Some studies indicate that there are at least 1.2 million Pagans in the U.S. If one of them is someone you love, how do you honor their unique religious traditions at their funeral?
1.) Keep in mind that many of the guests may be of different religious traditions.
Paganism has a multitude of traditions with a lot of different practices—and some adherents follow a very individualistic path. Many are converts from other religions or have family members that are of different faiths. That means that many of the guests may be unsure what they should expect when they come to your loved one's funeral.
In order to make it easier for the mourners to understand whatever ceremony or ritual you decide to have, consider printing up a program that can be given to those who attend the services. A program can include a brief explanation of any unique customs or symbols you decide to incorporate into the funeral rites, including the lyrics to any chants that are going to be sung. This way, those who choose to participate can do so with ease. It will also help those less familiar with the deceased Pagan's tradition approach the service with proper respect.
2.) Pass out small keepsakes that belonged to the deceased.
Since Pagans generally believe that items gather unique energies while they are in someone's possession, consider gathering small items of little value that belonged to the deceased and letting mourners each choose one item as a keepsake. Consider items that the deceased may have collected that reflect his or her reverence for the earth, like crystals, feathers, shells, and other natural items.
3.) Focus on the transition of the deceased.
There are basically 3 different Pagan philosophies surrounding what happens after death: transmigration (where the soul-mind enters a new body), reincarnation (where the soul-mind is eventually reborn), and rebirth (the soul-mind continues on into a new state of being). The underlying theme of them all is that death is essentially an illusion, with the soul-mind remaining eternal, even though the body is deceased. It's important to stress that death is not something that is feared in Pagan traditions.
You may want to incorporate this sort of symbolism that represents change or movement into your funeral ceremony. For example, you could have each guest write a message to the deceased on a small scrap of paper and burn the scraps, letting the smoke transform the words and move the message onto the spirit world. This steers the funeral away from a more grief-focused event.
Don't hesitate to discuss your needs or ideas with the funeral home. Funeral home directors are very accommodating of different beliefs and are more concerned about how to make the process of death easier for everyone involved.