Today at the Wildlife Center I work at, we had a raven pass away. Long story short, it healed well after arrival, graduated from indoor clinic to outdoor enclosure, but a few days ago its health started declining out of no where so it was brought back into the indoor clinic, and passed away this afternoon.
Our Education Director is Native American and is always telling us what each animals means in her culture, and not only its impact on the environment, but how and what we can learn from each one, etc.
Once or twice a year she’ll hold a ceremony for an animal who has passed in our care. I’ve never attended one, but today we decided to have one since our interns leave in a couple weeks, and the raven is an important part in Native culture. It’s also pretty cool because there’s a lot of tribal land in Washington (my other job is technically on one of the reservations) and I find Native culture really interesting since it deals a lot with nature. Not many people are given the chance to participate in something like that.
So she said her words and started her rituals. Burning of sage, placed dry tobacco near the head, both sides of the raven, on it’s heart, and reproductive area. The ritual continued with the sage, feather, and all four directions; allowing it’s spirit to go in peace. She then wrapped it in a red blanket and tied with red string (forgot the significance of that) where it’s “vessel” was then taken to the freezer (not buried - we have regulations to uphold). We all got the talk that death was a part of life, and in nature the raven would’ve been food (life) or put back into the earth where it would aid the growing of plants, who then give off oxygen for everything else. Everything connected.
Life and death is something we probably take for granted working at a Rehab Center, since we’re in contact with both every day. This was a really cool moment to take a step back and re-evaluate what our role is at the Center and in life. We all got to feel a bit proud that what we’re doing is important. She then said she wouldn’t mind using the sage on any intern, volunteer, or staff member that wanted it. She could focus on the head if anything was troubling the mind, the heart is something was weighing you down on the inside, or the feet if there was something in the past you wanted to move on from. She said it didn’t matter who our higher power was, but that whoever it was would help. Whether the person being cleansed believed it or not - it was a really cool experience.