Pagan Paths

Profundity, profanity and frivolity; the business of serious thinking and joyous expression through the wisdom and traditions of the Celts in the company of Kristoffer Hughes, Head of the Anglesey Druid Order.

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Dying Matters

I am not just a Pagan author and Druid, my life has a extraordinary tripartite pattern to it, yes, I am an author, and I am a Druid, but I also work as a member of a Mortuary and Bereavement Services team. In a manner I am an ordinary person who has an extraordinary job. When I say Mortuary, to those in the USA, what I am referring to is a Morgue or a Medical Examiners facility as opposed to a Funeral Home, which you would commonly refer to as a Mortuary. 

This week it is Dying Matters Awareness Week, a 7 day nationwide event facilitated by the National Council for Palliative and End of Life Care and the Dying Matters Coalition. The movement is dedicated to raising awareness about and discussing our wishes and preferences around care and treatment at the end of life. Hospitals, Mortuaries, hospices, community centers and all manners of other venues are hosting events all week to talk about death and dying. 

As a Pagan I sometimes forget how open we are to discuss death and dying, particularly as the wheel of the year turns its face towards Calan Gaeaf/Samhain, I am accustomed to having open and honest discussions about death with my Pagan community. I often wonder if beyond the circles I normally traverse that people just never get the opportunity to talk about end of life matters? Maybe it feels morbid, or perhaps it is just something that's best not to talk about? But this week, those thoughts are being challenged, people are not only intrigued, but there is a dramatic increase in the number of people who want to make positive changes to their attitudes towards death, and to have that conversation about end of life care, funeral wishes etc.

It is a reflection of modernity that dying and death have become medical experiences as opposed to rites of passage. Perhaps we have not only forgotten how to talk about death, but maybe we have forgotten how to die? Someone always knows better, has our best interest at heart, but this is not always the case or the truth. Our death does not have to be a exclusively medical experience, the act of opening channels of dialogue goes a long way towards having a good death.

The Dying Matters coalition slogan 'Let's talk it' seems to be working here in the UK, there are events springing up all over the country, including at the hospital where I work. Within the Mortuary and Bereavement Services department we are doing what we can to dispel fears and misconceptions that people have towards the mystery that lies beyond the Mortuary doors. We are starting with our own hospital staff, medical and allied health personnel, who themselves may never have ventured near that place that deals with the dead. When it comes to the volatile subject of death and dying, imagination and misinformation can hinder our ability to open honest channels of dialogue with ourselves.

I feel quite privileged to be in a career that informs my spirituality and where my spirituality informs my career, to be in service to the dead and the bereaved. 

Death does need to be a medical experience, it can be a wondrous and magical rite of passage. We are trying to make a difference. Let's talk about it.  




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Kristoffer Hughes is Head of the Anglesey Druid Order in North Wales. He is an award winning author and a frequent speaker and workshop leader throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA. He works professionally for Her Majesty's Coroner. He has studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and is its 13th Mount Haemus Scholar. He is a native Welsh speaker, born to a Welsh family in the mountains of Snowdonia. He currently writes for Llewellyn Worldwide specializing in Celtic studies and death and bereavement.


  • Malinda Sutherland
    Malinda Sutherland Tuesday, 10 May 2016

    I am no longer scared of dying as I was in the past. My soul will move onto Summerland. I have decided that my body is to be cremated & my ashes be placed in an BioUrn. Once planted, a tree will grow in its place. Humans as a whole have taken some of the most beautiful places on the planet. This is where I can make my contribution back to Mother Earth even after my passing. My family is aware of my wishes and have agreed to do so when the time comes.

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