samhain closeup

Samhain’s Passing

Pets are people, too, and the passing of our dearly loved furry companions can leave as much of a hole in our hearts and lives as that of any loved one. My sweet grandkitten Samhain was put to sleep on April 19th, sparking an investigation into the inner workings of the cosmos as regards our feline friends.

 

Samhain has been with me for more than a decade; when he came to me he was just a few months old, and I took him in, along with his mother Ashes and sister Hallows. (The family came in on Halloween – Ashes already had her name before then, but I named her kittens for the holiday; Samhain is the old Celtic word for Halloween, and Hallows is named in honor of All Hallows Eve, its Christian derivation.) They were stray cats, among the first I rescued from our dense outdoor feline population [you can read about them and many other rescues in my book, Cat o’ Nine Tales”]. I intended to keep only Ashes, to foster her children until they had been weaned, and then find them homes. But Samhain and Hallows were not adoptable – Hallows was feral, and Samhain was extremely timorous. To this day, with the exception of a few rare glimpses by my rescue partner John, Samhain has never allowed any other human to so much as see him, if he could avoid it. If I didn’t have the (multitudinous) photos to prove it, no one would believe I had more than one cat!

samhain & hallows

Samhain with his sister Hallows, when they were kittens

But with me, Samhain was very sweet. He didn’t like to be picked up or held, but he liked to be near me, and would stretch out luxuriantly for our long petting sessions. Ironically, despite our closeness and her constant desire to be in my lap, there are areas of Ashes’ body that I still touch only at my peril, but though Samhain wouldn’t be held, he just loved petting! Feet, belly (both no-fly zones for Ashes), it’s all grist to his voracious love of the rubdown.

 

Of course, I am “daddy” to Ashes, but having that moniker for her children also seemed rather incestuous, so I am “pop-pop” to the second generation. And Samhain loved his pop-pop, very much, and it was more than reciprocated.

 

Hallows left us in 2012, and it was only shortly before that when I realized how mercilessly she was bullying her much bigger brother. Samhain’s is a sensitive nature, and he never fought back; the night Hallows left us, Samhain ran around the house, looking for her and crying for his tormentor. (Ashes just ate her dinner as usual.) As kittens they were very close, but after his neuter, both females rejected him at first, hissing and swatting at him, and I don’t think Samhain every fully recovered emotionally from that rejection.

samhain cardinal pillow nap

A cat for all seasons: Samhain cuddling up to his favorite cardinal pillow for a long winter’s nap

But once Hallows was gone, he truly blossomed. That first winter, he actually snuggled with me in the bed at nap times, though sadly, that was not repeated. Anyone else, however, was still firmly persona non grata.

 

Samhain’s health took a turn a few months ago, when he began to leave soft, flat, pancake-like poops in the box. When it hadn’t cleared up after a few weeks, although he was acting normally in every other respect, I bit the bullet and took him to the vet. He hadn’t been since his neutering as a kitten, ten years before. I was dreading the event, and how prescient I was!

 

Some cats, in those traumatic circumstances, will simply shut down completely; others go haywire. Guess which type Samhain was?

 

Yeah, it was a disaster. They couldn’t manage him very well, and were not able to do much for an exam or diagnostics. They did manage to get an antibiotic shot in him, and as a bonus, while racing crazily around the exam room, Samhain knocked out a loose canine that had been giving him trouble, so that saved pop-pop hundreds in dental bills. Good boy!

samhain Valentines day

Samhain roosting on the back of the love seat, ready to offer his heart on Valentine’s Day

The vet prescribed a course of probiotics (yes, they have these for cats!), but after three weeks there was no change. Samhain had to go in again.

 

At this point I was presented with a choice. Mercury had recently gone retrograde, and given its affinity with pets, and its tendency to provoke misinformation or uncertain data, I was very concerned about misdiagnosis or no clear diagnosis at all. So I opted to delay until Mercury went direct again.

