In general, Wiccan funerals share many characteristics of green or eco-friendly burial. Wiccan tradition shows a preference for the deceased to be buried in a natural setting, wrapped only in cloth in order to allow the body to decompose naturally and as quickly as possible. This is a reflection of respect for the earth and for the natural life and death cycle as well as a desire to provide nourishment for other life.
When natural outdoor burial is not permitted, Wiccans encourage cremation and the burial of ashes. The deceased may be memorialized in a number of ways that are personal to the loved ones. Friends and family are often offered a portion of the cremains so that they may find their own way to memorialize the deceased.
Wiccan teachings include an emphasis on reincarnation and the spirit is believed to move on to the “Summerlands.” The Summerlands is described as an abundantly green place that is both peaceful and beautiful. This natural setting offers the deceased a place to reconnect with those who came before prior to moving on to the next phase.
Wiccan customs are often misunderstood, so those opting for a Wiccan funeral and burial are encouraged to make their wishes for a funeral known well in advance of their death. Wiccans are encouraged to have a fellow coven-mate or a lawyer listed as the executor of the will.
In extremely orthodox settings, non-practicing Wiccans may be excluded from the ceremony. In most cases today, however, family and friends are invited to share in the experience of returning the deceased to the earth. Wiccan funeral services may vary greatly from person to person or from coven to coven. This is due not just to differing ritual practices, but also a desire to honor the deceased’s unique wishes for the funeral service.
The Wiccan funeral typically consists of two parts. 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 (if there is a body present). 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. Visitors are not required to speak.
The second part of the ceremony is the burial of the body. The Priest or Priestess will conduct the ceremony. At the conclusion, those attending will be invited to share stories and memories and offer prayers. Close family and friends may choose to stay after the ceremony to have their own private ritual.
Wiccan funerals are often held in an outdoor natural setting but they may also be held at a private home. Less commonly, they will be held at a funeral home.
Details of the prayers and ritual chants that are used during the ceremony can be found on various Wiccan culture websites.