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The Pagan Book Of Living And Dying

Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over

by Starhawk, M. Macha Nightmare, and The Reclaiming Collective

Paperback, 353 pages
Published by Harper San Francisco
Publication date: October 1, 1997
25 line drawings
ISBN: 0062515160


This book is the first comprehensive guide to contemporary Neo-Pagan beliefs and practices in facing death. The first edition of this work, entitled Crossing Over, was published by the Reclaiming Collective in 1995. This is an expanded edition intended for a broader community including both self-identified Pagans and non-Pagans who are interested in this modern spiritual movement.

In her introduction to the book the author notes that no one person can claim to speak for the diverse Neo-Pagan community:

"I started to wonder what prayer might serve as a core statement of Pagan belief -- should a tradition as anarchic as ours ever want one. Perhaps we do not; our tradition strongly resists any centralization of creed or imposition of authority. We encourage creativity and spontaneity."
In that light, the book provides an eclectic compilation of Craft resources for those who are assisting a dying person, grieving a loss, or planning a funeral or memorial service. While it could be useful to someone who is dying, it is more likely to be useful to caregivers who work with dying or bereaved persons from this spiritual background.

The book is noteworthy for its earth-centered spirituality, a careful attention to non-gendered language, and a welcoming approach to human diversity of all kinds. It views birth, growth, and death as parts of a natural cycle.

Many different prayers, meditations, myths, and rituals are included to give meaning and reassurance to those facing loss. The Neo-Pagan, earth-centered, Goddess tradition expressed in this deeply spiritual book is strongly committed to intellectual freedom. The reader is encouraged to modify the materials as needed to accommodate personal needs.

This non-dogmatic approach makes it a handy source book for clergy of all denominations who need to arrange funeral and memorial presentations for audiences with diverse spiritual backgrounds. Some of the beautiful and comforting meditations on Nature could easily be integrated with liturgy from other spiritual traditions. Many of the passages give a clear, contemporary voice to the sometimes poorly defined spiritual feelings that people often have when faced by death.

Special chapters deal with the dying process, working with the dying, the moment of death, caring for the dead, and funeral and memorial services. Specific issues associated with AIDS, children, violence, and sudden death are also noted. Practical approaches to grief and bereavement work are given.

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