Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pagan Views on Death (and a sample ritual for you too)

So recently my favorite aunt's ex husband passed away.  Long story short, yes we care.  I've been doing some semi grief counseling with my aunt and decided to post my pagan-ish views on death, crossing over, and coming back.

Let me start by saying that death is not something to fear.  We are born, we die, and we are re-born.  We repeat this process until our time is done; at which point our energies return to the Ultimate Energy Source.   Every religion, across the globe, teaches that death is not the end but merely the beginning.  The Irish have the right idea, and I'm not saying that JUST because I'm Irish.  They celebrate their dead, they celebrate the life that was lived.  Now I'm not saying 'don't be sad, don't cry, don't mourn'.  That would be silly.  Of course you're going to be sad.  Of course you are going to grieve.  You will get angry at the person who is now gone.  These things are natural.  It's the knowing that you will most likely see that person again, in your next life, that makes the whole grieving part bearable.
The funeral rites are not for the dearly departed.  They are for those that remain.  The funeral rites serve as a ritual of closure.  The family and loved ones need this to let go and move on with their lives. So we do these rituals for ourselves, not the recently deceased.  Most times, the person who is gone, truly is gone.  They don't usually hang around for very long.  Yes, I do believe in ghosts.  I've seen them.  Yes, there are times when a persons' body perishes but their spirit stays behind.  This could be due to several different reasons, but mostly I think it happens when someone doesn't accept that their dead.  Take my uncle for instance; he was alone when he passed.  He probably, given his state of mind at the time, didn't really expect to die so there is a good chance he is still hanging around.  We have rituals for that, too.  When the departed linger, we can very gently let them know that they need to move on to the Summerland, go toward the light, follow the pretty lady in the long flowing gown.

After our brief, or for some extended, stay in the Summerland, we are re-born to this world.  New bodies.  New families.  New experiences (hopefully).  When we have formed strong bonds with other people, the chances of meeting them again and again become greater, so we are never really alone in any life.  Your goal, ultimately, is to learn all you can, to be a better you, to be closer to the Divine inside of you.  No one knows how long this will take.  It's really all up to you.  You choose your own path.  You choose your lessons for each life.  You choose which ones you have to repeat.  It all depends on how you live the lives you are given, what you choose to learn.  There is no cosmic power playing you like a puppet, so you cannot live your life blaming anyone for your choices, your path, your lessons...except you.  Your life is not planned out for you.  Everything you do, or don't do, is all YOU.

When we die, we go to a sort of waiting room, for lack of a better phrase, waiting for our turn to be re-born.   As pagans, we don't believe in Hell, Eternal Damnation, Fire and Brimstone...hell we don't even believe in the Christian Devil.  There is no one waiting to torture us for the rest of eternity.  We torture ourselves enough during our lifetimes, we really don't need anyone else torturing us too.  So really, there is no reason to fear death.  Nothing horrible is waiting for you on the other side; however, if that is truly what you are worried about, maybe it's time for you to take a good hard look at yourself and see WHY that idea scares you so much.  What have you been doing all your life?!  If you've been running around, raping, pillaging and burning (too many pirate movies for me), then don't you think it's time you turn your life around?  Because, even though you get another life, or 300, that doesn't give you license to run amok in this one.  If this is the life you've been living, then maybe you do have something to fear, not the death but the re-birth.  Because if in this life you've chosen to be so mean, karma will get you.  And that my friend is enough to keep ME scared straight.

So to sum up...birth, death, re-birth.  Live your life well, every one of them.

 "Bide the Wiccan Law ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust.  
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, an ye harm none, do as ye will.  
And ever mind the Rule of Three, what ye sends out comes back to thee.  
Follow this with mind and heart, and merry ye meet and merry ye part"

And here's the ritual I promised.  I pieced this together from different sources for my uncles' memorial.  No I do not remember what those exact sources were so let me just say that I DID NOT WRITE THIS all by myself.  Yes there are parts that are me, but mostly, I didn't write this.

Most of you will not understand the significance of the ceremony that we are about to perform, so for you who have different beliefs I will explain what will happen. There should be nothing in what we are about to do that can cause offense to anyone, but if you would prefer to wait inside, then I am sure that (deceased) will understand. You will see that there are candles standing at strategic points, each one at a cardinal compass point. Their job is to represent the elements that supported (deceased) throughout his Life. We traditionally begin in the East, which represents Air. In the South is the element of Fire. Then we move to the West and the element of Water, then finally to North and the elemental spirit of Earth. It is of the Earth we are born and upon our death it is to the Earth that we return. At the end of the Ceremony we will again return to the quarters and relieve them of the responsibilities of supporting (deceased). As we believe in Life after life we look forward to meeting with him again.

Let us take a few deep breaths to prepare ourselves.
Breathe deeply and remember the love you have for (deceased) and the joy he brought you. And so we begin.

