Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
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Article ID: 15755
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Oberon Zell-Ravenheart
Posted: September 28th. 2014
Times Viewed: 4,383
After exactly eight years of bravely fighting a relentless cancer of her blood and bones, my beloved lifemate, wife, and Priestess Morning Glory finally succumbed. The doctors told us there was nothing more they could do to reverse the ravages of the disease, so we brought her home from the hospital on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, setting her up with a hospital bed provided by Home Hospice in our Goddess Temple at RavenHaven.
Many, many dear friends, family, lovers, Waterkin, priestesses and priests came by over the final weeks in the hospital and at home, to lend support, prepare meals, clean house, share stories, and generally take care of everything for everyone. Some stayed on, pitching tents in the yard or sleeping on pads on the floor. Among those who stayed to the very end were Don Davis, our dear old friend and patient advocate, who came all the way from Tucson and was here for a full month to arrange in-home hospice, a Will and many other things.
MG’s devoted Handmaidens bustled about, organizing the space, feeding everyone, cleaning up, putting stuff away, playing music, singing songs and chants, answering phones, managing visitors, and most movingly—embroidering the lovely burgundy velvet fabric for her casket.
On Tuesday, May 13, at 5:42 PM, as I held her in my arms, my Beloved drew her final breath. Don held a stethoscope to her chest, listened to her last heartbeat, and intoned: “The Queen is dead.” I broke down sobbing uncontrollably, as everyone in the room responded, “Long live the Queen!”
The women took over to wash her and dress her in her Priestess robes, and drape the bed (now a dais) in the burgundy fabric they’d embroidered. I placed her Galadriel crown upon her head, with gold Sacajawea coins on her eyes for the Ferryman, and we reverently placed her fencing sabre, Heartshorn, in her hands. As MG lay in grace through the following day, she looked magnificent—like a legendary warrior queen of ancient myth. All the lines and wrinkles disappeared from her face, which became as smooth and beautiful as when I first met her over 40 years ago. All who came bowed in reverence.
Thursday evening the women wrapped her body up in a golden shroud, bound and tied with the ribbons upon which everyone had been writing blessings since her Celebration of Life Day on April 19.
On Friday, May 16, with the shroud closed around her, we placed her body in the cardboard box that everyone had decorated over the past week, and drove her up to the Church of All Worlds’ sacred land of Annwfn (Welsh “Land of the Dead”) —our 55-acre sanctuary in the misty mountains of Mendocino County, bequeathed to us by our late bard, Gwydion Pendderwen, who died at Samhain 1982, and whose ashes were our first interment there.
Our godson Emrys met us at the upper parking lot, with a beautiful open redwood casket he’d made for her, and we reverently placed her into it on the burgundy velvet liner. The children brought a basketful of flower petals that they spread over her. Then six pallbearers carried her across the dam to the campfire, where she was laid in the center of the circle.
The ceremony was small and private, attended by immediate family and about 30 of our closest family friends. Afterwards we carried her up the hill and lowered her into the grave that Emrys had dug for her. The children began tossing flowers into her coffin, in the oldest burial custom of humanity—begun over 60, 000 years ago by our Neanderthal predecessors. I planted an apple tree over my Beloved’s great loving heart, that someday her substance may return to us all as sweet nourishing fruit. Songs were sung, and many tears were shed.
Morning Glory’s body has been laid into the Earth, to rest in the bosom of Mother Gaea until she may return again in new flesh. Her grave overlooks the campfire circle where we have held our rites of Beltane (and Walpurgisnacht) for the past 30 years.
Arranging all the legalities for MG’s green burial has now secured Annwfn as an officially-recognized cemetery for full body burials—a final legacy to the Pagan community from one of our eldest and most revered Priestesses. There is a space right next to her that is reserved for my own eventual burial—many years from now (I hope!) . And over the years to come, I expect that many other Pagans will want to have their green burials at Annwfn.
We are all deeply grateful to Reverend Judith Karen Fenley, of Harmonizing Health Center/Choices, who moved mountains and worked miracles at every step of the way, clearing the legal pathways to bring MG home to die; to transport her body to Annwfn; and most importantly—to have Annwfn designated a legal cemetery—something MG herself had tried to do decades earlier without success.
