carts (for transport to and from)

Cots & Inflatable mattresses

Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.

Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws, nuts & bolts

Health & Wellness

Water Filters/Purifiers

Thermal underwear

Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)

Heavy Duty Work Boots, belts, Levi’s & durable shirts

First aid kits

Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams

Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.


Toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels, and flushable wipes

Waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)

Shampoo, toothbrush/paste, mouthwash/floss, and nail clippers

Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)

Laundry Detergent (liquid)

Food & Supplies

Insulated ice chests

Cook Stoves

Charcoal and Lighter Fluid

Manual Can openers, whisks, and kitchen utensils

Aluminum Foil

Milk – Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)

Flour, yeast & salt

Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)

Fishing supplies/tools

Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.

Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)

Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts

Coffee and Teas

Here Are Some Survival Guides in PDFs

Military, Combat and Tactical (51 downloads)

Wilderness Survival Books (51 downloads)

Food and Food Storage PDFs (222 downloads)

Homestead Skills (75 downloads)

Emergency Medicine (42 downloads)

Security and Defense (27 downloads)

General Emergency Preparedness and Survival (100 downloads)

Alternative Energy (2 downloads)

Water Storage, Treatment, and Resupply (41 downloads)

Survival Shelters (36 downloads)

Hygiene and Sanitation (2 downloads)

Knot Tying (16 downloads)

Urban Survival Manual PDFs (11 downloads)

Free Survival Guides (15 downloads)

If you like bushcraft and learning how to use the earth around you to survive in nature, this list is for you. Along with a handful of non-negotiable wilderness survival tools, information found in these downloadable PDFs can help you enjoy yourself more in the outdoors, and could quite literally save your life. Learn about sheltering, foraging, medicinal plants, huntingcold weather survival, bushcraft, and more. 


Foraging for Food

Medicinal Plants


Carrots are one of my favorite foods. Here’s a great recipe to treat your taste-buds.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Bites

Yield: 18-20 balls


1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup shredded carrots, packed

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger


In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until well mixed.  Using your hands, shape into 1-inch balls.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Serve cold.


Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Source: Adapted from She Knows

What is a person’s aura?

Auras are thought of as the unseen field of energy surrounding a person’s physical body. They’re affected by our mood and emotional state (and sometimes the states of others), and different colors are associated with different qualities and emotions. 

According to spiritual beliefs, an aura or energy field is a colored emanation said to enclose a human body or any animal or object.  In some esoteric positions, the aura is described as a subtle body.  Psychics and holistic medicine practitioners often claim to have the ability to see the size, color, and type of vibration of an aura.

In spiritual alternative medicine, the human being’s aura is seen as part of a hidden anatomy that reflects the state of being and health of a client, often understood to even comprise centers of vital force called chakras. Such claims are not supported by scientific evidence and are thus pseudoscience. When tested under scientifically controlled experiments, the ability to see auras has not been proven to exist.

The concept of auras was first popularized by Charles Webster Leadbeater, a former priest of the Church of England and a member of the mystic Theosophical Society. Leadbeater had studied theosophy in India, and believed he had the capacity to use his clairvoyant powers to make scientific investigations. In his book Man Visible and Invisible published in 1903, Leadbeater illustrated the aura of man at various stages of his moral evolution, from the “savage” to the saint.

In yoga participants attempt to focus on or enhance their “auric energy shield”. The concept of auric energy is spiritual and is concerned with metaphysics. Some people think that the aura carries a person’s soul after death.

There have been numerous attempts to capture an energy field around the human body, going as far back as photographs by French physician Hippolyte Baraduc in the 1890s. Supernatural interpretations of these images have often been the result of a lack of understanding of the simple natural phenomena behind them, such as heat emanating from a human body producing aura-like images under infrared photography.

You Can’t See It, But Humans Actually Glow with Our Own Form of Bioluminescence

When you hear about bioluminescence, your mind probably jumps to deep-sea creatures like the angler fish, which uses millions of bacteria to make a light appear in front of its head to catch prey and illuminate your nightmares. But what about humans?

According to a study conducted in 2009 by Japanese researchers, human bioluminescence in visible light exists – it’s just too dim for our weak eyes to pick up on.

