In Memory of Olivia Robertson (1917 – 2013)
Mystic, psychic, author, artist, and co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis
Now as a spirit
I shall roam
The summer fields.
Haiku by Hokusai
Joyful, amazing Olivia Robertson died on November 14. Here is a brief account of her funeral, which has just taken place in Ireland.
On the day before the funeral, Olivia lay in an open wicker coffin in her sitting room in Huntington Castle, white lilies beside her, candles burning, the mirrors in the room covered with white sheets, a honey coloured spaniel asleep on the floor at the head of her coffin.
An atmosphere of peace filled the room. Olivia now looked so different from how she had seemed in life. There was a solemn dignity in her face. She looked truly like a priestess, and like her brother Derry too. The spaniel lay so still – as if in spirit it was accompanying Olivia to the Otherworld.
Sitting in the peace of her room it was easy to remember her and to hear her voice, and easy too to imagine her talking: “Don’t think of me as dead, that’s not the way to go about this at all. I’ve woken up. I’m alive! Dying is a joyous process, a birth in the Other World. You must always remember that, and allow your imagination and your psychic faculties free rein. Think of it as painting with the brightest colours you can imagine. You have complete freedom in the imagination and in the Other world. Don’t let other peoples’ opinions concern you. They may say you’re dotty or weird, but it doesn’t matter a hoot. Allow yourself to be as creative as you like, and always remember that in being creative you have complete freedom.”
Next door in the dining room were tea and cakes. Olivia’s family and friends were there alongside neighbours from the village. This was a wake in the traditional Irish style, held before rather than after the funeral.
The castle was looking glorious in bright winter sun, its flag at half mast, and the trees in their full autumn colours. The maple by the castle gate shone like a red sun. Olivia had left with the fall of the leaves, a few weeks after Samhain, and a few weeks after she had suffered a stroke. Even though 96 years old, up until then she had been leading her usual busy life, writing letters, composing liturgies, painting and leading, as always, the Fellowship of Isis. But now, no longer able to work in the world, she had slipped away while sleeping.
The day after the wake, we gathered in the temple, in the basement of the castle, for a moving Fellowship of Isis ritual. Surrounded by her paintings and the powerful atmosphere of the temple, the harp music and the words of the ritual brought a strong sense of Olivia in spirit as we wished her well on her journey. We then followed the priestesses and priest out of the temple. Accompanied by two drummers, Julie Felix sang with her guitar, and we joined in as we took the 900 year-old yew walk through the castle grounds to wait by the gate.
Soon the piper arrived, and Olivia’s great-nieces carried her coffin to the waiting hearse. The piper led the procession as a hundred or so mourners followed the hearse down the great Lime avenue that leads from the castle to the village of Clonegal, and then up through the main street to St.Fiaac’s church.
In the temple we had been told that Olivia wanted ceremonies of the Goddess and the God, and so we all filled the church, and a Church of Ireland funeral service followed. Her niece, Anna Currey, gave a eulogy which managed to convey a strong sense of Olivia’s character and uniqueness, and the coffin was then carried outside by her great-nephews in the fading afternoon sun. As the priest recited the final prayer and his words floated across the crowd, ‘Like a flower we blossom and then wither, like a shadow we flee and never stay,’ a gust of wind picked up hundreds of golden leaves and showered them over the grave and all those standing beside it. And the last word was with the Goddess – Julie Felix picked up her guitar and sang the familiar Irish blessing ‘May the Road Rise up to Meet You’, but with the final line sung as ‘and until we meet again, may the Goddess hold you in the palm of Her hand.’
You can read the facts of Olivia’s life in her Wikipedia entry, and you can fill out these facts and get a feel for her, and her reputation, from the obituaries that have just been published in The Times and The Telegraph.
A cursory look at the many clips of her on Youtube, and at the full-length, excellent documentary available on DVD about her, can give the impression that she was just a delightfully eccentric lady, but in reality she was much more than that. She was someone who was immensely knowledgeable and wise. And she could change people’s lives. She certainly changed mine, and I am very grateful that I knew her. She opened me to the reality of the Otherworld through her extraordinary technique of inner journeying, and it was thanks to her, Pamela and Derry, that I left the sterile world of the university and went to live and study with her at the castle: an enchanting and completely life-changing experience.
Long may Olivia’s energy and insights, her humour and intelligence, inspire us all! Blessings to you, dear Olivia!
In the videoclip below Olivia talks about her painting and about our energy bodies in the Otherworld.