Pagan Journeys > Paths and Traditions

Death Traditions?

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Not necessarily a preferred topic of discussion, but I think a necessary one overall.

In my lifespan psychology class today we discussed the final stage, death and dying. One of the topics of learning was how religious involvement removes some of the death anxiety people feel and also helps in the grief by having set traditions to deal with death and the grieving process (example being Shiva in Judaism).

This made me start thinking about Pagan death traditions - I got discouraged when I realized I didn't know any. I found some literature ( but it seems to be very specific to Wicca and even then I cannot determine the validity of the information there.

I'm sure each individual tradition within Paganism has its own death traditions but I also read that a lot of those (for instance, Norse's fire something-or-another) are limited by law.

So, here I am at a point where I feel I should start making these arrangements in my own life, but have no idea what to arrange. If I arrange nothing, my husband is left to sort it all out and in turn I risk a Christian burial, with Christian Rites, when my husband loses the fight as the only remaining Pagan adult in the whole entire family.

Long story short, where can I find more information on Pagan death traditions, general and path specific, so as to make arrangements that fit my personal beliefs, those of my little Pagan family, and that will help my grieving non-Pagan family?

I've never come across anything like that. However, I'm not that well read with regard to paganism-- it seems like the sort of thing you might create for yourself (or have another pagan do for you).

I just googled it and came across a book by Starhawk that might help.

I think that death traditions are an individual choice.  I went to a workshop last year about death - I will look through my notes this weekend and see what was shared in the workshop.

Not sure about any other path, but Nick and I both have our final wishes in writing (Somewhere.... maybe I'd better do it again) He wants to be cremated and his ashes spread in the Lakes District of the UK. I want to be cremated, and have my ashes spread in the Adirondacks. As for a ceremony, all I want is an Irish wake: "Remember be with song and laughter, or don't remember me at all" It needs to be someplace with an outdoor fire pit, though, because I want to incorporate something I saw on TV's "Beauty and the Beast"... each person can write a letter to me, or some memory, and feed it to the flames as a release; a final good bye

In my path it is traditional for the family to wash the body and anoint it in oil. Then you dress it and set it in the house for people to pay their respects for roughly a week. Coins would be place on the eyes or under the tongue to pay Charon. Also wreaths of parsley, rue, and celery would be included either on the body or on the bed. The procession would start at dusk. Depictions, usually masks, of the ancestors would be carried near the body. Mourners would follow a leader who would give a eulogy later on. Once the body arrived to its place of cremation or burial the eulogy was delivered. If the body was cremated herbs and personal possessions would be thrown in the flames. The fire was usually put out with wine and the ashed collected and entombed near those of the ancestors. It is also important to visit the tombs and eat with the dead. Many ancient Greeks and Romans believe that on certain festivals the dead were allowed to walk in the cemeteries. If the living didn't take care of the dead on these special days or didn't give the dead a proper burial they may come back to haunt them or withhold their blessings. Spirits that came back were called larvae. Also the ancestors were believe to influence the day to day lives of the family more than the gods. Because of this ancestor reverence was important as well as ornate funerals.

Personally I don't want to be embalmed or given and autopsy. I want to be put on ice and then laid out for a single day. After that day I want my body take to a pyre and cremated as closely to the ancient way as possible. I then want my ashes buried under a tree or put in an above ground tomb.


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