I’m a shadow worker, a hedge rider, a witch of the in-between spaces. So much of my work requires me to straddle the line between life and death, flesh and spirit, human and beast, and I’ve come to acknowledge that it is in these mysterious, liminal spaces that I feel most at home.
Dawn Frary is an Iowa City-based artist, death doula, super-naturalist, and natural intuitive. A lifelong student of mysticism and the occult, Dawn has studied tarot for over 20 years and seeks to make it accessible to anyone who heeds the call to educate and empower themselves through this esoteric art.
Since 2006 Dawn has served as a wildlife rehabilitator and educator, working up close and personal with birds of prey like owls, hawks, falcons, and vultures. She is active with Raptology, a federally licensed wildlife education group based in Iowa City. Her work with wildlife led her to become certified as a Reiki Master Teacher in 2009.
In the summer of 2018, Dawn trained as a death doula with Rev. Angela Buchanan of Earth Traditions, a pagan ministry based in Illinois. An enthusiastic taphophile since her teenage years, she enjoys studying ancient funeral and burial customs, death lore & superstitions, and cemetery symbolism. Since July 2019 Dawn has worked part-time as a crematory operator at a facility specializing in pet cremation.
Dawn lives in a haunted house near Iowa City’s best-known cemetery with her beloved feline familiars Chippy and Morticia.
photo by Jason Smith
Dawn Frary: The Boundaries of Human Experience
Dawn has spent her life exploring and acclimating to the limits of human experience–the places people tend to visit, perhaps briefly, before returning to the everyday world. As a guide through these spaces, Dawn calmly and seemingly effortlessly provides a path to travel through the kinds of rapturous experiences that many find equally transfixing and terrifying, by turns. Her aptitude for illuminating these kinds of spaces has taken a variety of specific angles, each of which is nourished and deepened by its relation to others.
As a long time professional photographer in the area, Dawn has built a large resume of reflecting her perspectives on the natural world (including humans). Her ability to see nature and to seize it in a way that can be shared with others, capturing a moment to share it with others, provides an initial entry point into Dawn’s work. Her eye and sensitivity to the natural world manifest in her ability to capture the moments that most people overlook–the angle of light, the pause of deer, the soar of owl.
In addition to photography, Dawn’s work with the natural world incorporates work with animals–especially birds. With several years of experience serving as a volunteer at the Macbride Raptor Project (now Iowa Raptor Project), helping injured birds to recover, Dawn has also become an accomplished guide through the world of birds. Through her own work with raptors, Dawn has become accustomed to sensing how birds think–their habits as well as their habitats–and to think through what it means to bend toward becoming part of nature, rather than set against it.
Death Doula: Aurora Mortuorum
As any associate of birds of prey discovers by necessity, death is part of the natural world. Part of Dawn’s expanded training and awareness of the limits of human experience includes certification in end of life preparation. Her compassionate, calm presence provides a courageous space in which to engage with grief, memory, expectation and loss, without attachment. Her confidence with these spaces is an invaluable resources for those unused to navigating through the liminal area of loss. Her personalized approach provides a perspective on how death, as part of life, is something to celebrate rather than dread.
Dawn treads through the intertwined spaces of death and nature, with a vibrant intuition attuned to metaphysical spaces that have sometimes been attributed to spirits, energy, or other kinds of guides. Her knack for listening, her perspective on the wild boundaries of human life, and her attunement to non-human modes of discourse have also allowed her to confidently explore supernatural spaces. An accomplished tarot reader, Dawn brings her expertise with the concepts, stories, and patterns that have accompanied humans for centuries to bear on interpreting sequences of cards and other tools associated with supernatural forms of knowing.
by Daniel Boscaljon, 2019