About 5.5 years ago, my friend Michael (who’s a funeral director) was giving a talk at a festival about the pagan response to death. He asked me if I had any ideas of what he could talk about. I responded with the outline below. Michael’s talk was only an hour or so, and he couldn’t touch on most of the following topics. I’m posting them to open up discussion on many sensitive issues that people, including pagans, don’t usually think about until it’s too late. I look forward to your thoughts.
Notes on Death
Estate planning for pagans - Taking care of ritual items after death - does each item have to be mentioned in the will? - Donating to a coven... and the membership has changed - When they don't have a group bank account? - When you don't want to "out" them? - What if a will "outs" them? - Pagan lawyers/estate planners: - How to find one; - How to advertise if you are one. Remains - Transporting the remains - From home - From the hospital - Organ donations: driver's license? Will? - Cremated with ritual tools - Embalming and viewing; timing. (In Judaism there's no embalming, but burial is rapid.) - Scattering of ashes - "I want my remains/ashes available for later ritual use." - Biodegradable coffins? Or other ways to quickly re-join the earth. Pagan/Wiccan funeral rites - How to make your funeral wishes known: executor? family? with your will? - Pagan funeral managers: - How to find one; - How to advertise if you are one. - Funeral arrangements: In advance? In will? Discussed with executor? - Pagan/Wiccan weddings/Wiccanings are generally planned in advance. With funerals we usually don't have that lead time. Should we construct funeral ceremonies (public, private) in advance (like "ashes to ashes...") In other words, is there a need for a pre-existing library of pagan/Wiccan funeral ceremonies? Wiccan versus "Traditional" ceremonies - Is it acceptable to "out" someone after death? - Tattoos and family/religious burial traditions. - Asatru: cremating in open flame/longboat - You want to hold an initiates-only funeral ritual, and a non-pagan family member says they want to attend. Burial/internment/markers - Pagans in traditional cemeteries - "There's a pentacle on that tombstone! They must have been devil-worshippers!" - Might a cemetery owner have a legitimate case for not wanting pagan symbols on a marker, to avoid defacement/negative reaction? Counseling: - when death is expected - when it is sudden - Looking for reasons: - "He had a hundred people praying for him. Why did he die?" - "She was beloved by the gods. Why did she die?" - "Why was this being created, only for me to miscarry?" - Or just the general question: "Why did they die?" - Death from violence - Large-scale tragedies - Using divination to answer these questions. - "He died because he was one of those devil-worshipping pagans." - Responding to that statement. - Counseling other pagans when confronted with that statement. Role of clergy in handling grief - When to step in - When not to - Dealing with grief ritually Contacting the dead - Who should do it? - Who shouldn't? - When is it too soon? Too late? - Samhain: boundary for contacting/not contacting? Stepping in: - When some of the survivors request it but others don't, or are opposed to it? - When we see other clergy flubbing it? Death counseling for members of our group or our Tradition vs. other pagans vs. "cowan." Any differences in approach?