“The human body literally glimmers,” the team from the Tohoku Institute of Technology wrote in their study published in PLOS One. “The intensity of the light emitted by the body is 1,000 times lower than the sensitivity of our naked eyes.”

The team made this odd discovery using super-sensitive cameras to monitor five healthy male volunteers for 20 minutes every 3 hours inside a light-tight room for three days straight (in between sleep, of course).

They found that participants ‘glowed’ throughout the day, with the brightest spots appearing around the forehead, neck, and cheeks in the late afternoon. The dimmest bioluminescence was recorded late at night.

And this wasn’t infrared radiation caused by heat – despite how the images might appear. Those signals are actually from photons of visible light (light particles) not caused by heat:

So, what’s going on here? Well, it’s actually a pretty interesting side-effect of our metabolisms.

As Elliot Bentley sums up for The Guardian, human bioluminescence is “the result of highly reactive free radicals produced through cell respiration interacting with free-floating lipids and proteins”.

These excited molecules can then interact with fluorophores, which can emit a photon, and boom, you’re actually glowing.

The team thinks the participants’ heads glowed the most because this part of the body generally sees more sunlight, affecting the melanin inside the skin and triggering the illuminating reaction better than in other areas.

Further backing up the hypothesis that animal bioluminescence is attached to metabolic rates, the researchers suggest that the glow could be linked to the body’s biological clock.

So, in the late afternoon when we’re burning the most energy, we glow the brightest.

The team hopes that in the future, we might be able to scan a person’s body surface to check light levels, indicating possible medical conditions that express themselves in changes in metabolism.

“If you can see the glimmer from the body’s surface, you could see the whole-body condition,” team member Masaki Kobayashi told Charles Q. Choi at Live Science.

So the next time someone tells you you’re glowing, you’ll know they’re speaking the truth.

What To Expect During a Reading

While Kathryn Grace, founder of Aura Shop in Santa Monica California, says that it’s not always possible to see aura colors with the naked eye, we can usually feel them. Think about how certain people give off a super warm and friendly vibe (or really negative energy) even before they say a word; that’s the aura at work. (You can also take a quick aura quiz if you’re curious about your aura color.)

Aura Colors


If you have red in your aura, you are likely an energetic and fiery person, according to aura reader Rachelle Terry. Red auras indicate someone who is “quick at putting thoughts into action” and “doesn’t read instruction manuals.”


An orange aura is related to the sacral chakra, which deals with creativity and sexual energy. Orange in the aura may then indicate flowing creative energy.  Additionally, if orange shows up in your aura, it might mean you “tend to learn lessons from experience rather than theory” and “often have to learn things the hard way.”


As you might have guessed with this cheery color, yellow auras signify someone who is sunny and charismatic. They may also have a magnetic personality that attracts lots of different people.

Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra, which deals with your identity and confidence. Yellow in your aura, then, is a good sign that you’re feeling confident and empowered.


Green is one color associated with the heart chakra, so it relates to matters of the heart: love for yourself and others, compassion, and forgiveness.  If you have green in your aura, you probably love “music, nature, and not being tied down.” Because a green aura indicates a particularly open heart,  there may be a tendency to be easily influenced by one’s environment or other people, making boundaries important for this aura color.


If there’s pink in your aura (the other color, along with green, associated with the heart chakra), you likely live from the heart. You’re “kind, caring, and loving.” Like green, seeing pink is a sign that your heart chakra is open and receptive. Celebrate your kind and compassionate nature but remember the need for boundaries.


Blue in someone’s aura is a sign of a powerful mind—but one that might be a bit in the clouds. Those with lots of blue in their aura “operate more in the mental realms” and need to remember to ground themselves. But they can also be very insightful.  Blue is the color of the throat chakra, governing expression, and truth. If your throat chakra is clear and flowing, the blue in your aura would signify the outward expression of the insights you hold inside.


Purple auras get a lot of attention because this is the color associated with strong intuition and sensitivity, and great mental depths.  Purple is the color of the third-eye chakra, which deals with intuition. If you have purple in your aura, you may have some psychic, empathic, or intuitive abilities.


