Earlier this month I got the sad news of Charlie Murphy’s passing. This was not unexpected, since we knew that he’s been ill. I have been including him in my devotions to Brigit for many months. Still, it’s a shock when the time comes.
I knew Charlie fairly well from his early collaborations on Reclaiming Spiral Dances and other Reclaiming activities, and though we seldom saw each other out of that context, I always felt a connection between us.
On one of his early visits to the SF Bay Area he opened the Spiral Dance ritual with a rousing rendition of his song, “Burning Times .“ That particular production took place in the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. He and I walked as a pair in the opening procession, and I told him that he was about to participate in a rite that really showed how to honor our gods and our Beloved Dead. After the ritual, he agreed.
I’m not sure if it was during that visit or another, but we spent one beautiful sunny day together in North Beach where I then lived. Over the course of the day, Charlie and I climbed up Telegraph Hill to the base of Coit Tower. There, overlooking our glorious Bay Area, he taught me a new song he would soon be recording. It was “Calling on the Spirits.” One phrase from that song in particular I have had occasion to use again and again over the years: “With visions of the past and memories of the future…” I even used it as the title of a panel on NeoPaganism in California in 2005.
Charlie and I had lost touch for some years until we became reacquainted on Facebook. I did not know his husband or family, only Jami Sieber. I extend them my condolences over the loss of their loved one, such a remarkable man loved and esteemed by many.
The other song Charlie wrote that I have disseminated far and wide is “Light Is Returning “ Its appeal crosses religious boundaries, a characteristic I’m always on the lookout for in my work in the area of interfaith relations. When my local Marin Interfaith Council offers a multi-religious celebration of light, I offer reflections on Midwinter and the light in the dark from my Pagan perspective. After that we conclude the entire ceremony with a lively rendition of “Light Is Returning.” Everyone in the room, of whatever religious persuasion, sings this song together. This, to me, is one of Charlie’s lasting legacies.
I am grateful to Charlie for enriching my life. May his contributions, his voice, and his unique magic live on.