Priestess steps to the center, holds up a bowl of blessed water or other appropriate offering and says:
Spirits of this land, of the rocks and trees, of the plants and animals of those who walked here long before us, we bring you this offering. We come with respect, to ask you to receive the body of (deceased). In giving you our beloved dead, we ask to become part of this land. We ask your compassion, and your teaching, so that we who are living may learn to become strong allies of the land and its peoples. May the body of our beloved be a bond between us. Blessed Be

EAST: Spirits of the East, Powers of Air, we call you. We welcome the spirits of the Ancestors and the honored dead not yet reborn. Bring us bright memories of our beloved (deceased) and of the MUSIC that surrounded him. Blessed Be!

SOUTH: Spirits of the South, Powers of Fire, we call you. We welcome our heroes and inspirations. Keep the fire of our love for (deceased) alive in the memory of this lover of the sun. Blessed be!

WEST: Spirits of the West, Powers of Water, we call you. We welcome the Ancestors to incarnate in our children and grandchildren and in our families. Open our hearts, let our tears and love flow. Bring us healing and renewal. Remember (deceased) who loved life, loved his friends and his family. Blessed be!

NORTH: Spirits of the North, Powers of the Earth, we call you. We welcome our deaths and our lives. From you we come; to you we return. Bring us Strength. Remember (deceased) to whom you gave strength and wisdom and embraced in his passing. Blessed be!

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

INVITING THE GOD: Now do I call You to this our circle, Great God. I call you as Lord of the Harvest, Lord of Death, Holder of the Keys, Lord of the Underworld; and I call you as the Comforter and Consoler, the Compassionate One Who leads us all to the Cauldron from which we are reborn. Give welcome now to (deceased)  who comes to You in honor and humility to visit Your other lands for a while.

INVITING THE GODDESS: I call upon the Lady as Crone, She Who harvests all that lives, Who has taken (deceased) by the hand and led him into the Summerland, there to rest and reflect and joy in the company of the Gods until it is time for him to be born again to the circle. For She is also the Mother of all things and the Lady of rebirth, and She shall surely grant (deceased) the gift of life again when the Wheel has turned.

STATING THE PURPOSE:  We meet here today in both sadness and joy to say a fond farewell to (deceased). We are sad because a chapter has closed yet we should be joyful by the closing that a new chapter can begin. We meet to commend (deceased) to the blessing of the Gods, that he may rest, free from illusion or regret, until the time shall come for his rebirth to this world.
And knowing that this shall be so, we know too, that the sadness is nothing and that the joy is all.

O Great Spirit, Mother and Father of us all, we ask for your Blessings on this our Ceremony of thanksgiving, and honouring and blessing of (deceased).
We stand at a Gateway now. A Gateway that each of us must step through at some time in our lives. (deceased) has stepped through this gateway already. His soul is immersed in the shining light of the Unity that is the Mother and Father of us all. The sadness and pain that we feel now is in our knowledge and our experience of the fact that we ourselves cannot yet cross that threshold to be with (deceased) until our time has come.

MEMORIES OF (deceased)´s LIFE

(deceased),  you have left us many rich memories. We can never speak of you enough. May the words we offer you help you on your journeys. May our voices become a river of power to help guide you across the river to the Summerland.

Now I ask that you all repeat after me:
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.

Celtic Devotional by Caitlin Matthews:
You have been called from the place of your dwelling, May blessed soul-friends guide you, May helping spirits lead you, May the Gatherer of Souls call you, May the homeward path rise up under your feet And lead you gladly home.

FAREWELL TO THE GODDESS: Lady, thank you for the presence of (deceased) in our lives. Hold him close to you, love him, heal him, and walk with him in the Summerland until it is time for him to be born again.

FAREWELL TO THE GOD: Lord, thank you for the life and joy you have shared with our friend. Let him find reunion with those who have gone before, and walk with (deceased) in the Summerland until it is time for him to return to this world.

NORTH: Spirits of the North, Powers of the Earth. Thank you for the land that (deceased) walked upon, for the beauty in the plants and trees that gave him so much pleasure. Thank you for sustaining him.. Hail and Farewell!

WEST: Spirits of the West, Powers of Water. Thank you for quenching (deceased) thirst, inspiring and washing him. Hail and Farewell!

SOUTH: Spirits of the South, Powers of Fire. Thank you for the warmth of the summers (deceased) enjoyed and for the warmth of his heart. Hail and Farewell!

EAST: Spirits of the East, Powers of Air. Thank you for supporting (deceased) with every breath that he took, and may the last breath that he took in this life become the first that he took in the next. Hail and Farewell!

May the Blessings of the Uncreated One, of the Created Word and of the Spirit that is the Inspirer be with you all.  The circle is open but never broken. To one another and especially to (deceased), we say: ‘Merry did we meet, merry did we part and merry shall we meet again.”


1 comment:

  1. A very touching and informative post. Please do not laugh, but I have dreamed twice of "being in that waiting place" in Summerland. It felt like a vivid memory revealing itself to me and did not change from one time to the next. I recall "being" a sort of energy without "features". It was a pleasant place...not a feeling like happiness feels to us here, but more like a contented belonging. I recall not wanting to return to the "rebirth".