An indigo aura often indicates a highly sensitive and empathic person who absorbs thoughts, feelings, emotions, and traumas of others.  And the darker the indigo aura, the more sensitive the person with darker shades of indigo indicating saturation of this ability and an overwhelm of others’ energies within themselves.


It’s a bit rare to see concentrations of white in one’s aura. But if you do it is the sign of a very quick mind—and a tendency for perfectionism and nervous energy.  White is linked to the crown chakra, which connects us to universal energy and oneness. To see it in your aura would mean you have a strong sense of connection to something larger than yourself.


If there are black or particularly dark areas of your aura this isn’t actually the “color” of your aura, per se, but rather a sign that part of you is exhausted or fatigued.  In this case, take some time to ground, heal, and balance your energy levels to brighten up that aura a bit, and bring your energetic field (and chakras) back into balance.


On the slight chance that you have a rainbow aura that displays more than two colors, it’s a sign that you’re going through a super busy period or are in the midst of a change.  You might feel extra energized and confident when your aura is giving off rainbow vibes, so take advantage of it by getting out and meeting new people and doing new things. On the other side of the coin, this busy energy can lead to burnout and overwhelm, so be sure to make time for relaxation too.

The takeaway

Our aura is constantly changing—but for many people, one or two colors will consistently show up. Whether one day you’re blue, yellow, or red, understanding the energy of your aura at any given point can help you approach the day with more ease.





The Guardian


A community is a group of people who have a shared sense of belonging and identity around which they can coalesce.

Communities can be small, like a neighborhood, or large, like a global community. They may be geographically defined, or, defined by shared interests and beliefs. In general, they are support networks that provide a sense of security and comfort to the members. They can also be important places for networking and resource-sharing.

Examples of Communities

Business Communities

community is a group of people who have a shared interest in the well-being of businesses. This includes business owners, employees, customers, and suppliers.

We might also sometimes call this the entrepreneur community.

The business community can come together to promote the interests of businesses, or to advocate for certain policies. They may also provide resources and support to up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

A great example is LinkedIn

City Communities

A city can also be considered a community because all people within the city are united in their shared interest in improving or maintaining their city’s culture and livability.

A city is often administered by an organized political group such as the city council which acts as the decision-making hub for the community. Similarly, libraries, schools, and sporting groups act as meeting points for members of a city.

The great city I live in is a wonderful community and even has a Community Club every citizen is a member of.

Ethnic Communities

An ethnic community is a group of people who share the same cultural heritage. This includes shared traditions, language, and values.

Ethnic communities who are expatriates of their ethnic homeland will often coalesce in a specific neighborhood within a city. The quintessential example of this is the Chinatown neighborhood which emerges in most major world cities.

This is a place where Chinese immigrants often start out their new lives where they can communicate with other expatriates who can help them settle into their new lives.

BlackPlanet: Initially, BlackPlanet was designed as a way for African-American professionals to network. Since then, it’s grown and evolved as a site operating under the principles of Web 2.0. Members can read other members’ blogs, watch music videos, chat with one another, look for new careers and discuss news. Though BlackPlanet is not restricted to any community, this site is more popular amongst African-Americans. This site helped Obama to connect to nearly 200,000 potential supporters.

Farming Communities

A farming community is a group of people who share the common interest of working in agriculture. Small towns whose economies are largely dependent on farming are generally referred to as farming communities. They’re typically very supportive of one another and pitch in to give each other support, but also often skeptical of government regulation and interference.

Hobby Communities

A hobby community is a group of people who share the same interests and hobbies. They often come together to socialize and enjoy their shared activities.

Examples of hobby communities include book clubs, knitting clubs, chess clubs, and collectibles.

People who are passionate about their hobbies often have a great sense of community and camaraderie with other people who share the same passion.

One such community is Collect to Connect; connecting collectors. 

Online Forum Communities

Web-based social networking services make it possible to connect people who share interests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders.  An online forum is a website where people can have discussions about a variety of topics.

