Rite of Passing
Asatruar in olden times have long been remembered for their grand and extravagant funeral ceremonies. We remember the dead richly clad being cast out to sea upon ornate dragon ships followed by a trail of flaming arrows. A most impressive and expensive funeral service for sure, but such was the way of our sea faring ancestors. Fro they understood that the ceremony of death holds a very high significance. As is traditional, Asatru funerals are held preferably out of doors. A circle is formed with a fire pit and a strong altar is erected where the Godi will conduct the ceremony. Appropriate flags, rune banners, incense and such accouterments are left to the discretion of the Godi. It was the belief of our forefathers that if one was buried in the ground that the spirit would go to the Vanir; if cremated by flame, the spirit would go to the Aesir. Regardless of choice, it was always the customary preference for Asatruar to leave Midgard with a weapon to journey into the next world.
What should always remain a mandatory tradition concerning all Asatruar burials is that a Thor’s Hammer be worn by the deceased. If closed coffin, a wooden Thor’s Hammer should be laid on the lid.
It is natural to grieve for the dead, but we, also, need to remember that all is well – death signifies a great karmic completion.
Godi rings bell 9 times and speaks:
We have assembled today to offer our friend and kinsman/woman ___(name)___ a last tribute of our affections. Death has once more entered our circle here in Midgard, yet we must all accept the fact that like our Kinsman/woman who now lay before us, we too must one day leave this realm of being and unite once again with our ancestral spirits in the realm of the gods and goddesses.
Death is not an end, but rather a glorious experience- a journey into a far country, and an opportunity to extend the sphere of action and increase the sum of knowledge.
Allfather Odin, we appeal to your just service at this time. We command ___(name)___ to the love and care of our Gods and Goddesses. We pray that his/her passage into the astral realms be smooth and that the light bearer illuminate his/her path; and that the Valkyries lead him/her gently by the hand and that the Gods and Goddesses protect him/her.
___(name)___ left us with the gift of friendship and bright lasting memories that only kinfolk can bestow. ___(name___ has stepped into the darkness of the gods. May he/she leave life’s embrace without fear – as would befit a warrior/Valkyrie.
One day we must follow him/her across the Bifrost Bridge. As Asatruar we share the assurance and knowledge that after the darkness follows the light. Death, as we know it, is but a transition - an initiation. It is a melancholy truth that the moment we begin to live we also begin to die.
As we command the soul of ___(name)___ to the care of our Gods and Goddesses, we ask that they look down upon his/her family in their desolation with compassion and guidance.
Allfather Odin, as we deliver the soul of our brother/sister to your care, know that we do so with great sorrow and mourning.
Now do we offer this prayer of the deceased.
Come and look on me,
O Death, O Death –
And yet in yonder world
I shall dwell with thee.
Take this tired soul,
Thou art a light of golden day,
Who drivest on thy glorious car,
Thee, for this last time,
Never more again!
O life – O sacred land that was my home;
O Midgard – Where stands my family’s hearth,
My friends, my folk, my kindred,
With you I shared my dreams –
With you I shared the gift of life,
I bid you farewell;
These final words I speak to you
All else now, Odin willing,
I shall speak in Valhalla.
Family members who wish to come forward to speak about the departed take turn pronouncing their eulogies.
Godi positions himself before the casket of the departed and speaks:
Man is but a handful of dust
And life is a violent storm.
As in life, so in death
A man is no better and no worse
For where he is
But for what he is.
May this departed spirit
Continue on its journey
Knowing that he/she will be greatly missed
Here in Midgard.
The Gods and Goddesses willing,
May our spirits meet again
Hear us now our departed friend,
As the chapter closes on your life,
This rite we perform in your honor,
Sending you our most heartfelt blessings.
May the longships guide your soul to Valhalla.
This rite ends in peace.
Godi makes the sign of the hammer over the casket.
As the casket is carried to its burial place, live or taped music is an appropriate accompaniment. Poem is read by relative or family friend.
(adopted from a poem by Thomas Nashe)
Goodbye, farewell, Midgard’s bliss,
The World uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys,
None from his darts can fly.
Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade,
All things to end are made,
As life full swift goes by;
Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair,
Dust hath closed Boudicca’s eye.
Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hermann brave,
Swords may not fight with fate.
Midgard still holds ope’ her gate;
Come! Come! The Valkyries cry.
Wit with his wantonness;
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hath no ears to hear
What vain art can reply.
Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny.
Valhalla is our heritage,
Midgard but a player’s stage;
Mount we unto the sky,
Life is swift – but all must die.
All present are circled around the casket as it is suspended above the grave.
Life is never the same again after a death,
But in time we can come to a new awareness
Of life’s mysteries and magic
Of which we are a part.
Feelings of loss are often a difficult hurdle.
In the fullness of time however,
Pain gives way to a gentle acceptance.
With acceptance comes understanding,
With understanding comes peace and healing of heart.
Death’s finger traces its handwriting upon
The walls of every human habitation.
It teaches us Duty; to act our part well;
To fulfill the work assigned to us.
When one is dying, and after he is dead,
There is but one question: Has he lived well?
There is no evil in death
But that which life makes.
Casket is lowered to the ground or ashes dispersed.
Godi holds an evergreen sprig and speaks:
Kinsmen and Kinswomen,
We are gathered here to witness and partake
In the sacred rite of passing of our dearly beloved ___(name)___.
In our shared sadness we have learned
That in the midst of life we are in death,
And none of us knows what the day may bring.
We are assembled now to offer our friend and kinsman/woman
A last tribute of our affections,
To resign him/her body to the earth,
Whence it came,
And to speed this soul on its journey to Asgard.
To his/her family and friends who are most heart-stricken
At the loss they have all sustained,
We deeply and sincerely sympathize with you
In your bereavement.
O Gods of Asgard,
We call to you in this hour of sadness,
We trust in your goodness and mercy
That the soul of our dearly departed ___(name)___
Will find rest and comfort in your care.
Look down with compassion
Upon his/her kin in their desolation,
And may this loss serve
As an awakening reminder
To all here gathered,
Of life’s frailty
And the importance of our mission here in Midgard.
Godi moves to the edge of the grave, holding evergreen sprig aloft and continues:
This sprig of evergreen,
Symbol of life’s everlasting,
The immortality of the soul,
Do we now leave with you?
Dearly departed friend.
By it we are reminded
That we have a part within us all
That will never, never die.
Godi pours mead from mead horn over the casket saying:
Accept this libation
That we now offer you,
May it serve you on your sacred journey.
Godi steps back, as earth is shoveled atop the casket and speaks:
Ashes to ashes
And dust to dust,
By the Norns Decree,
We do now resign this body to the elements
Whence it came,
And to speed his/her soul
On its journey to Asgard.
We bid thee farewell.