Pagan Death Rites

The typical Pagan funeral is similar to a formal ritual, but with some variations. Of course there is the Casting of a Circle, Calling of the Quarters, Invocations, Raising of Power, Grounding, Cakes and Ale, and Sending Forth.  But sprinkled in this service are several variations.  For one, there should be a section to explain the methodology of the service because there will be non-Pagans in attendance.  Also music tends to play a larger role than in normal rituals because it has a calming effect on the mourners.  Lastly and most importantly, there is a Time of Sharing of stories about and words to the deceased by family, friends, covenmates, coworkers, and acquaintances.  Usually a Priestess or Priest conducts the service, regardless of if the Witch was a solitary or not.

Of course different traditions have other elements to the funeral service.  For example in Ásatrú, the body is buried with items the person will need in the afterlife, and there is a celebratory toast to the person who has passed.  It definitely depends on that tradition’s conception of the afterlife.  If you adhere to a particular tradition, check with your Priestess, Priest, or another source for nuances in the service.

Another factor that plays a part in Pagan services and arrangements is how green the burial can be.  In some communities there are Pagan or green cemeteries, such as the Circle Cemetery, which is perfect for a deceased Pagan.  For people without access to eco-friendly plots, having the body prepared and interred with as little environmental impact as possible can be a challenge due to local regulations.  Look into the greenest possible solution for the person who has passed.  Cremation is also an excellent option.  The most important thing to keep in mind is the wishes of the deceased balanced with legal requirements.

A type of service most people don’t consider is rites for familiars and pets.  In my opinion these funerals can be just as elaborate and meaningful.  CharmingPixieFlora discusses this topic at length, but also check with your local pet cemeteries for burial options.

After the service, some families or covens choose to hold a party or wake to celebrate the person’s life and accomplishments.

Further Reading and References:

Starhawk’s The Pagan Book of Living and Dying

Funeral Wise

Witch’s Voice for Priestess and Priest listings

© Ariadne Woods

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