There is a plethora of on-line communities now. The following is a list of the largest social networking services, in order by the number of active users, as of April 2021, as published by Statista:

ServiceActive users (in millions)
Sina Weibo566

There are also a few unknown but up-n-coming sites:

Philanthropic Communities

A philanthropic community is a group of people who are dedicated to promoting the well-being of others, often through charitable work.  Philanthropic communities are often formed around a cause or social issue that members are passionate about. For example, there may be a community dedicated to fighting poverty or one that works to promote education in developing countries.  Members of philanthropic communities often have a strong sense of social responsibility and altruism.  An example of a philanthropic community is the effective altruism movement.

Political Communities

A political community is a group of people who share the same political beliefs or ideology and who have come together to leverage their power in numbers.  Political communities can be local, national, or international in scope. For example, within a nation, a political community may form a political party such as the Green Party, the Democratic Party, or the Republican Party.  Internationally, it may take the form of a bloc of nations such as the Soviet bloc, the European Union, or the Arab League.

An example of a political community is

School Communities

A school community is a group of education stakeholders affiliated with a school, typically students, staff, and parents. The parents and community committees within schools are influential decision-making bodies where the community can come together. The school principal is the executive leader of the community.  School communities might come together to make decisions about the teaching methods the school will use, the teachers they will employ, and the new infrastructure projects that may be necessary.

There is also another type of school community called Classmates where you can reconnect with old friends from your school days.

Sporting Communities

A sporting community is a group of people who share a love of a particular sport.  Examples include the swimming, golfing, football, and baseball communities.

There may also be close-knit fan groups who feel connected to the players. For example, the fans of the Seattle Seahawks call themselves the “12th man” and consider themselves to be an important part of the team.

Connecting fans with players is

Tribal Communities

A tribal community is a group of people who identify with a tribe. In North America, these are indigenous tribes who come together to continue their traditional culture, language, and arts.

The largest Native American tribes are the Cherokee, the Navajo, and the Sioux.

One way for tribes to connect is the Facebook group socialdistancepowwow

International Communities

Zorpia  is a social network that has a large international community. Zorpia’s features include profile customization, networking features and an incredibly detailed search. Zorpia has an impressive music section featuring popular artists like Ashlee Simpson, Vanessa Hudgens, Alanis Morissette and more. 

Cryptocurrency Communities

Cryptocurrencies, of which Bitcoin is the best known example, are decentralized tokens that serve as mediums of exchange and stores of values.

In short, they serve the purpose of subverting conventional currencies in the digital world. They can be used to help people evade taxes and government detection.

Cryptocurrencies first caught the world’s attention in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis that demonstrated the disproportionate amount of power central banks had acquired over the global financial system, and by extension, the lives of billions of people across the world.

To break the monopoly of central banks, software engineers proposed to shift the power to print money away from central banks, and thus to decentralize the global monetary system.

For a long time however, cryptocurrencies were not taken seriously. They were seen at best as a countercultural movement composed of shady, anonymous forum posters confined to the virtual world.

Crypto enthusiasts, however, were more than just another underground internet subculture. They were driven by a desire to disrupt one of the most fundamental pillars of human society – the banking system.

Even today, cryptocurrencies divide the opinion of national policy makers, with the majority still not willing to accept cryptocurrencies as legal tender.


These are just a few examples of the different types of communities that exist. There are many more, and new ones are forming all the time.

Communities provide support, connection, and a sense of belonging for their members. They can be an important part of people’s lives and important support networks.

Today, with the rise of the internet, it’s easier than ever to find and connect with people who share your interests, no matter where you are in the world.

Small Business Grants for Women

I’m all about empowering women so here are a few grants for women-owned businesses.

If you’re a woman who has a business or wants to start one, take a gander at these grants.

Understandably, the competition for small-business grants is fierce, and it takes considerable time and effort to win them. But if you’re up for the challenge, grants can be a great way to fund your new or existing business.

If the application window isn’t open yet, set a reminder. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to craft the perfect application and gain a competitive edge.

1. The Amber Grant

WomensNet founded the “Amber Grant” in 1998. The grant was set up with one goal in mind: to honor the memory of a very special young woman, Amber Wigdahl, who died at just 19 years old — before realizing her business dreams.

Today, WomensNet carries on that tradition, proudly giving away at least $30,000 every month in Amber Grant money. In recognition of the diversity of businesses owned by women, we’ve also expanded our grant-giving to include “Marketing Grants,” “Business Category Grants,” as well as two “$25,000 Year End Grants.”

