Funeral for the Earth

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog! So much has been going on with the end of seminary work that I’ve barely had time to write anything extra. That being said, even though I’m done with all of my assignments (YAY!), I want to post some work that I’ve done for seminary – starting with the funeral ceremony I wrote. My teacher advised us to get in touch with our grief, so I wrote a service for the death that is closest to my heart…

Funeral for the Earth

Setting: Outside, in a field surrounded by trees. There are chairs for those who need and space for others to sit on the earth or stones. We sit in a loosely-formed circle.

Celebrant (at one “end” of the the circle): Friends, we have gathered here today for a unique funeral, unique because we mourn a collective death. We witness the death of the earth, the sky, the waters, the air, and the earth’s creatures – including our human selves. It is a unique death because it is one that is still in process. This funeral bears witness to the mass extinction event occurring at this moment – extinction that includes genocide and ecocide. And, because there is no separation between ourselves, our mother earth, our plant brothers and animal sisters, this death is essentially a suicide at the hands of the human race.

It feels appropriate to take a page from a common tradition of native peoples who honor all aspects of the earth on a regular basis. Please stand as we honor and eulogize the four directions. The life and death honored of each represents another aspect of ourselves that lives and dies.

(Each direction may be read by a different congregant, taking pauses as necessary for pacing and depth.)

East (Whoever reads this steps into the center of the circle): Please stand as we face the east. (Celebrant and congregation face east.) We begin with the east because all of life begins in the east. We honor the rising sun and its life-giving warmth and energy. Here, we honor the element of air and offer gratitude for the fresh, clean air that has filled our lungs and sustained so much life on this planet. Recall the memories of the breeze through your hair and wind on your face. We mourn the sky that has been contaminated by pollutants, smog, and ozone-depleting chemicals. We honor the life and hard work of the bees who pollinate so much of our beautiful plant life and the food supply, so essential for nourishment and survival, the bees that now die at an alarming rate due to pesticides and genetically-modified plants. We grieve the now-silent songs of over 150 species of birds that have gone extinct since the year 1600 and 1,300 more that face extinction now. Let’s silence ourselves to hear the sounds of the birds and the life all around us at this moment. Take this time to quietly offer any thoughts of grief, gratitude, and celebration of the air and the creatures of the air.

South (After a few minutes of silence for the East, another person steps into the circle. East returns to the circle.) Please join me in honoring the south (everyone turns and face the south). The south. You may sit for this direction. (Everyone sits.) Here, we honor fire, the fire of energy, the fire that is the spark of all life. Everything we see and feel is energy; however, there is a finite amount of energy in this universe. Since the industrial revolution, humans on earth have reached maximum capacity in terms of energy that can be converted to other forms of energy. Humans have wastefully exceeded the energy paradigm and the planet and all of its inhabitants suffer at the toxic disruption of the natural energy cycles of the earth. This scientific theory may be confusing, but all you need to know is that our way of life is obviously unsustainable. We have passed out candles to everyone in the circle (safely guarded by cones of plastic [recycled, of course]) . Please pick it up now. We will pass around the flame to symbolize the energy that represents life. (Lights a candle and lights another person’s candle. The flames moves around the circle.) Let’s have a moment of silence as we contemplate the decreasing life force on this earth.

(Pause for a few minutes. Read following quote:)

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Teilhard de Chardin

May we hold Chardin’s prayer in our hearts and set an intention to cultivate and deepen our love for the earth and all of its precious life.

(Pause for another minute or two.)

West (Another congregant steps forward as South returns to the circle.) Please extinguish your candles fully in the bowl of water being passed around. Now, we face the West which represents water. Water cleanses and purifies. Our bodies are 90% water. Water sustains all life. Water represents change and mutability as we experience it in multiple forms. Sadly, we have poisoned our streams and groundwater with pesticides and other chemicals. The climate change at the hands of humans has created great imbalance in the world. The icecaps are melting and many regions battle destructive rains and floods while other areas thirst in drought. Another bowl of clean, filtered water is now being passed around. There is a ladle for your use. I invite you to use this water to cleanse any area of your body that you see fit. Splash it on your face. Take a drink if you like. Or, return the water to the earth as we pray that the water may continue to nourish the soil. (The water is passed in silence as everyone in the circle partakes in the ritual.)

North (Another congregant steps forward as West returns to the circle.) The north. Here, we honor the soil and the creatures of the earth. Please stand. I invite you to close your eyes and bring your attention to the solid ground beneath your feet. Feel your weight totally supported by the earth. Thank her for her support. Recall a time when you may have run through the forest or danced among the flowers. The ground has nourished life for so long and now, sadly, the flowers and the trees and the creepy-crawlies beneath our feet choke on contaminated soil. We mourn the earthly creatures that have been hunted to extinction, or bred to explosive populations for the business of food like the livestock industry that has ruined so much of the earth’s topsoil. The lungs of our planet, the Amazon rainforest have been destroyed for more cultivation of the beef industry. We grieve the exquisite life that has continues to be sacrificed for human business and monetary pursuits. Join me in a spiral dance as we chant. (This congregant leads everyone to grab hands and follow him/her in a spiral dance, a la Starhawk. Someone may play a drum. Chant and dance until it feels necessary to stop.)

Mother, I Feel You
Mother, I feel you under my feet
Mother, I feel your heart beat
Mother, I feel you under my feet
Mother, I feel your heartbeat

heya heya heya heya heya hey-oh
heya heya heya heya hey-ooooh

Celebrant: Please return to the circle and we will face inward. We bring our attention to the final direction and that is where each of us stands at the crossroads of all of the directions we have honored today. We possess elements of all four of the directions. But, there is a fifth direction and that is where you stand, integrating the heavens and the earth. I would like to take this time to honor the lives and deaths of humanity. We grapple with war and genocide, yet celebrate community and connection between each other and the other creatures of earth. (Pause.) Direct your attention within. Close your eyes if you like and place your hand over your heart. Recall the times when your own spirit felt crushed. You are alive right now, but you yourself have experienced death. Feelings of insecurity. A cruel comment. Physical trauma that caused psychic pain or suffering. Take a moment to grieve for anything you need to grieve. (Pause.) Now, bring to mind any time you felt truly alive. Recall the feeling of your heart soaring, the joy of your heart connecting to another’s. Take a moment to celebrate. (Pause.) Bring your attention back to the circle.

Lastly, in this circle of life and death, I would like to invite expressions of existence by passing around the talking stick. This is a time for memories, celebrations, apologies even. Briefly share your experience of life here on this incredible planet we call Earth. There is no judgment here – it is a safe space that can hold it all just as the earth has held it all. I invite songs, dances, silence, and spoken word. Just remember that this is a time to honor ourselves, the human race, the plant people, the stone people, the water, and all elements of the planet that live and die as we live and die.

Celebration and mourning ensues. When all that needs to be expressed has been expressed, the celebrant guides attention back to the circle.

Thank you all. I invite you to take the hands of your neighbors to connect this circle that represents the circle of life. Repeat after me in closing. Aho. Aho. Amen. Amen. Amin. Amin. Om. Om. It is so.


2 thoughts on “Funeral for the Earth

  1. Linda says:

    Fr.Richard Rohr,CAC in his daily meditation included a quote from a story aboutEastern Orthodox St. Silouan (response)…which I think applies to us and our Earth:
    “Obviously upset, the Staretz said, ‘Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hell-fire–would you feel happy?’
    “‘It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,’ said the hermit.
    “The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance:

    “‘Love could not bear that,’ he said. ‘We must pray for all.'”

    Love could not bear that, we must pray for all.


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