Pagan Studies

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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

Death into Life: An Earth-Focused Legacy for Pagans

My attitude toward death is very much founded in my relational beliefs as an animist. My entire theology, cosmology, and theories of magic are founded on the principle that we are in constant relationship with every other being around us, whether that being is a feature of the landscape or the air, a fellow animal, a plant, or a fungus. We exist within holistic biomes; we are not separate from the beings around us, and everything that we do, whether we are conscious of it or not, impacts those around us. We don’t have a choice in the matter. This places on our shoulders a burden of responsibility, but it is also a great gift. We are fed and sustained by the spirits around us; we are supported and tended by the earth, water, and all other beings. We live because they give of themselves to us.


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  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    I love the idea of green burials! I first heard of Recompose right before it launched. I wish there were more here on the East Coa
At a Crossroads: Looking Backward and Forward Along the Journey

It’s been a little while since I last posted here. I’ve been forging ahead on this death care path I’ve committed myself to, while also planning my wedding, spending time with family, and dealing with post-Covid chronic illness. All that is to say, I’ve been juggling a lot, and sometimes I drop a ball here and there (or several) in order to stay afloat.


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Prayers for the Grieving: A Snapshot of a Psychopomp at Work

A couple of weeks ago, we got a call at work that a woman named Christy* had a malamute dog who had passed away, and she needed us to pick him up and take him to the crematory. So a coworker and I climbed into the Explorer, one of our two work vehicles, and drove down the road out of the city, through the outskirts of town, to her ranch in the country. Christy has an adorable red-sided, sharply peaked farmhouse surrounded by fenced-in plots of land where her horses grazed in the midmorning sunlight. There was a bite in the air, but it wasn't cold. When she saw us driving down her long gravel driveway, she came out of her house and opened the gate for us. Her other malamute, Kallu*, the deceased dog's sister, was gentle and came up to greet us, and then clung protectively to Christy’s side. She was huge, wolf-sized, but not lean like wild animals. She had a rounded, well-fed figure, and her fur was fluffy and clean.


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When the Spirit Goes: Death, the Afterlife, and the Translation of the Soul

Something I didn't expect when I started working at the pet funeral home was how much it would cause me to consider my beliefs about death and the afterlife. I knew I would usher the animal dead through their transformation and transition; I knew I would help individuals and families make memorial decisions while they grapple with fresh grief, and hopefully help them find comfort in that process. I saw myself as a purveyor of healing, not as a student. But, of course, I'm learning through my work as well.


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Parting Gifts

When my grandpa died, one of my uncles gave his eulogy that centered on how they'd bonded by working on cars together from the time my uncle was a little boy. He specifically remembered my grandpa asking him for a wrench, right down to the size, and later placed a wrench of that same size in my grandpa's casket to be buried with him. Others in my family placed a fishing pole, a pocket knife, and other objects that represented my grandpa's hobbies and important memories of him for the living. Regardless of our beliefs of the afterlife, something in all of us didn't want him to go into it without the things he treasured. When my grandma passed, we did the same for her.

It's not just my family that's done this, and I've seen in my occupation that people don't reserve it just for their human family, either. Some of my favorite moments at the pet funeral home and crematory where I work are when people bring their pet's favorite things to be cremated with them.

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Prayers of the Psychopomp

I thought I'd do something a little different this month and share a couple of prayers I make to my psychopomp Gods and the dead. These prayers, made at my psychopomp altar or ancestor shrine, are a major part of my practices as a pagan and as a death care professional. These prayers supplement and aid my professional work, and my profession is an act of devotion to those whom I worship. I think it's important for people to feel that the work they do is sacred, and worshiping the Gods and spirits of that work is one way to experience the sacredness of how we earn our living. Prayers focus our thoughts and remind us of our purpose, providing a quiet moment to remember why we do what we do, anchoring us to our values and the Gods and spirits whom we love.

Nighttime Prayer to Psychopompic Gods and Spirits

O Rosmerta, Our Lady of Roanoke –
Mother of marshes and junctions,
Gracious Hostess of the living and the dying,
the coming and the going, Plentiful Sustainer –
and Mercurius Psychopompos –
God of the roads and rails, fleet-footed and cunning,
Guide into the Otherworlds, Knower of the ways –
and Genii Cuculatti, Messengers and Gift-Bearers,
and all my helping and guiding spirits on this path,
Teach me to be a better servant,
Fill my body with strength to bear the dead,
Show me the ways so that I may guide them;
Fill my mouth with words that comfort the grieving,
Help me make spaces for them to rest and be nourished.
Thank you for entrusting this sacred work to me.
May my words and deeds honor and please you
in the coming day.

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What To Do With the Ashes? Creative Post-Cremation Memorial Options

Something that I love about cremation, aside from its relative low cost, is the variety of memorial options that are available. In the past, the living just had a few options: burying the cremated remains, keeping the urn at home or in a niche in a columbarium, or scattering the remains. But now, there are a number of creative and heartfelt options for those who want a deeper, more tangible connection with their loved ones' cremated remains.

Cremation Stones

This is a product we offer at the pet funeral home and crematory where I work. While we don't make the stones ourselves, we can send them off for our customers, or they can choose to do it themselves. When the company who creates the stones receives the cremains, they refine the granule remains into a super-fine powder and then add a binding agent that transforms the remains into a clay-like material. The clay is then worked into smooth pebble shapes that fit comfortably into the palm of the hand and heated in a kiln. How many pebbles are created is based on the volume of cremains, which varies from person to person (or animal to animal). One company, Parting Stone, estimates 6-10 stones for cats; anywhere from 5-35 for dogs; and around 40-60 stones for humans.

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