As a Wiccan Priestess, I’ve found myself serving as clergy for many major life events in various people’s lives. Most of this work has been weddings, but I have also performed a few funeral services as well. Death is a great mystery for all of us, regardless of religion, and something we will all face sooner or later. (hopefully much later!)
For me, even before my Path brought me to Wicca, I was the kind of person who always wanted to be able to say the perfect thing to someone who’d suffered a loss that would make everything okay for them.
The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk and M. Macha NightMare
This was the first book on the subject of death that I ever purchased and when it comes to content that is the most applicable to a modern day Pagan clergy person, it’s one of two that I would suggest. Starhawk and M. Macha NightMare have put together such an amazing amount of diverse content in this sourced from leading people in the Wiccan movement today like Judy Harrow and T. Thorn Coyle.
There are songs/chants, rituals and prayers that cover any kind of death situation that I can think of. I especially found the chapters on children and sudden death and grief full of things I want to reread until they are committed to memory.
The Mighty Dead by Christopher Penczak
As you can probably guess, Christopher’s book deals primarily with the ancestors of witchcraft and how to connect and communicate with them. I think that this is a higher level book that builds off teachings that are presented in the core Temple of Witchcraft material.
There’s some pretty cool historical information on death and The Mighty Dead, or what some prefer to call the Hidden Company or the Ascended Masters. These are those souls who have guided our kind for years and were first talked about by Gerald Gardner. This book guides you in how to connect with the dead, what kind of offerings to leave and how to set up an altar.
Entering the Summerland by Edain McCoy
I first learned of this book from my friend Crystal when Cathy and I were helping her organize her witchy library. It was about the time when I was looking for deeper information on death for my own ministerial needs and the book’s title and cover drew me in right away. This is an older book, with a 1996 copyright date, and I have only seen it available on Amazon, but it was well worth the effort to get it. And let’s be honest, the subject matter is timeless.
I found some really great and practical ideas in this book that I can use as a Pagan clergy member. Edain shares different possibilities on how to honor loved ones who have passed. One that sticks out was to put together a table with possessions of the recently deceased at the wake/ memorial service and encourage attendees to take a memento home with them. Like the Pagan Book of Living and Dying, there are many sample rituals and prayers in its pages and I think it’s a really solid book to consider adding to your library if you don’t have it already.
Walking the Twilight Path by Michelle Belanger
This is a truly interesting book. It’s filled with beautiful pictures of mausoleums and other cemetery statuary and there are sidebars of easy to reference information like names for species of the soul and ‘hallmarks for an out-of-body experience’.
Michelle has created a postmodern Book of the Dead that is influenced, not only from the ancient Egyptian beliefs that were outlined in the original book, but from all kinds of spiritual practices from the East and the West. She’s included rituals, exercises and topics to journal about with each chapter that cover everything from how to ‘bring death into your life’ to creating a ‘Necromantic Medicine Bag’.
I would consider this an advanced book on the subject of death and maybe one where you want to have some experience with spirit work before really getting in to.
When Millie Comes Back by Michelle Belanger and Cat Mason
Here is a great book for kids and another book by Michelle Belanger. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy (yet) of this book, but Cathy does and she told me about it when I discussed writing this blog with her. I looked at the pages available for viewing on Amazon and I can see that there is some beautiful artwork and more importantly a wonderful spiritual journey for Pagan children about the death of a beloved pet.
I’m always a sucker for a Pagan inspired children’s book and I’m relieved that there is at least one out there about death. Honestly, I’m also not surprised that Michelle is the one to have written it since she knows so much about the subject.
I hope this list is helpful if you are looking for resources on death for your own practice. I know that they have been very useful for me. Death is such a vast subject and as Pagans we have a broader viewpoint than other religions. That’s not necessarily better, but it’s different and I love that there are books out there that are applicable to so many needs in our community.
I’d love to know what books you would recommend for the subject of death. Is there something different from this list? Drop me a line or make a comment and let me know. And as always… thanks for walking the Path a little while with me and until next time… Blessed Be!
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