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article imageWisconsin Wiccan church marks Samhain in honor of the dead

By JohnThomas Didymus     Oct 31, 2011 in World
Chicago - Members of a Wisconsin-based Wicca group the Circle Sanctuary, are conducting a ceremony marking the pagan feast of Samhain, an ancient festival in honor of the dead.
Chicago Tribune reports members of the Wiccan church are gathering at the 200-acre Barneveld, Wisconsin, to celebrate the festival of pre-Christian Celtic origins which rounds up "Halloween" and marks the beginning of the new year.
According to BBC, Samhain marks the beginning of the Celtic New year and is celebrated today in Christian world as Halloween. It has been celebrated in Britain for centuries and was believed to be:
"...time the veils between this world and the Otherworld were...at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again. Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows' Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honoring the dead."
Witchvox.com says of Samhain:
"Samhain Holiday begins at sundown on October 31st. The nightide was always a time to be wary of walking alone in the countryside. So much more on this Night when the veils between the worlds of humans and spirits was at its thinnest. Traditional lore speaks of the dead returning to visit their kin and the doors to the Lands of the Sidhe (pronounced "shee") or Faery Realm being opened."
The Wiccan group Circle Sanctuary, according to Chicago Tribune, have been holding Samhain in the Barneveld cemetery site for 30 years, in a stone circle and on a 1-acre ridge top which holds cremated remains of humans and pets. However, this year, the ceremony will be held in a newly opened section of the cemetery which holds non-cremated bodies, all buried in an "environmentally friendly" manner. Chicago Tribune reports the new 20-acre Circle Cemetery handles only "green burials," and according to the Green Burial Council based in New Mexico, Circle Cemetery is one of the few cemeteries in the U.S. providing only for eco-friendly burials.
According to an ordained minister of the Circle Sanctuary Wicca Reverend Ana Blechschmidt of Sycamore, Illinois, eco-friendly burials allow adherents of nature-based religions to honor loved ones who have died because the dead are buried a manner that preserves the natural environment. The Reverend says:
"The thought of getting filled up with formaldehyde and being placed in a sealed, laminated casket and put into a cement box in the ground is not in keeping with preserving Mother Earth....We believe the soul is eternal and immortal. So we want to leave as small a physical footprint as possible."
The difference between an eco-friendly and a non eco-friendly burial is that bodies are not embalmed in eco-friendly burials. They are refrigerated till burial time and only biodegradable caskets are used. In eco-friendly burials, graves are dug not more than 5 feet to allow microbes in the top layers of the soil access the bodies for quick decomposition.
Chicago Tribune reports senior Wicca minster and founder of Circle Sanctuary Reverend Selena Fox, says eco-friendly burials are concerned to make sure the buried body decomposes readily. The Wicca minister says:
"This is about the greening of the end-of-life process...If one is really choosing as part of their way of life to eat whole foods and reduce or eliminate additives and to really live a sustainable life, then when you die, it makes sense to be able to have your body naturally return to the earth without chemical preservatives."
The have been opposition to cremation as eco-friendly burial from concern that it consumes scarce natural resources such as wood and fossil fuels. In many Western countries, cremation is an exotic practice which many disapprove of for reasons of religious doctrines such as the Christian belief in resurrection. Reverend Blechschmidt speaks of her experience of religious cultural reaction to cremation:
"My own father [a southern Baptist] is very weirded out by cremation...If something would happen to me before him, he would like a cemetery plot to visit. In some faiths, if you don't have a body, you can't be resurrected."
Circle Sanctuary's Samhain festival began on Friday, October 28, with a cat funeral, the burial of the Circle Sanctuary Temple Cat Artemis (1992-2011), and a witches ball. The festival will close on Monday, after a Sunday Samhain midnight cemetery vigil. On Saturday, a Samhain community ritual honoring the dead was held.
More about Wiccan, Samhain, the dead, Circle Sanctuary
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