The credit for this article really goes to my friend and work mate here in Costa Rica because it was he who remarked that I should “become a shaman-priest and open a pagan cemetery”. Yes, those are his exact words (hence the quotation marks). The day is coming when I will comment on the first part of his remark. The second part however, intrigued me when he said it and the continuation of our conversation gave me the chance to flesh out the idea of a pagan cemetery. To clarify, he used the word pagan because it is the only word he knows to describe me with and I will continue to phrase it as such for this article however what it really means is Pagan and Heathen cemetery.
The overall premise of the idea was that there are two things you need to take into account when planning or designing a pagan cemetery. The first consideration is that the body needs to be disposed of in one way or another. The second consideration is that Pagans and Heathens as a whole tend to be very ecologically and or environmentally minded. Naturally, cremation is the obvious choice for most Pagans and Heathens because it is currently the most environmentally low impact option available. However, what to do with the ash? Most would simply scatter it somewhere meaningful or be buried beneath a tree of some description. Nowadays it’s even simpler to do with the advent of biodegradable urns for ashes that come with the seeds already contained within. Simply bury or, more appropriately, plant the urn with the ashes contained within and before too long there’ll be a new tree. However, it can be taken one step further even.
The overall idea of a cemetery, necropolis, graveyard etc was born from the necessity to have a dedicated place to dispose of the dead where they could also be remembered and or visited by those who loved them in this life. There is no real reason to alter this working concept when it is married to biodegradable cremation urns. Instead of putting a generic tree’s seeds into the urn, the seeds could be chosen from a variety of options. Endangered native trees, fruit trees, habitat trees that endangered animals or birds nest in, trees that are needed for land rejuvenation and more. Pretty quickly the idea of a pagan cemetery becomes an ecologically sustainable and environmentally friendly way to reforest and rejuvenate, areas could even specialise in caring for trees that are all fruit bearing or trees that are being used to rejuvenate an area. There are all kinds of possibilities.
In some ways it is really just a poetically conceived method for recycling the dead. There are really no two ways about it – a decomposing body of any being, whether human or no, releases a phenomenal amount of nutrients into the soil that it is buried in. However despite the clear nature of recycling or giving the dead a purpose, there is a beauty to the idea of there literally being life after death no matter what you believe. For those who believe that nothing happens to a person after death, there are no issues; for those who believe that a person goes on to an afterlife of some description, the person no longer needs their body; for those who believe in reincarnation, well they’ve reincarnated – they don’t need the body they’ve left behind. Without a doubt, there are many cultural concerns with the idea however it is a concept that doesn’t necessarily have to be labelled ‘pagan cemetery’ because it is something that really any person could do; Pagan and or Heathen, or no.