The Magickal Universe

Where Magick is a way of life!

Death, Dying, Funerals and Moving On....

That which once came from the earth
Has returned again to the earth.

That which once belonged to the spirit
Has returned again to the Ancient Ones.

The wheel has turned.

That which belongs to fellowship and love —
That which belongs to the circle —
Remains with us.

Nothing is final.

No farewell is the last farewell.
The wheel turns
And we who remain behind
Know that one day we will once again
Share of bread and wine with our sister.


Source: unknown

A Word about Death and Dying.

In our modern society, with it's packaged meats and sterile hospitals, where families are kept from the worst of sickness and surgery, for most of us death is a fairly abstract idea, we understand that everything dies, we may have even lost loved ones, such as grandparents or a sibling. For ourselves however it continues to be something that will happen, one day, a long time down the track. We understand that one day someone we love will plan our funeral, and that we will plan funerals of those we love, for some of us it will happen this way, they will grow old and 'naturally' lost those they love through age and they are slowly brought to their own death unsuspecting, we learn about the wheel of life'..

Then there are those who become aquainted with death through the loss of someone near and dear to them, we expect to lose our family members in a certain order, Granparents and elderly friends first, then our parents and their generation, then the generation before ours - our elder siblings or cousins or older friends, then ours and finally our children and so on.... When this order is thrown off, such as losing a parent or sibling when we are young, losing a child, we find it difficult to cope because 'it isn't supposed to happen this way'. It changes us, yes, we struggle to understand death, it is close but not close enough to comprehend for ourselves, we learn about acceptance.. 

There comes a time however where some of us have to stare death right in the face. Being faced with the reality of death, can alter your whole framework for living. It may come through illness or dis-ease, accident,  or in some other manner, however it comes, understanding, real understanding that you may die, for the first time hits you and things change.

During the stages of shock, grief, fear, and sadness, anger and worry that you go through, you struggle to deal with whats happening in your own mind and to those around you as everyone deals with the news.

~ During this stage for me I dreamt of the Grim Reaper - who looked pretty much like the Dementors from Harry Potter, by the way...creepy when it's leaning over your while you sleep!   I also had various visions during my meditations, it felt like I was closer to the spirit world during that time and more easily able to tap into it.

Then comes a stage of acceptance, you can't change what is happening, you can do what you are capable of, but it is now pretty much in 'fate's hands'. During this stage many who are faced with the reality of death will put their affairs in order, checking wills, paying off of accounts, giving away some items they want to ensure go to specific people, saying good byes, settling of old scores etc...

~ For me this meant making sure I had said good-bye to my kids, my grandkids, my parents and family before the surgery, of making sure everyone knew the situation, making sure things like my organ donor status was up to date, and eventually once all these things were settled, my thoughts turned to funerals. Even though I was going into the surgery with a positive state of mind I hadn't wanted to leave anything undone just in case so I planned my funeral.

I found a lot of interesting information along the way, as well as realised that this part of modern Pagan Practices is still being developed to some degree, and that information, though able to be found, is often scattered all over the place. There are a few good sites, which I have mentioned in sources and resources at the bottom of the page which contain alot of good information, some which I really approved of which I have shared here.

Once a person reaches the stage of wanting to plan a funeral, either their own or one for a very close loved one, such as a parent, child, or life partner, husband or wife, if they are Pagan, then they have the added difficulty of sourcing all the required information.

This page and those linked to it will hopefully guide anyone wishing to plan a funeral, either with appropriate material or with advice on where to source further information.


This Page: 

Pagan's and Funerary Rites

Pagan Burial Customs

Pagan Funerary Customs

Funerary Pledge


Other  Funeral Information Pages.

Pagan Funerary Grounds

Creating a Pagan Funeral 


Pagan Funeral Samples

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.



Pagans and Funerary Rites.

Pagans in general, vary as widely in their views as to what happens after death, as they do about a lot of their practices. However, Pagans tend to all agree that Death is a doorway into a new life, what they life may be, where it mifght be lived and in what manner are all debated, but generally Pagans believe in a form of Reincarnation, either Physical or Spirtual.

