Halloween is nearly upon us, and Samhain after that, and so thoughts of our loved ones who have passed before us will be strong within us. Not just the human ones, I honor the many pets I’ve had throughout the years at Samhain, and I know I’m not the only one. Skip Ellison, our own Arch Druid, recently posted a link to a site that honors pets that have passed away, including his own cat Yoda. As a nature religion (sort of) and an ancestor-worshiping religion, it makes sense to me to honor our dead animal friends, so anyone attending our Samhain rite should feel free to bring altar items to honor the animal dead, and to call out to them when we invited the Ancestors to be there in the circle with us.
On a related note, did you know that you too will one day be an Ancestor? It’s true! Curse this human intellect of ours, we do know that we are mortal and will one day pass away ourselves. I don’t know that I have any brilliant insight to share about that that you haven’t worked out for yourselves. As an orthopraxic religion, we don’t expect all of our members to agree on any one belief about the nature of deity or how the universe works, including what happens to us after we die. The ancient Indo-European cultures we study certainly didn’t agree on any one view of the afterlife either. Even within one ancient culture as we define it, you can get a wide range of beliefs. Some ancient Greeks believed that the shades of the dead went to the realm of Hades, while others believed in reincarnation. We moderns certainly don’t agree one what happens to us after we die, so why would the ancients have done so?
One thing I do know, though, is that we will eventually die, and that those who survive us will want to have some kind of funeral or memorial service for us. Some people say that funerals are for the living instead of the dead. As someone who practices ancestor worship, I don’t agree with that sentiment, though I do think funerals need to address the needs of the living as well as the dead. Either way, funeral planning is important, and something I don’t think most neo-Pagans have spent enough time thinking about. To that end, our Grove has a funeral planning worksheet on our Web site, and I encourage everyone out there to use it, whether you’re in our Grove or not. If you don’t have a priest or priestess or other clergy-type person who would be responsible for officiating your funeral, you can go over it with your family and friends to make sure they know what you would want them to do.
Next week, I’ll write something cheery involving bunnies. >8)
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF