Scattering Violets

An exploration of funerary traditions and innovations, care of the dead, and pagan perspectives on death

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Scattering Violets: A New Blog About Death Care and Funerary Traditions

For the past several months, I've found myself struggling with fresh ideas for Hob & Broom, my previous blog here on PaganSquare about hearth and home traditions. While my hearth cult is still a deeply important spiritual foundation for me, I felt that I'd exhausted all my resources for it and there was nothing left to write about. But I think it's closer to the truth to say that my interest has shifted, and has been shifting for quite some time.


For the past six months, I've been working as a funeral assistant at a pet funeral home and crematory. People bring their deceased pets to us for cremation, or to purchase caskets for burial, and we help them make decisions about how to commemorate their pets' lives. We also cremate for the local zoo, as needed, and for a wildlife nonprofit. I'd applied with the goal of getting a foot in the door and experience in the funeral services industry, which is something I've wanted to do for the past several years. Soon, I'll be training to become a cremationist (certified both for animals and humans), and eventually I plan to become a funeral director for human funerals.


My mom asked me recently what drew me toward the funeral services industry, and she's not the first one to ask me about why I've chosen to do what I do. I understand the curiosity. This business is entirely focused on death, loss, and grief – these are painful experiences that most people prefer to avoid. But it’s a space in which I’m surprisingly comfortable and can work within in a way that is fulfilling to me and comforting to the grieving.


For many reasons, I have the disposition and temperament for the work, and I recognized that a few years ago when my grandmother died and I helped my mother arrange her funeral, including dressing my grandmother and doing her hair and makeup. I was grieving – I lost 10-15 pounds in a couple of months after her death – but doing that for my grandmother and our family was helpful to me. Seeing how I could move within that space and state of mind, and the positive impact it had on those around me, was deeply inspiring. Care of the dead and support for their grieving loved ones is important work, and I know that not everyone can or wants to do it. In short, I fill a needed role. I have had my own experiences with grief and loss, and I can sit with those feelings – my own and others' – without becoming overwhelmed by them. I can move with and through the tides of grief, anger, and any other emotions that come during these delicate, inevitable experiences, recognizing what they are and that they will pass. I don't fear these negative emotions, as painful as they can be, because they are natural and the result of deep love. Having this core fortitude, I have found that I can ease the pain of grief that others experience and help them make choices that reflect their love of their dead – human or animal. This is healing work.


Second, I enjoy the ritual of funerals. It's a community ritual, and funeral traditions connect us to our families and our cultural heritage. I am so drawn to the connection between the present and the past, and the meaning and comfort that is made during funerals. During my grandfather's funeral, many of us placed significant objects in his casket with him: things that were important to him in life, or that symbolized our relationship with him. This is an ancient practice: Iron Age graves contain everyday objects belonging to the dead – buckets, jewelry, cups, weapons and tools. Knowing this, and seeing this practice carried on in front of me, among my family, is deeply moving.


Finally, death care is a significant aspect of the calling I received from my initiatory goddess – something that it took me years to understand, and which I couldn't ignore once I understood it. For years, I’ve felt compelled to seek out and do this work, feeling a restless yearning that wouldn't cease. I felt caught in limbo, stunted and yearning to break free onto this path. Finally, I got this job and formally started on my path. That yearning is now replaced with a satisfying sense of purpose; this work feels right and natural for me to do. And that's how I know I'm going the right way.


This blog will be about many things: death and funerary traditions, new practices in death care and funeral services, and my thoughts on death, dying, and funeral rituals as a polytheist, animist pagan. It will be about the many ways in which we can face grief – and the many emotions that arise in this unique state of being and process – in ways that are comforting, inspiring, healing, and connective.



Photo by Bruce Kee on Unsplash

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The Cunning Wife is an animist, writer, diviner, crafter, witch, and spirit worker and traveler. Her work has been published in a number of online and print magazines, including Witches & Pagans and Hagstone Publishing's Stone, Root, and Bone ezine. She gets excited about scholarly essays and books on folklore, magical tales, and ancient spiritual practices, and is passionate about sharing that information. She is also an avid crafter of magical and mundane items. She believes that there is magic in the mundane, just waiting to be remembered.  


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