The nice thing about this grant is you don’t have to use corporate language or fancy synonyms. Judges look for passionate and heartfelt ideas and businesses — from dog walkers to scientific investors.

Again, the application is straightforward: name, company, and other basics. You just type a few sentences about your business, what you’d do with the money, and any other comments you think will help set you apart.

Note: there is a $15 application fee, but it’s totally worth it if you win.

2. Idea Café Small Business Grants

OK, so this isn’t solely for women-owned businesses, but the majority of the grant winners have been women, so it’s worth mentioning.

For example, the recipient of the 19th Small Business Grant was Angela Pullo, the owner of Mew Haven Cat Café.  Mew Haven cat cafe is a coffee shop with adoptable shelter cats. With an hourly entry fee, people can go in and play with cats. Some people can`t have cats, and this provides a form of stress relief. Some people who want to adopt can get to know the cats` personalities before they adopt. Check them out at

This $1,000 grant is for anyone who creatively solves an everyday problem. It’s not an astounding amount of money, but it’s a great start, so keep an eye open for when the newest application is posted.

3.  National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants

Annually, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) awards numerous grant prizes of $4,000 each to its members. To become a member, you need to pay a $120 membership fee per year. As a member, you receive networking opportunities, mentorship resources, discounts on business products, and legislative advocacy.

In order to qualify for their Growth Grants program, along with being a NASE member, you have to show a specific business need that the grant can help. So, to show how the grant helps your business’s growth and success, you need to include a resume and a business plan.

4. FedEx Grant

The first winner of the FedEx grant was Nicole Snow and even though this isn’t necessarily just for women entrepreneurs, women small business owners are heavily encouraged to apply. Since 2012, the Small Business Grant Contest has awarded more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes to over 100 small businesses. The contest, which awards unique and innovative small businesses, has drawn more than 50,000 entrants—including nearly 18,000 in 2022. We love seeing our winners continue to grow.

5. IFundWomen Universal Grant Application Database

IFundWomen is a grant marketplace that specializes in funding and coaching for women-owned businesses. You can submit one application and when IFundWomen adds a grant from an enterprise partner, it will match the partner’s grant criteria to applications within the database.

If your business is a match, you’ll receive a notification and invitation to apply. Previous grant partners have included companies like Visa, Neutrogena and American Express. is a database of federally sponsored grants, including grants for small businesses. Although these grants are not exclusive to women-owned businesses, this database is a great place to start if you’re looking for free financing.  To apply, you must obtain a Unique Entity ID for your business (a 12-character alphanumeric identification number), register to do business with the U.S. government through its System for Award Management website and create an account at  To view grants specifically for small businesses, filter the results on the left side of the page under “eligibility.”

You can also look into SBA loans, which are affordable business loans for small business owners. SBA has a number of resources available for female entrepreneurs.

In addition, keep a note of small business trends to ensure you’re on the right track when opening or enhancing your business.

As an alternative to obtaining a grant you can also “Crowdfund”

Creating a fundraising campaign on a crowdfunding platform can help you get financing. 

Crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to tap into the power of the internet to raise money for their small businesses. It not only gives business owners a relatively inexpensive way to bankroll a fledgling business idea, it also helps promote a company’s product or service on social media and build a base of enthusiastic customers.

Setting up a crowdfunding campaign is simple: You use a crowdfunding platform to create a profile for your business, project or service, set a funding goal and publish your request online. Interested people can then give cash donations to your cause, often in exchange for company assets in the form of rewards or equity. Sharing links to your listing can generate further interest and more funding.

What are the benefits of crowdfunding?

For small-business owners, the benefits of crowdfunding are twofold: You find funding for your business idea and get the word out about your product or service.

Think of crowdfunding like networking on steroids. Instead of attending events with a limited number people to drum up support for your business, you reach a broader group of potential investors. This often starts within your own social sphere as you share your request with family and friends via social networks.

It’s also more of a grant than a loan, because you don’t have to pay back the funds or worry about interest rates.

