Reconciliation by Light
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The Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery of the Augsburg Confession in Warsaw. Photo by Krzysztof Belczyński
Dreams and Visions

Reconciliation by Light

On All Saints’ Day and Death
Paulina Olszanka
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time 4 minutes

Coming to Poland as a child was to always encounter life as a different proposition – a world of strange melancholias and lofty metaphysics. There was nothing spookier, nor truer, than going down to the cemetery for All Saints’ Day, to lay a candle on the graves of loved ones; to be left in the silence of flickering lights and falling leaves, and to remember not only those gone, but ourselves too. It has always struck me as something that we could all learn from, a way to put death, or loss, in its place.

Death is, after all, what anthropologists understand to be the great ‘other’, something that we must all have a cosmological answer for. All Saints’, in the Catholic iteration, was created in the 7th century by Pope Boniface IV in honour of the Christian martyrs persecuted by Rome, but the roots of the ritual lie in a deeper consideration. In the pagan rites that preceded the holy day,

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10 New Things We’ve Learned About Death
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Illustration by Igor Kubik
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10 New Things We’ve Learned About Death

Kevin Dickinson

Black cloak. Scythe. Skeletal grin. The Grim Reaper is the classic visage of death in Western society, but it’s far from the only one. Ancient societies personified death in a myriad of ways. Greek mythology has the winged nipper Thanatos. Norse mythology the gloomy and reclusive Hel, while Hindu traditions sport the wildly ornate King Yama.

Modern science has de-personified death, pulling back its cloak to discover a complex pattern of biological and physical processes that separate the living from the dead. But with the advent of these discoveries, in some ways, death has become more alien.

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