Wiccan funeral customs and burial traditions encourage individuals to make their wishes for a funeral known well in advance of their death. In this way, they are able to specify the type of burial they want. Many times Wiccan customs may not be honored by other family members, so Wiccans are encouraged to have a fellow coven-mate or a lawyer listed as the executor of the will.
There are distinct parts to a Wiccan funeral ritual, and only the deceased’s closest family, friends, and coven-mates attend services at the graveside. During the brief funeral ritual, the other participants wait for this special group to return to the larger group.
In the first part of the funeral ritual, the Priestess and Priest conduct the funeral ceremony, and their assistants serve as ushers. The ritual space is cleared of furniture and the deceased’s body is laid out at an altar. Mourners wait at the outside edges of the space while the Priestess continues to prepare the space and recites a ritual chant. After a recitation by both the Priest and Priestess, mourners are invited to come and speak to the deceased, saying whatever is needed to help along the journey into death. If a visitor does not wish to speak, that is acceptable too.
Eventually, the body is wrapped and a candle is lit. The ushers direct visitors to food and drink and encourage them to converse with each other while the Preistess, Priest and other coven-mates and close friends take the body to the grave. A private ritual is conducted, and then these members return to the rest of the group to share stories and memories and offer prayers.
In general, Wiccan funerals share characteristics with those that choose green or eco-friendly burial customs. The person to be buried is wrapped only in cloth in order to allow the body to decompose naturally and as quickly as possible in order to provide nourishment for other life. When this type of burial is not permitted by law, Wiccans encourage cremation and the burial of ashes as opposed to the use of traditional embalming fluids and airtight caskets.
Aside from some a few shared characteristics, it is possible for Wiccan funeral services to be differ vary greatly from person to person or from coven to coven. This is due to in large part to different ritual practices, but also is a result of honoring the deceased’s individual wishes for the funeral service.