Not having a set dogmatic view on what happens after death is disconcerting to members of other religions (and even to those new to Paganism) and it's often misinterpreted by those without a deeper understanding of Pagan practices and belief, to mean that we don't believe in life after death.

For Pagans, Life is circular, the circle (or more correctly sphere) is a form which has neither a beginning nor an ending. Each part of the circle flows naturally into the next experience, and each turn of the circle, or wheel, brings new versions of those experiences, and new manner by which to experience them. In this way, our spirtual form, learsn and grows.

The "Wheel of the Year", (a term used to describe the Wiccan calendar of Sabbat celebrations, as well as the circle of life from birth through to death and rebirth), corresponds to how Pagans view their lives, both through the physical level of "life, death, and rebirth," and through our spiritual growth as a portion of the Divine Energy (the Divine). One understanding of the Wheel of the Year can be portrayed in this manner, we start life in darkness, grow to the peak of maturity, and decline until we once again greet the darkness before rebirth. Death, therefore, is not an end. It is simply a transition between births; a change of form.

Most Pagans believe in some variation of reincarnation transmutation or transmigration. Many Pagans (especially thoseof a Wiccan pursuasion) refer to the afterlife (or life between lives) as the "Summerland," It is also known as Valhalla (by those or Nordic Belief, Heaven by Christians, or simply as 'The Next Plane' by many Pagans) a place of rest and peace where we are reunited with ancestors and friends who have passed before us, but have not yet traveled on. Here, we renew bonds, review our past lives, and set out lessons to experience and learn in the next life. Here, we know and understand all connections and all mysteries, and we rest in the peace and beauty of the Universal Divine Energy of Home.

Pagan Burial Customs.

So you have decided you want a Pagan Funeral, but what would that entail?

There are many Pagan customs depending upon your Path, Tradition and the Historical practices associated with your core pantheon of belief, not to mention your own and families preferences as to what else should be included to personalise the Rite.

Traditional Pagan Funerary Customs involved with disposal of the mortal remains (the body), often take an elemental approach, depending on the person's Path, Traditions and personal beliefs...

A Pyre is the disposal of the mortal remains by fire

Exposure is the air burial is performed by allowing the corpse to be devoured by natural predators such as; carrion eating birds, bugs and insects - this may sound particuarly greusome, but it remains a valid form of disposal, by remitting the soul to the air nonetheless.

The water burial (burial at sea) is still a very common practice, especially among seagoing and military folk, or those who consider water to be especially Sacred (such as the Hindu and the Gange river).

Placing the body within the ground, or on the ground and under stones, Earth being the most common of the elemental burials.

Some of these Elemental Burials may have involved more than one Element such as the Viking Burial Boats, where the boat is built by earth, the body placed on the deck (in the air), the boat is often set alight by fire and then the boat is set adrift in water. 

Occasional mummification occurred, depending on the cultural practices , they may also have chosen to rub oils, and burn incense, or to rub ochre over the body, or to dress the body in specific clothing.....

Pagan Funerary Customs

Some customs appropriate to Pagan Funerals may include:

  • Tying ribbons to the branches of trees to blow in the wind is a nice way of sending prayers across the wind to dead souls.
  • Leave apples at Grave markers on Samhain for the departed. 
  • Gifting the Soul - leaving an item in the casket or on the grave intented to either show a link to the deceased or as a gift to take to the next life... (these may be items that belonged to the deceased or to the giver but have meaning for both...or they may represent a new skill or ability to take into the next life - example they may have not been a good writer so a pen may be gifted to give them that skill nex time around...)
  • Planting of Tress is a very common practice, some Traditions believe it gives the soul a home until it is time to be reborn...
  • A Wake is a very common Pagan Practice and Pagan wakes tend to get quite rambunctious, as Pagans are known for sending off their friends and family with a rollicking rememberance party. 
  • Wearing of bright clothes, unlike many other funerals Pagan funerals are seldome a sober affair as Pagans will often request that their friends and family wear bright colours to remind them that living and life is wonderful and that their loved ones do not need to stop living because they have lost a loved one...but rather to honour their loved one by living their own life to the fullest.

