I have been the celebrant for two funerals in which the presence of trees has been specially significant. Both sadly, and perhaps just coincidentally, were for young women. In the most recent one, for Freya, her parents had planned the ceremony, and it involved meeting at the lower end of a crematorium park, which is filled with beautiful old parkland trees. The coffin was carried by Freya’s friends to six different spots in the park that her parents had chosen beforehand. At each point my job was to encourage everyone to gather round, and then different significant people in Freya’s life spoke or sang, telling the story of her life and celebrating it. Everyone was given a yellow balloon to carry and the hundred or so of us gradually worked our way up the hillside to the crematorium chapel. At the last stop before entering the chapel we sang “All You Need is Love”. We then spent a short time in the chapel itself, and during that time her dad gave a powerful and impassioned eulogy and I read out a committal prayer. We then all gathered on the lawn and released our balloons before walking down the hill to share food and drink amongst the trees at the foot of the hill.

The woodland we walked through was an important part of the funeral – it provided a living, beautiful setting in which we could celebrate Freya’s life and share our sadness at her leaving. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had rained I don’t think. It did actually spit a little at one time. But it happened in the summertime, and I found myself wondering whether we could have done it in the winter. I think it would have been much harder.

I then remembered that I had led a funeral in the winter in which trees had also played a significant part, but it was a very different event. It was for Caron, and held just before the Winter Solstice. Her parents loved the idea of the sacred grove and created a sense of one by bringing a number of trees in pots into the marquee in which the funeral was held, so that we could be ‘amongst the trees’ during the service. In reading the account of the funeral now, I can see how an excerpt might be helpful as an example of how Druid ideas or texts can be adapted to make them suitable for those who want a less specific form of ceremony, so I’ll paste a bit in here: A fully decorated Marquee for 150 people has been arranged in the garden and decorated as a woodland. It contains the sacred trees of ancient druidry, the Oak, the Beech and the Yew with mistletoe. Images of Caron as a photostream and her favourite music will be played.

My name is Philip. Having known Caron for many years, and having talked with her about her interest in natural spirituality, the family has asked me to act as celebrant for this ceremony, which is taking place just before Christmas and the Winter Solstice – the time when mistletoe berries come to symbolize hope and the potential for rebirth at the darkest time of the year. This is a time, when in the world of nature spirituality, we ask for the blessings of the natural world.

We ask for the blessings of Mistletoe, Oak, Birch and Yew. We ask for the blessings of the woods, the fields and the sky on our circle, and we ask for the blessings of the four directions. We ask for the blessings of those who stand in the East of hope, of Springtime, of clarity and calm. We ask for the blessings of those who stand in the place of the South - of love, of Summer, of warmth and compassion. We ask for the blessings of the blue water in the place of the West - of reflection and the beauty of memory, of Autumn, and of contemplation. We ask for the blessings of the fruitful dark earth in the place of the North - of the mysteries of death and rebirth, of the still small light of the reborn sun in the darkness of Winter. May our circle be blessed by the spirits of Love and Beauty, Peace and Harmony.

In Freya’s ceremony we went out into the world of Nature, in Caron’s we invoked the beauties of Nature into the marquee. Both were very moving and touching events.

  • examples_of_funeral_rituals.txt
  • Last modified: 2020-07-03 08:51
  • by nik