 

Thankfully, for my conscience sake, that delay did not affect the outcome, but it did give me almost three weeks to concentrate on being with my boy, and enjoying every minute of it, since I didn’t know what might be coming. In those last weeks Samhain was especially playful, more active than he had been in years, strutting through the house with his favorite toy, a multicolored puff ball, muffling his excited cries.

samhain ostara

Photogenic as ever, Samhain enjoys an illicit seat among the Easter tchotchkes

A few days before the direct station, the “Mercury storm” broke, a period of extremely erratic activity, and often, unstable weather. For us here in Philly, after an unusually cold spring, it brought a sudden jump to 80+ degrees for a couple days, and both cats stopped eating. I didn’t think much of it, dietary blips often happen with weather shifts, and after the temperatures settled back to our standard below normal, Ashes resumed to her usual habits.

 

But Samhain did not. He continued to not eat, and as a consequence of course, also stopped pooping. I could tell he had been losing weight (it turned out he lost a pound in little over a month). So I made a vet appointment immediately. This time we sedated him first, and the test results were not good. Samhain had hyperthyroidism, jaundice with probable liver disease, and was in the early stages of heart failure. As close as we were, Samhain will not allow me to approach “with intent”; even without the additional medical complications, hyperthyroidism meant medication twice daily, and it’s simply not possible to medicate him. I chose to humanely end his life now, before he suffered greatly, rather than watch him slowly deteriorate.

 

I deliberately did not look at the potential aspects beforehand; I wanted the cosmos to work its magic with the timing, so I stayed out of it. I was hoping for Thursday the 19th, simply because it was also the anniversary of the funerals of both my mother and my cousin, so it already had sad associations for me.

samhain & ashes MD

Samhain and mommy Ashes, snuggling in his bed for a Mother’s Day nap

That was the date the doctor chose, and I let her pick the time as well. Our appointment was for 9:20 AM, but traffic was light and we got there by 9. At 9:17 AM EDT my dear boy passed, comfortable in my arms for the first time.

 

The resulting chart is a remarkable example of how the cosmos shows its interest in even its lowliest residents. To begin with, the 23 Gemini Ascendant is conjunct asteroid Child at 25, with asteroid Kitty at 22 Leo on the 29 Leo IC. Samhain was certainly my “fur baby”, and asteroids representing him are caught up in the most time-sensitive points of the chart in the moment he passed. My natal Jupiter at 24 Sagittarius hugs the Descendant, a point many astrologers associate with death as the “final journey.” Kitty is also on my natal Uranus at 20 Leo, then squared precisely by transit Jupiter at 20 Scorpio, with Uranus at 28 Aries in the sky just past its conjunction with the Sun, now at 29 Aries. Asteroid Miller is right there, at 27 Aries, and so is Alexander, in an out-of-Sign conjunction with the Sun from 2 Taurus (my Descendant is 4 Taurus). Although I was aware that there was a problem for months, Samhain’s actual passing did come swiftly, and as a shock. It was less than 48 hours from diagnosis to demise. The combination of Alexander and Miller with the Sun shows the day to be one of special importance for me.

 

A grouping of asteroids Hippokrates, Requiem and Katz at 16, 17 and 24 Cancer overspreads my natal Mercury, ruling pets, at 19 Cancer, and was opposed by transit Mars and Pluto at 17 and 21 Capricorn. Hippokrates, named for the ancient Greek physician of Hippocratic Oath fame, represents the doctor; Requiem is named for the funeral mass for the dead; Katz is a phonetic equivalent of “cats”; Mars natally rules my Sixth House, governing pets; and Pluto is the modern lord of death.

samhain pumpkins

I always called Samhain my “Pumpkin Kitty”; this image shows why

That’s a lot to chew on, but there is much more. My birth name is Kevin, and asteroid Kevin at 27 Scorpio is conjoined by Anubis at 29, named for the ancient Egyptian deity governing funerary rites. These oppose my natal Mars, ruling that pet-related Sixth House, at 26 Taurus. Mars was also activated by an exact conjunction of transit Venus and Osiris, named for the Egyptian god of the dead, at 23 Taurus, signaling the death (Osiris) of a loved one (Venus), with asteroid Sawa exactly conjoined natal Mars. Sawa is one of two asteroids I use for Samhain, named for the Celtic term for Halloween, which is pronounced “Sow-en”. So Sawa is a reasonable phonetic match. Natal Mars’ recent activation by the prior two solar eclipses, at 27 Aquarius and 28 Leo, both in square, was the fertile ground from which this loss germinated. I was acutely aware of my responsibility in this, and dreaded the possible outcomes, but one can’t stop time, the mills of god grind onward.

