Modern Ideas

Preparations

If you are performing a funeral for someone else’s family, you will want to meet with the family several days prior to the funeral. This gives you time to speak to them about their wishes and to select material that is appropriate to each situation.

First, you will want to find out more about the deceased. Ask the family for (and record) stories about the deceased, so that you so you can get a sense of who the person was. You may want to use some of these stories given to you in your ceremony. Be sure to ask them if there is anything that you should make sure is said about the deceased person—anything which, if not said, would make the funeral feel incomplete.

On the practical side, make sure to find out the following:

  • The date, time, and location of the service.
  • The length of the service (How long will you be there and will you be needed before or after the formal service?
  • The location of the service (and the cemetery, if a graveside service is planned).
  • Contact information for the place where the service is being held.
  • Any instructions left by the deceased for their funeral/memorial.
  • The type of service.
    • Open Pagan
      • What is the Neo-Pagan tradition(s) of the deceased?
      • Should the service honor any specific pantheon of Gods or Goddesses?
      • Should you (or others) read any texts from ancient or Neo-Pagan sources?
      • Should the service honor any ancient Pagan traditions?
    • Mixed
      • What Neo-Pagan tradition(s) should the service include?
      • What non-Pagan tradition(s) should the service also represent?
      • Are there any texts from non-Pagan religions that the service should include?
      • Are there any non-Pagan ritual elements that the service should include?
      • Should any dieties be invoked or honored?
    • Humanistic
      • Should there be any mention of Neo-Paganism or religion, or should only references to nature or other subjects?
  • Format of the service
    • Preparation or washing of the body
      • Is this done by the clergy, family members, or someone else?
    • Indoor ritual followed by graveside service.
      • Casket or ashes?
    • Indoor memorial only.
    • Outdoor service only
  • Tone of the service
    • Somber
    • Joyful
    • Mixed
  • Are there any particular items that the family would like to use for ritual activities?
    Examples include throwing coins in the grave, burying ritual tools with deceased, shoveling dirt or putting stones on the grave, releasing balloons, or planting seeds or trees.

Resources

The following books have been particularly helpful to me. They provide materials that are useful both for the creation of your own funeral rites and for Neo-Pagan clergy or families planning rites for their deceased.

Help with creating meaningful services

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over, Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare & The Reclaiming Collective, Harper, San Francisco, 1997.
Considered the Pagan omnibus on death, this book contains many rituals that are aimed at assisting the deceased to cross over into the afterlife.

Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life and Mourning Death, Sarah York , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2000.
This book is my personal favorite. Written by a Unitarian-Universalist minister, this book is full of helpful advice and examples.

Funerals Without God: A Practical Guide to Non-Religious Funerals, Jane Wynne Willson, Prometheus, New York, 1990.
While this book deals with how to perform a funeral appropriate for an atheist, its advice and examples are useful to anyone who needs to perform a funeral. It is aimed at non-clergy.

Sources for readings
Safe Passage: Words to Help the Grieving, Molly Fumia, Conari, Boston, 2003.

Readings for Remembrance: A Collection for Funerals and Memorial Services, Eleanor C. Munro, Penguin, New York, 2000.

Funerals and Memorial Service Readings, Poems and Tributes, Edited by Rachel R. Baum, McFarland & Company, North Carolina, 1999.

Resources for animals
Dogs

• Grieving and Loss—Dog Quotes
http://www.dogquotations.com/grieving-and-loss.html