Green is the Way to go

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
Peace Funerals
Gleadless Mount
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?


5 thoughts on “Green is the Way to go

  1. Now thats food for thought, although I know how I would like my days to end, and my nearest and dearest already know how my days on Mother Earth wish to be ended, I doubt the authorities would be very pleased. A pyre at the bottom of my garden amoung the things I love and treasure, would be perfect, followed by a meditation with a gathering of friends and family I have accumilated over the years. that to me would be right. Someone who knew how I loved and lived to speak on my behalf, to give thanks to all I knew. After the celebration of life, just to let my ashes blow away in the wind.
    I know certain faiths allow pyres in certain areas, wouldnt it be wonderful to be able to have what you desired without all the red tape. Thats my way to depart this earth, who knows when my time comes maybe I’ll get my wish.
    The magpie.

  2. Hi Amalasunta,

    Please forgive me if this is a repeat message, I had almost finished writing when the whole thing disappeared, never to be found. If you get another, please delete it.

    What I was trying to say was that you are not morbid at all. I planned my funeral with Peace Funerals many years ago. They were excellent, not fased by any of my requests. I recorded the music I want and bought a plot in the South Yorkshire Forest. The ceremony will take place in a restored Medieval barn in Ulley near Rotherham.

    As well as being green there is another serious consideration – cost. When I paid for my funeral it was around £1,000. Today the price has at least trebled and rising all the time.

    People should discuss their end of life requirements and it is a sad fact that many do not. I have no great attachment to the little pile of chemicals that make up my physical body and will not mind if all my plans are ignored at the time of my passing, but it has brought out into the open a subject that is tabu amoungst a lot of people. Just by planning ahead can save the loved ones left behind to make final arrangements a lot of trouble, which some unscrupulous funeral directors play on to raise the cost of the funeral. My father chose a lovely (and expensive) casket for my mother and we never saw it. A purple cover hid the casket all through the service and I was convinced it had been replaced by a cheaper model for the cremation. At such a time, people are vulnerable and do not question things when mourning for loved ones, plus it seems avaricious to seem to skimp on the last thing you will do for them.

    As a final comment, Peace Funerals told me that it was the people who planned ahead who lived longest, thus scotching the superstition that death will follow quickly if talked about and planned for. Not that I want to live forever but……

    There is a book called “The Natural Death Handbook” I thoroughly recommend it for anyone interested. Peace Funerals was in my old copy (now passed on since I have no further need for it)

    Bright Blessings and long life to all.

  3. My gods, ‘Mala. I leave you alone with a camera thinking, “that’s nice, she’s going to go and take some nice pretty early-morning pictures”, and you come back with death and graveyards and cardboard coffins…

    Mind you, the cardboard coffins are rather fearsome. I do like the spacey one. And the cloudy ones. And the flowery ones. And the… Well, they’re just a whole grim sort of cool.

    But who am I to complain about morbid? “Memento Mori”, they used to say: “Remember, you will die”. There’s a story that whenever a victorious Roman general was enjoying his triumphant march through the streets, adoring crowds lining his route, a slave would stand behind him and whisper in his ear, “Memento Mori”. It helped make sure they didn’t get too far above themselves in all the glory and adulation.

    But death is one of the great inevitabilities (along with taxes), so it makes sense not to hide away from talking about it, though our modern society does tend to brush it away and try not to think about it too much.

    For myself, I must admit it’s something I think about quite often, but not usually in a very constructive way. How I might be carted out of earthly affairs is something I’ve occasionally wondered about, but to be honest I’m rather ambivalent about the whole thing.

    Religiously speaking, I don’t have any particular requirements. I’m not especially drawn towards burial or cremation (I’m not especially drawn towards death, if truth be told, but what can you do?); my only real ‘preference’, if you can call it that, would be an uninformed instinct that maybe burial’s a little more carbon-neutral. Just in case there really is an afterlife, though, I’d appreciate if someone could stand me a couple of quid (tradition says in the mouth, but I reckon hand would probably do) to pay Charon. Otherwise I’m going to be hanging around Erebus trying to bum cash off passing souls for a lift, and I’d feel self-conscious.

    I’ll pay you back. Possibly.


    (Sorry. Serious subject. As you were.)

  4. Hi Tiro,

    I have never been quite sure what the old legends are trying to say. My take on it is that you will be well recieved in the after life if you have paid all your dues before crossing the Styxx or what ever. I can give you an IOU ready for the final parting (joke of course, money will probably be obsolete by then).
    In order to make sure I’m not in debit when I’m called, I try to live my life by the code of “and it harm none” so please forgive me anyone who might have been hurt or offended by me in this life, perhaps I’ll be able to make a personal restitution next time our paths cross.

    My personal choice for disposal is burial and I’ve stipulated in my will that somebody makes sure that I am dead. I have a fear of waking up too late to tell anyone (from a past experience perhaps) and being burned at the stake makes cremation a no-no also.

    I am on the organ donor list so perhaps I shouldn’t worry. My family all know my wishes and I trust in the Universe to protect me.

    Blessings to all.

  5. Hello Amalasuntha, Tiro and Newbold Witch:

    This is a very interesting discussion. I totally agree with Amalasuntha about the importance of thinking in time how we want to leave this world. Many people procrastinate or simply don’t want to make plans about their departure and in the end their families or friends have to deal not only with the sadness, but with lots of practical issues as well.

    As I live in one of the largest cities in the world with not so many affordable graveyards left, I think cremation would be the most responsible way. But I don’t like the idea of the ashes being stored up in a building (like the niches in churches, which are very common over here) far away from the earth, like hiding from Nature.

    I was analyzing that there are lots of plastics involved in all the approved rituals that surround death. And a lot of odd behaviour too, that reminds me more of hospitals and less of a loving celebration for a loved one. Of course there must be some basic sanitary rules that people respect during burial rituals or similar things (like Newboldwitch stated, even in the countryside there are some legal issues about pyres), but I think we can be more creative about all this.

    And yes, Tiro, there are some amazing eco-coffins around the web. You only have to type into Goog… eeehm… your favourite web searcher. (Thanks for that idea, I already used it on my blog; hope it’s not copyrighted). Some are really beautiful.

    Well, it’s still not easy to think thoroughly about these issues. I’d love to have music around when I go. Hopefully some of my friends will still be alive and able to sing.

    Warm blessings from over here for the three of you and all the other Chesterfield Pagans. I am looking out of the window on a windy February day. The sky is light blue and the setting sun makes the white and greyish clouds shimmer with cold-orange light. It’s so beautiful.. I should go outside for a while.


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