Female entrepreneurs tend to have more success with crowdfunding platforms than their male counterparts. According to “Women Unbound: Unleashing female entrepreneurial potential,” a report from PwC and the Crowdfunding Center, women across the globe are 32% more likely to reach their financing goals using crowdfunding than men.

The report suggests that crowdfunding levels the playing field for women because it opens financing to investors outside of traditionally male-dominated venture capitalist firms. Women also tend to use more personal language in their pitches, which helps foster emotional connections, while men take a more formal approach, often using business jargon.

Still, as the report found, crowdfunding is not guaranteed cash — just 22% of campaigns led by women reached their financing goals. You don’t know exactly how much financing you’ll walk away with, and if you don’t hit your funding goal, that amount could be zero.

What are the different types of crowdfunding?

The two most common types of crowdfunding for small business owners are rewards-based and equity-based.

Rewards-based crowdfunding

In rewards-based crowdfunding, donors receive a product or service related to the project, with the value depending on the amount donated. For instance, a $5 donation might be rewarded with a handwritten thank you card, while $50 or $100 might bring early access to your company’s product or service.

Rewards-based crowdfunding is a good idea for small business owners looking to get their business off the ground without being beholden to shareholders or weighed down by loan repayments.

Rewards-based crowdfunding platforms: Kickstarter, Indiegogo

Equity-based crowdfunding

In equity-based crowdfunding, donors receive shares in the company; the number is based on the amount of the contribution. Contributors choose to invest in companies they believe will be successful in the future, as the success of the company directly influences the return on donors’ investments.

This method of crowdfunding is a good idea for small businesses with solid growth plans. You’ll be left with investors in your company, which could result in potential hiccups, including increased scrutiny from regulators.

Equity-based crowdfunding platforms: Republic, CircleUp

Fundable, a crowdfunding site specifically for small businesses, allows you to choose between equity- and rewards-based funding.

Keys to crowdfunding success

Your business stands out in a crowd: A successful crowdfunding campaign relies on your ability to capture potential investors’ interest. It means you have a unique product that fills a consumer void and a strong personal or business story that compels investors to give you a chance.

Investors value your reward: You’ll want to make sure you offer either equity or a reward that is compelling enough to capture interest.

You have a wide network: Having family and friends willing to support and promote your cause can amplify your fundraising efforts. Without a strong promotional base, it’s harder to reach your financing goals.


Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.


I recently received an email from a newsletter I subscribe to and in it was this story:

My mother and I took a taxi to visit my father’s grave for the first time the other day.

The graveyard is called Karşıyaka — “the other shore”. The name doesn’t refer to a seashore; Ankara is a long way from the sea. The taxi driver finds the plot for us, or we’d be lost.  He looks down at the little note we gave him, walks along the rows, and finally points out the granite gravestone that has my father’s name carved into it.

When we stood shivering at the same spot, in the middle of winter, this section of the massive necropolis was a patch of muddy, icy ground in the dismal steppe wasteland. We couldn’t see much for our tears and for the falling snow. Now the same patch is tightly packed with graves, built up in stone and bare earth sectioned off by kerbstones.

The taxi driver, seeing us as absolutely useless, takes charge. He calls to a group of gravediggers working nearby to ask them about planting the plot with some evergreen ground cover and winter pansies. He herds the little boys who come to water the flowers, divvies the tip between them, and then shoos them off. When I ask about the little hollow at the foot of the kerb enclosure, he informs me that it’s for the birds to drink from. The birds carry your prayers for the dead. He duly fetches a bottle of water from the boot of his taxi to fill the hollow with water.

On the drive home, he tells us that he’s the head of the taxi stand and that we should call him if ever we need anything. He hands me his card, and I read his name — it’s Hayati, meaning, “of life”, or “vital”.

That’s when I realize that we’ve been under the care of a “psychopomp”, a guide to the underworld. As I thank Hayati Bey for his help and pay him his fare, I’m thinking about how myths can still help us recognize the patterns in our modern-day lives, and if not ease our passage, then at least give us a diverting story to retell.

So being a lover of words I had to look up “psychopomp”.  The definition is (in Greek mythology) a guide of souls to the place of the dead.

  • the spiritual guide of a living person’s soul.
  • “a psychopomp figure who stays by her and walks in her dreams”

Psychopomps are creatures, spirits, angels, demons, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply to guide them.

