The Magickal Universe

Where Magick is a way of life!

Pagan Funeral or Memorial Service

Adapted from Starhawk’s ‘The Pagan Book of Living and Dying’

Note: This has been adapted for a Southern Hemisphere (South West Australian) Ritual, as with all Pagan practices it should be adapted to suit the individual.

Preparation.

  • The ritual may take place wherever is suitable - outdoors, in the home, where the mortal remains are are to be buried,  the ashes scattered, or as a memorial service.
  • Chairs should be made available for those who will need them, as should tissues.
  • Participants gather in a circle around the body, or around an appropriately dressed Altar if Ashes are to be scattered, or if the body isn’t present .
  • Play appropriate music as people gather. Choose something your friend particularly loved in life, if this is not possible, then try to choose a piece that you feel represented them and what they brought to life. Taped music can be used, or perhaps if you have a Coven choir, two or three people might sing. The point of the music is to encourage fond memmories of your loved one.
  • Make any necessary explanations and introductions, and briefly teach the song or chant that will be used for raising power (if being used in this manner).


Note: The parts marked 'Leader' in the following can be spoken by one person or shared amongst many.


Ritual.

Offering to the Land:

Leader steps to the center, holds up a bowl of blessed water or other appropriate offering and says:

"Spirits of this Ancient land, of the rocks and trees, of the plants and animals, and small  of those who walked here long before us, we bring you this small offering. We come with respect, to ask you to receive the body of our beloved _________. In giving you our beloved, we ask to become part of this land. We ask for compassion, and teaching, so that we who are living may learn to become stronger allies of the land and its peoples. May the body of our beloved be a bond between us. Blessed Be."

Ground, Cast the circle, and Call the 4 directions and center according to your tradition…or the deceased’s tradition.  If in doubt, use (or adapt) the following:

Casting:
Leader:

"Let us all take hands. Breathe deeply, and feel your love for _____. Imagine that your love and all your joyful memories of (her) are colors that you weave into a cord. Now all of our cords weave a circle around this space, marking it as a sacred space. By the earth that is Her body, and by the air that is Her breath, and by the fire of Her bright spirit, and by the waters of Her living womb, the circle is cast. Blessed Be."

Calling the directions:
Each person invoking moves to the opposite side of the circle and faces the directions she or he is calling, that that these participants are speaking into the circle and can be heard.

"Spirits of the East, powers of air, we call you into our circle. Bring us clarity of vision, bright memories of our beloved _________, and the knowledge of sunrise and new beginnings. Blessed Be."

"Spirits of the South, powers of earth, we call you into our circle. Bring us the courage we need to face the reality of death, keep our passion alive even in our sorrow, and bring us the warmth of the hearth and the cleansing power of fire. Blessed Be."

"Spirits of the West, power of water, we call you into our circle. Open our hearts, let our tears and love flow, and bring us healing and renewal. Blessed Be."

"Spirits of the North, powers of the fire, we call you into our circle. From you we come; to you we return. Bring us strength, and nurturing, and the knowledge that all that dies becomes part of you again. Blessed Be."

"Spirits of the Center, of change and transformation, we call you into our circle. Guide us through this change, help our beloved _________ through the great transformation (she) faces, help us to remember the true core of our lives. Blessed Be."


Invoking the Goddess and God:

This Should Be appropriate to the person for whom the ritual is being performed.

Giving an Offering to the Ancestors:
Leader steps to the center of the circle and holds up a bowl of spring water, milk, honey, or whatever is most appropriate for the ancestors of your friend.

"Ancestors, you have gone before us and given us our lives, You who are Ancestors of our blood and You who are Ancestors of the spirit, we bring you this small offering. May you walk among us now. May you guide _________ to the Summerland, to the lands of renewal. May (she) join your company and there find healing for all the hurts of the body, and may (she) continue to grow in wisdom and power. May (she) meet those among you that (she) has known and loved before. May (she) be embraced and welcomed. Blessed Be."


Sharing Music:

This Should Be appropriate to the person for whom the ritual is being performed.

Telling Stories/Raising Power:
This is the heart of the ritual. Depending on time, all the people gathered can be offered a chance to speak. Alternatively, a few special friends might be asked ahead of time.

People who are not accustomed to leading ritual or speaking in front of others will appreciate being given some time to prepare their thoughts.

The raising of power should flow gracefully out of the end of the storytelling.

Note - If the body or ashes are present, or if the ritual takes place beside the grave, a basket of flowers, herbs, leaves, or seeds is placed near it before the service continues for each participant to place on casket or gravesite during the next section.

However some Traditions may choose to leave an actual item on gravesites, or caskets, this is up to the individual, these items may be a piece of jewellery, a photo, toy, or some other special keepsake, a shell from a beach walk....etc

Leader:
"__________, you are finished with this life now. We know that you can take nothing with you but our memories and love. We have gathered to offer them to you. Let these gifts (flowers, etc) stand for the joys and sorrows we have shared together. (Leader turns to the circle.) I ask you now to remember ________, to tell us a memory about (her). When you are finished speaking, come forward and drop your gift into the grave (or casket)."

One by one, around the circle, participants share their thoughts and make their offerings.

Leader:

"_________, these are but a few of the rich memories you have left us with. We can never speak of you enough and we will continue to share these memories with eachother as we feast your last feast. May the offerings we have made here help you on your journeys. May our voices become a river of power to help guide you across the river to the Summerland."

All:

"May the air carry your spirit gently.
May the fire release your soul.
May the water cleanse you.
May the earth receive you.
May the wheel turn again and bring you to rebirth.
"

A cauldron is lit near the body and left to burn.

Note: a mixture of approximately 60 percent rubbing alcohol and 40 percent Epsom salts makes a beautiful clear flame that will not set off smoke alarms. If you are indoors, be sure your cauldron has legs and is sitting on tiles or bricks to prevent marring the floor. It is also not a bad item to appoint someone ahead of time to be responsable for the cauldron who has no other duties, so as to prevent a fire.

Chanting:

Any chant that refers to death and rebirth, or the wheel is appropriate to use in a Pagan funeral service, you may also choose to develop your own chant specifically for the particular person, or have a favoured one you wish to use. Whatever is appropriate is fine.

Build the power by chanting. Ground the energy by touching the earth.

Sharing Food and Drink:

Everyone present may choose to share food and drink at the graveside, as is appropriate for many beliefs, others may also choose to also add a Wake back at the home of the deceased, or at the Covenstead. Where it has been requested, a Wake will often be held to allow people to share memories or reunite in memory of the loved one, at a public venue such as a Conference room or similar, though most Pagans prefer the idea that their own home would be used for the wake, if one was held.

Sources and Resources