 

My other celestial referent for Samhain is asteroid Samantha, closest in spelling to his name. Samhain’s doctor is Elizabeth Knighton, and incredibly, there is an exact conjunction of Samantha and Elisabetha, at 19 Pisces, within orb of Neptune at 15 and exactly opposed my natal Moon at 19 Virgo. Neptune represents the veterinary hospital, as well as the lethal injection, and the loss, as you may imagine, brought up a considerable amount of emotions, as well as radically altering my domestic environment, both Moon-ruled. I also have asteroid Katz natally at 10 Pisces, and Kitty at 13 Virgo; both are impacted by this transiting stellium, made all the more powerful by the transit Moon’s exact square to Neptune from 15 Gemini. Forming a Grand Cross of this is transit asteroid Karma at 14 Sagittarius, suggesting an element of predestination to the event; it was, quite simply, Samhain’s time.

 

Dr. Knighton is also represented by asteroid Knight, which at 1 Aquarius is in a T-Square with the Sun/Alexander/Miller conjunction and transit asteroids Rip (for the acronym RIP, “Rest in Peace”, a common tombstone inscription) and Alexandra, at 0 and 3 Scorpio, on my Ascendant at 4 Scorpio. There is another Grand Cross formed by my natal Kevin/Sun conjunction at 0 and 4 Leo.

samhain skeleton

“Alas, poor Yorick!” Hamlet-like, a young Samhain confronts his own mortality

My final celestial referent, asteroid Alex, falls at 6 Aries, with pet-ruling Mercury at 5 Aries and asteroid Lorre, for Lori, the attendant who assisted the doctor with the procedure, nearby at 0 Aries. There is no actual asteroid Lori, but there are a number of compound-named asteroids (first and last names strung together) which begin with that moniker; I chose to look at the position of Lorifini, since “finis” is Latin for “the end.” I was not surprised to find it at 21 Libra, exactly squared transit Pluto and T-Squaring my natal Mercury.

 

Once again, a remarkable convergence of above and below, even as regards the humblest of creatures, and the void they create in their passing. Samhain was an incredibly gentle, loving and sweet-natured soul; may he rest in peace.

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Alex Miller

Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book, detailing deep space points in astrological interpretation, and the forthcoming Heaven on Earth, a comprehensive study of asteroids, both mythic and personal, due in 2018. Alex is a frequent contributor to “The Mountain Astrologer”, “Daykeeper Journal”, and NCGR’s Journals and “Enews Commentary”; his work has also appeared in “Aspects” magazine, “Dell Horoscope”, “Planetwaves”, “Neptune Café” and “Sasstrology.” He is a past president of Philadelphia Astrological Society, and currently a board member for the Philadelphia Chapter of NCGR.

5 comments, add yours.

Jacqueline

Alex, I was sorry to hear about the loss of a dear furry friend. Out pet friends are very much a part of our family. Their passing, leaving us to fend for ourselves in this world without their comfort, is always difficult. My heart and thoughts are with you as you grieve the passing of Samhain. He was an exceptionally beautiful cat.

    Alex Miller

    Alex Miller

    Author

    thanks, Jacqueline; the astrology here was a great comfort, feeling it was the right decision at the right time. but yes, it’s always hard.

Renee

You’re tribute to Samhain is beautiful. You know, I didn’t realize until I read it that I don’t remember ever actually seeing Samhain in the flesh. That is so strange. . . . .

    Alex Miller

    Alex Miller

    Author

    thanks, cuz! no, no one ever saw Samhain, other than a quick glimpse perhaps as he flashed by on the way to the basement, if he got caught unawares by a guest when he was upstairs. as a kitten, before he formally came in, he once ‘visited’ with his mother, when I had the door open during a very warm Halloween party. he actually played with the guests from under the table! (I think you may have been present then.) I don’t know what changed his attitude, but he was absolutely terrified of people.

Trish

This is sad. What a beautiful cat he was! And how lucky for him that he had you!

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