I got up early this morning to do a little photography of the dawn sun, sadly the sun was shy and hid behind a veil of clouds until all hope of seeing it in bright sunrise colours had faded. On my meanderings, I choose to walk through a cemetery, and it got me thinking: I know that someday i will have to give back this body-shell to the gods and move on to the Halls. I would like the ceremony performed after my death to reflect my choices and beliefs I had when I was alive, so: what are a pagans options for burial, or at the very least a humanist one? There is no reason for me to be buried, or my ashes scattered in sanctified ground within the bounds of a church, that God is one I do not follow. So instead of photographs of a spring sunrise, as intended, I bring you places and options for a more pagan friendly style moving on. You may think this is a tad morbid for so early in the morning, but death is part of the great cycle, and I figure it holds no fear for us. Granted it is a time of loss, sadness and tears, but also a time of celebration, remembrance and happiness for knowing that person.
it is possible for an inhumation or burial of ashes to be done in such a way that it benefits the environment, you could also offer to donate your body to medical science, and so benefit humanity, although it may not be accepted. Less common are burial on your own land, or at sea. In 1993, Carlisle City Council set up the first Woodland or natural burial ground. There are several websites now detailing eco-funerals, the chief of these I have found is Woodland Burials, a company which owns several sites in which the marker for burial is not a carved stone, but a memorial tree and plaque. They are not the only people offering this service, and the Greenfinder page brings up a few more locations for this practice. Respect GB are based in Lincolnshire and offer a complete Green Burial service. The NaturalDeath site brings up a whole list of places across the country for woodland and natural burials. There is, in fact an Association of Natural Burial Grounds, which has a code of conduct, so if you are thinking of a woodland or natural burial, then check your chosen site against the list. The closest in Derbyshire I can find is:
Golden Valley Woodland Burial Ground
near Ripley, in Derbyshire
Sheffield S12 2LN
Phone: 08457 697 822 (local rate)
The casement for internment or cremation can also be eco-friendly in the shape of a willow coffin, bamboo lattice, chipboard, or printed cardboard. Some crematoriums (such as Croydon) are charging less if an eco-coffin is used, as it takes less energy, and produces less emissions. You may also want to think about the transport issues, how your guests will arrive and depart for the ceremony.
The funeral ceremony can be done with or without a qualified officiant, in fact, some are friends and family led throughout. You’re not obliged to use a funeral director by law, but they can be someone who is familiar with the legal arrangements which need to be made in a time when emotions are at the forefront of memory.
The best way of ensuring that you have a ceremony which reflects the things you’d like is to make a funeral plan, or pay for a package, and also let your friends and family know your wishes 🙂
So, question time: have you thought about what kind of service, or internment choice you’d like your relatives and friends to attend? I love the look of the willow coffins myself (though it’s a close call between that and a cardboard one printed with sunflowers), they seem so much nicer than a contemporary wooden one. Ideally it would be an open air Norse style cremation, but as they’re not currently legal in this country I’ll settle for a willow coffin instead. My mother would like her ashes scattering into Lake Windermere from the deck of the Gondola (yes, I will check to be sure I’m upwind…). I, as I presume many pagans, would like my remembrance service to be a happy occasion with laughter, rather than a sad time focusing on loss. Is green your way to go? if so, how?