Since Morning Glory’s death, I have been inspired (nay, “assigned!”) to co-author a handbook for Pagan Final Passages—including green burials. Right now I’m working on the Proposal. As the project comes better together, I’ll be contacting you and others for possible contributions…
Meanwhile, since an important purpose of this handbook is to facilitate alternatives to cremation for Pagans, I need to find out how many properties are currently owned by various legal Pagan churches and find out if they are in fact already providing burials.
Previously, virtually all members of the modern Pagan community who have died (at least in the United States) have been cremated, as this seemed to be the only option other than the impossibly expensive and distasteful mortuary practice of embalming and burial in a fancy coffin in a concrete vault. But for many of us, cremation is a repellant choice, as we remember the Burning Times, and have no wish to consign our flesh to the flames yet again!
Rather, many of us hearken to the ancient traditional practices of many Western Pagan cultures wherein the body of a loved one would be interred without preservation, to be returned to the Elements in the bosom of the Mother, with a fruit tree planted on the grave to nourish the next generation. Indeed “memorial orchard” graveyards may be seen to this day in countries such as Iceland, which continue to preserve their Pagan heritage and traditions.
As more Pagan organizations have been acquiring land, this handbook—Death Rites and Rights—will meet an essential need for an alternative and truly Pagan approach to that final transition we all must make someday. It will be a “how-to” manual with a very different focus from the only other book addressing the matter of Pagan death traditions, The Pagan Book of Death and Dying, by Starhawk and Macha Nightmare. Rather, the concept and structure of this handbook will be designed more along the lines of my and Morning Glory’s book of ritual technique and practice: Creating Circles and Ceremonies.
With the explosive growth in the worldwide Pagan community over the past half-century, the potential market for this book is enormous. All of us who are alive today will someday face the final passage into that “unknown country.” Even now, our beloved Founders and Elders are dropping like flies.
So my questions to you are:
1. What is the name of your Church, and when was it legally incorporated?
2. Does your Church have a 501 (c) (3) exemption as a religious organization?
3. When did you receive this status?
4. Does your Church own land with clear title? What is its name?
5. Where is your Church land located?
6. How many acres comprise your Church’s property?
7. Do you presently have a designated cemetery on your Church land? Does it have a name?
8. Have you conducted green burials on your Church land? If not, do you intend to do so?
9. Are only members of your own Church allowed to be buried there, or would you accept others?
10. How would someone arrange to be buried in your Church cemetery? Do you take reservations?
11. Would you like to contribute Final Passages materials to our handbook?
12. Would you like to have your Church cemetery listed in our handbook?
13. Can you provide me with contact info for other Pagan churches that own land?
Oberon Zell, Primate
Church of All Worlds
ANYONE FOR PLANNING A CEMETARY?
Location: Santa Cruz, California
Bio: Oberon Zell holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology and anthropology from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and went on to graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis. His seminal work on the Gaea Thesis in the early ‘70s has helped foster a growing awareness of Earth as living Mother.
A founding father of modern Paganism, Oberon has pursued a broad spectrum of interests over half a century, ranging from mysticism and philosophy to art and writing. He is one of the most highly-regarded figures in the new movement of “green religion” that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century, and his influence has spread far beyond that movement, helping to bridge the gap between spirituality and science.
Oberon is a lecturer, author, philosopher, ecologist, shaman and artist. Initiated in several mystical traditions, he is an ordained priest of the Earth Mother, Gaea, and co-founder of the Church of All Worlds, incorporated in 1968.
Oberon’s literary accomplishments are similarly wide-ranging. He founded the groundbreaking journal Green Egg and served as its publisher for four decades. His book titles include Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, Companion for the Apprentice Wizard, Green Egg Omelette and A Wizard’s Bestiary. With his wife Morning Glory, he co-wrote Creating Circles and Ceremonies: Rituals for All Seasons and Reasons, as well as their life story, The Wizard and the Witch.
An award-winning artist, Oberon has illustrated countless magazines and books since the 1960s. But he is best known for his magickal jewelry and figurines of Gods, Goddesses, and mythical creatures. His most famous work is his revelatory sculpture of “The Millennial Gaia.”
Oberon is also the founder and Headmaster of the online Grey School of Wizardry, which offers more than 470 classes in 16 departments for students aged 11 and older. In addition, Oberon regularly presents workshops and seminars, and has officiated at spiritual ceremonies involving as many as 4, 000 participants. He currently resides in Northern California.
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