As the New Year's well-wishes were pouring in, a not so nice message also came in. On New Year's Day 2012, the world was notified that the Earthly life of Dennis ten Siethoff-or Merlin Sythove as he was known to many- was coming to an end. As I was burning a candle for him, I sat by its flame and started to reminisce and thank him for all he taught me and meant to me.
And I found it was not easy to put into words precisely what it is that makes Merlin so important in my life. We met a few times in person, but most of our contacts have been through E-mail and the Internet. He was never formally and directly my teacher, but all the same I feel like I have lost someone who has had a great influence on me and my spirituality. I remember Merlin lecturing at an Elf Fantasy Fair, way back in the beginning of my spiritual journey, about Wicca and Witchcraft. I had read his book “Modern Witchcraft” before that, but sitting in the audience and listen to someone explaining it all I recall as a very special event.
I also recall us having a heated discussion on the Whiteshadow forum about what Wicca is in reality, rather than what the popular media made of it at the height of the Great Hype in witchcraft and paganism. I accused traditionals for being too 'fundamentalist', but Merlin kept his cool and -eventually- got through to me.
I also recall my time on the Silver Circle forum, that he himself was running. A forum, which had a decidedly different flavour than good old Whiteshadow. Always good for an interesting time: often sailing calm waters, but at times one had to best rather hefty swells, currents and waves. Yet, there was always Merlin the Forum Wizard to calm things down with a few well chosen words.
About a year ago I decided to leave the Silver Circle Forum after a particularly bumpy and quite painful time, in which it had gradually become clear that my own path was leading me elsewhere and that it was best to cut these ties. This was not an easy decision, or an easy process, but it was important to do so.
So I left the forum, but through other media I stayed quietly in touch with Merlin and from those channels I witnessed both his plans to restart his life with Sarah, and that awful day when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. But during the last months of his life, he once again became a source of inspiration and a teacher by his weekly blogs about his battle against this disease, which often left me in tears from admiration and respect for his strength and his will to live.
As I said, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that Merlin has taught me, as I feel that many of his teachings are manifest on a more subtle plane Inside. I think it is most of all a teaching by example: what it means to be a human being in control of your life and living it out of Love and Wisdom. His other teachings I will have to uncover -or recover-and I know no better way to honour his memory than to do just that.
Merlin's Earthly life ended on January 3rd 2012. Today, we celebrated his life in a moving and beautiful ceremony. Dennis, I salute you for all you have done for the Wicca and Pagan community and for your service to the Mysteries in general. Go in Peace, Rest in Peace in Tír na nÓg, and one day return to us in Peace.