Funerary Pledge

On a practical note, the most difficult problem that Pagan runs into when one of their Coveners, or Pagan Family dies, is that responsibility for their Last Rites goes to the next of kin.If you have accepting and understanding family who respect your beliefs, ... not a problem

But it is a painful reality that many a devout Pagan often ends up being buried in a religious service which is not Pagan, because the family is not only of strict religious views different to that of their loved one they also are the ones legally entitled to bury them and how....Their Pagan friends/family/Coven have no such rights. 

It is at this point if you are a Pagan in this situation, and you have certain wishes as to your Last Rites, it's time to ensure you have arranged things legally. That way, those who will respect your wishes will be in charge and you can ensure you are buried according to your wishes... Otherwise, your family is going to claim you and bury you as they want you buried, not as you or any of your pagan family know you would want to be buried.

It is also important for Pagans who strongly desire to have a Pagan funerary rite to make those wishes known to family and friends, so even though they may not approve they will at least be expecting it.

Having said that it is an important thing to remember, funerals are for the living; many Pagans tend to forget they are not necessarily a final statement on your lifestyle and/or beliefs.

Funerals help those left behind to accept the loss of your love, friendship, and guidance, and to begin to work through the mourning stages. If a Christian funeral is important to the family for their grieving process, would you really want to deny your family that solace?

It is a simple thing to have Pagan clergy, friends, and Coven hold a separate memorial service celebrating your birth into new life, and allowing themselves the right to grieve in their own way for the loss of your influence in their lives.

However, it may be that it is your Pagan Family and friends who have been your long time support and influence in your life, and thatyou have had very little to do with your biological family, and of course ultimately it is your choice to be buried as you wish.

To ensure you are buried as you wish,  if you do strongly wish to be buried as a Pagan, this pledge should be included with the documents such as your Will (which should be written with the assistance of a Lawyer who can ensure that the pledge is included as part of your last wishes), as well as a copy of your preferred funerary service, if you have one. 


 * * *

Sample Pagan Funerary Pledge

Please feel free to modify this pledge for your own use as appropriate.

I _______ (name) pledge to assist you, _________ (name) in the final rite of passage, by:

    * being with you in your final days, to ease your journey into the beyond with appropriate Pagan actions and symbolism

* ensuring you get an appropriate Pagan funeral, as per your requests

* ensuring you get a woodland burial/cremation/other funeral of your choice as appropriate   

* preparing your body for burial as appropriate to both Pagan Customs and Local regulations


Signed : ________________________  (person whom funeral is for)

Date:  _________/_________/___________

Signed : ________________________  (person who will be responsable)

Date:  _________/_________/___________

Signed : ________________________  (witness)

Date:  _________/_________/___________


* * *

* (delete/add as appropriate)

Note:  the recipient of this pledge should reciprocate by agreeing to explain to their family that they want a Pagan funeral and that the signee will help to arrange it - otherwise a lot of painful conflict could ensue.

It is a good idea to discuss your wishes with your close family to avoid them being faced with surprises at a difficult time.


Sources and Resources

(c) Lady Rohanna Book of Shadows, TSC.

Internet (History of Funeral Rites) (Various Funerals) (Pagan's Personal Funeral Service) (Pagans and Death) (Anglo Saxon Pagan Funeral Rites) (a Pagan perspective on death) (Living and Dying in America's Pagan Community) (Death Midwifery; aiding those who are passing over) (a Call for a Pagan Burial Ground) (some ideas on how to plan your funeral service) (some funeral traditions and their origins) (The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement)  (Funeral Information Australia)

Pagan (and Pagan Sympathetic) Funeral Directors and Clergy


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