Classical examples of a psychopomp

The ancient Egyptian god Anubis, the deity Yama in Hinduism, the Greek ferryman Charon and god Hermes, the Roman god Mercury, the Norse Valkyries, the Aztec Xolotl, Slavic Morana, and the Etruscan Vanth.

In modern religion

Heibai Wuchang, literally “Black and White Impermanence”, are two Deities in Chinese folk religion in charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the underworld.

The form of Shiva as Tarakeshwara in Hinduism performs a similar role, although leading the soul to moksha rather than an afterlife. Additionally, in the Bhagavata Purana, the Visnudutas and Yamadutas are also messengers for their respective masters, Vishnu and Yama. Their role is illustrated vividly in the story of Ajamila.

In the Persian tradition, Daena, the Zoroastrian self-guide, appears as a beautiful young maiden to those who deserve to cross the Chinvat Bridge or a hideous old hag to those who do not.

In Islam, Azrael plays the role of the angel of death who carries the soul up to the heavens. However, he only acts with the permission of God.

A Jewish Psychopomp is the archangel Samael whose role in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore is both as Angel of death and accuser.

In many cultures

The shaman fulfills the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead but also helping at birth, to introduce the newborn child’s soul to the world.  This also accounts for the contemporary title of “midwife to the dying” or “End of Life Doula”, which is another form of psychopomp work.

In Filipino culture, ancestral spirits (anito) function as psychopomps. When the dying calls out to specific dead persons (e.g. parents, partners), the spirits of the latter are supposedly visible to the former. The spirits, who traditionally wait at the foot of the deathbed, retrieve (Tagalog: sundô) the soul soon after death and escort it into the afterlife.

In Christianity, Saint Peter, Michael the Archangel, and Jesus are thought of as psychopomps either as leading the dead to heaven or, as in the case of Peter, allowing them through the gates.

The underworld is perhaps the most important motif in mythology and literature – tied up with ideas about life, the afterlife, belief, culture, storytelling, and the psyche, it’s the setting of humanity’s reckoning with the ephemeral nature of mortality.


In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal.

The underworld is a world of adventure, the underworld is a world of the dead.

In dreams, or in your Mind’s Eye, the “Threshold of Adventure” is when you leave the Ordinary World behind. The rest of your story takes place in this symbolic underworld until your psyche crosses the threshold once again and returns home.

Who are some of the Psychopomps?


Charon is the ferryman who, after receiving a soul from Hermes, would guide them across the rivers Styx and/or Acheron to the underworld. At funerals, the deceased traditionally had an obol placed over their eye or under their tongue, so they could pay Charon to take them across.


Also known as the Pale Horseman, the same as that of the ancient Greek personification of death, and the only one of the horsemen to be named.  His counterpart in Roman mythology is Mors or Letum. Thanatos is the son of Nyx (Goddess of Night) and brother of Hypnos (God of Sleep).


Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC).  Anubis is a jackal-headed deity who presides over the afterlife as well as the patron god of lost souls and the helpless. When the dead are being judged by Osiris, Anubis places their hearts on one side of a scale and a feather (representing Maat) on the other.


Yama and Yami are, in some myths, the first humans and creators of the human race, but in other versions, Yama is the first human to die and so the first to pass into the next world.  Yama (Sanskrit: यम), is the Hindu god of Death and Justice and is responsible for the dispensation of law and punishment of sinners in his abode, Yamaloka. Yama is also one of the oldest deities in the pantheon and some of his earliest appearances are found in the Rigveda. 


Mercury is a major god in Roman religion and mythology. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery, and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.  He was awarded a magic wand by Apollo, which later turned into the caduceus, the staff with intertwined snakes.

The Caduceus was a mark of professionalism long before there were accreditations to be had. Using the two snakes is a nod to those efforts to make the trade professional and accountable. But if you want to be accurate, it’s the staff with one snake you’re after.

