spirit houses…

At 4pm one year ago I said goodbye to Aslan the Wonderdog.  She and I lived together for 15 years.  She was one precious critter.   Since so many of you shared your sacred stories in my Rainbow Bridge post last year, I know I’m not alone in loving a dog in a way I could have never imagined.

Several months after Aslan’s ‘crossing’, my sweetheart Tom presented me with a Spirit House he’d made to honor her spirit.   Tom and I discovered Spirit Houses during our first visit to Alaska in 1997.  We learned that when the Russians came to Alaska in the early 1800’s, they converted many of the native Athabaskan Indians to the Russian Orthodox religion. The traditions of the Natives and the Russians blended in holy ways. One of the most holy is the Spirit Houses found in the Eklutna Cemetery.  They contain personal items to help the spirit in the next life. Each family uses specific colors for their spirit house to identify their clan.  There are no written names.  The three-bar Orthodox cross placed in the foot of the grave identifies members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Even though I’m not Athabaskan nor Russian Orthodox, I fell in love with this concept.  So I put my own Zen Episcopalian spin on it.   Tom and I put this beautiful unpainted cedar Spirit House beside Aslan’s grave marker.  Her last collar (which I’m sure was Aslan’s all time favorite because it has peace signs all over it) hangs on the doorway of her Spirit House.

There’s a long purple bench close by.  It’s a space I often settle to drink my morning coffee while Aslan’s sister Blossom and I anticipate our day.  It’s holy ground.

 I’d be honored to know how you celebrate the spirits of the precious critters who’ve shared your life.

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5 thoughts on “spirit houses…

  1. I celebrate my dogs by placing their photos in a place of honor on my refrigerator. They are remembered for their love, loyalty and their antics!
    Each one is buried in a special section in the field where they loved to run and chase critters. I feel them near each time I pass by.

  2. I’ve loved woodworking for many years, but sometimes I get to do something that truly has a meaning beyond “just looking OK.” Lisa and I were so intrigued with the concept of a spirit house the very first time we saw the ones in Eklutna, AK. Very special that I got to build one for Aslan. It could never be more appropriate. A marker on a special site is always an honor, but a spirit house helps us remember that the spirit of a loved one will always live in that little house….and in our hearts forever.

  3. Like Myra, my girls’ photos remain in special places (both home and office). Bailey and Lucy are buried at the edge of the field in our side yard, right near the woods in a beautiful spot. I’ve planted daffodils at the heads of their grave markers, and we’ve placed a stone bench nearby that makes it easier and more comfortable to spend time beside them. All our dogs love the spot as well. And Lisa, you’re right – it is holy ground.

    My goddaughter Gabrielle has suggested another way for us to honor them. The next female dog we get will likely be named BayLou. 🙂

  4. My dogs were cremated and their remains are in little dog house shaped urns. The urns sit on my piano with a little stuffed dog that looks like one of them. It may seem goofy or odd, but it works for us.

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