Interesting side note: there is also a snake staff in the Bible: According to the Bible, Nehushtan was a metal serpent mounted on a staff that Moses had made, by God’s command, to cure the Israelites of snake bites while wandering in the desert. The bronze serpent on a rod, whose mere contemplation is sufficient to cure anyone bitten by a snake, symbolizes salvation. The image thus foreshadows Christ’s crucifixion, which brings redemption to humankind and triumphs over the mortal serpent of Original Sin.


A Valkyrie is a figure in Norse mythology depicted as a warrior woman on horseback, a wolf or boar, and armed with a spear. A Valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who guide the souls of the deceased on one of two paths. Selecting among half of those who die in battle go to Fólkvangr, Freyja’s afterlife, and the other half go to Odin’s hall called Valhalla. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar.


In Aztec mythology, Xolotl was a god of fire and lightning. He was commonly depicted as a dog-headed man and was a soul guide for the dead.  In addition, the Aztecs believed Xolotl was the Sunset god; he accompanied and guarded the Sun into the land of Death every night. The world was said to have been destroyed four times before our present age. Xolotl was said to have transformed into a salamander (Axolotls), among other forms, to avoid being sacrificed so the sun and moon could move in the sky. 

Note about Axolotls:  These Mexican amphibians are impressive enough on their own, with the ability to regenerate lost limbs and stay “young” throughout their lives.


Some medieval Christian sources such as the Czech 13th century Mater Verborum compare her to the Greek goddess Hecate, associating her with sorcery.  Morana has many names: Marzanna (in Polish), Morė (in Lithuanian), Marena (in Russian), Mara (in Ukrainian), Morana (in Czech, Slovene, and Serbo-Croatian), Morena (in Slovak and Macedonian) or Mora (in Bulgarian).  She is a pagan goddess associated with seasonal rites based on the idea of death and the rebirth of nature. She was imagined either as a black-haired, pale woman with fangs and claws or similar to Baba Yaga – as an ugly, old witch.


Vanth is an Etruscan Goddess of the Underworld, perhaps a psychopomp, whose presence indicates recent or impending death. Her character is a little ambiguous—for while She is present at these scenes She does not usually take an active role, and thus some authorities call Her an “angel”, others a “demon”.  She is almost always shown with great arching wings that spread out behind Her and which have probably contributed to the appellation of “angel”. Sometimes Her wings are painted with eyes, perhaps to represent all-seeing and inevitable death. She carries a torch with which to light the dark Underworld. She can also be shown with a key with which to open the tomb or gate to the Underworld; and/or with snakes twined around both forearms, their heads in Her hands.  She is quite frequently depicted as a partner to Charun, the Etruscan version of the Greek Charon, the Underworld guardian whose job it was to ferry souls over the river Styx. One favorite way of pairing them was to paint one on each side of the door of a tomb as if guarding the entrance.


Shinigami are gods or supernatural spirits that invite humans toward death in certain aspects of Japanese religion and culture. The death spirit’s job is to invite mortal humans to death, which sounds much more polite than having your soul reaped by a tall skeleton in a robe. However, just which kami are true Shinigami is not always clear.  The word “Shinigami” is made from two other Japanese words: “shi” and “kami”. These literally mean “death” and “god”.  In Japanese mythology, the world is filled with kami of various sorts. Everything in the world has a spirit that governs it. There are kami of the sky, kami of the rivers, kami of luck, and, of course, kami of death. These are the Shinigami.  Shinigami have been described as monsters, helpers, and creatures of darkness.

Grim Reapers

Despite their Western origin, many people will refer to both the Death Note characters and the folkloric Shinigami using the Japanese name instead of the English translation or even “Grim Reaper”.  Death is frequently imagined as a personified force. In some mythologies, a character known as the Grim Reaper causes the victim’s death by coming to collect that person’s soul.  Death, especially when personified as a man or skeleton, is described with a scythe.  The Grim Reaper has often – falsely – been depicted as an evil spirit that preys on mortals. In truth, however, they are neither evil nor good, merely a force of nature and order.  Death makes its home in the Realm of Death, a dimension normally inaccessible to the living.  Just like other psychopomps, the Grim Reaper’s job is to escort departed souls to the afterlife. The Reaper doesn’t necessarily take a soul to Heaven, Hell, or any other religious afterlife. It simply helps the recently deceased cross the boundary between this life and whatever’s on the other side.