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Author Topic: Respecting the Deceased's Religion  (Read 315 times)

CoyoteFeathers

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Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« on: November 30, 2017, 07:42:40 pm »
I wasn't sure how to title this, so I'm hoping that subject line is enough!

Anyway, this question was spurred on by a dream I had last night, and it brought me to wondering how certain deceased people may feel about others trying to honor them with a religion they were outright against or iffy about. Bear with me, this is a little bit longwinded, but I feel like I need to explain how I started thinking about this, since it's not normally something I would worry about.

A few nights ago my uncle died. I'm not broken up about it, since I wasn't close to him or my aunt (who is still living) at all. They're technically my step-aunt and step-uncle via my grandfather re-marrying very late in life. I only saw them occasionally at church growing up and sometimes they'd be invited to family gatherings, but I hadn't seen my uncle in several years due to his Alzheimer's. Last time I saw him, he introduced himself to me with his full name, so there was no point.

Despite my relative detachment from the whole situation, I had a dream last night where I was trying to do a little memorial offering of my own design for my uncle. I had a large ceramic planter filled with soil, and dumped a bunch of runes in it- not just rune stones, but the runes themselves. Mixed in with those was something else but I can't remember what exactly, since it wasn't as important.

I was going to present this at his wake, believing that his spirit would come into the planter and cause something to grow. Slowly, and with a few odd looks from people around me, I realized that this might not be the greatest idea. My uncle, like his wife, was steadfastly Christian, and if he was anything like my aunt (who I know a little better) he'd have had trouble accepting other Abrahamic religions besides Judaism and Christianity, let alone pagan religion. He spirit would be offended, I thought, and would reject my little ritual. I scrambled to try to pull the runes out, but felt as though that would be ruining the spell in my offering. Yet I had nothing to give from a Christian standpoint, since I wasn't one.

In the waking world, I hadn't really stressed much about this kind of thing except in that I don't normally call upon my Christian ancestors (especially the Puritans) since I feel they'd be offended or disappointed in me. After having this dream, I feel like it would be a bit different with someone I know personally. Their spirit could be upset with me specifically, and their feelings about me could change even after death, and even if they're gone from this world, that would upset me.

So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.


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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2017, 08:56:06 pm »
I wasn't sure how to title this, so I'm hoping that subject line is enough!

Anyway, this question was spurred on by a dream I had last night, and it brought me to wondering how certain deceased people may feel about others trying to honor them with a religion they were outright against or iffy about. Bear with me, this is a little bit longwinded, but I feel like I need to explain how I started thinking about this, since it's not normally something I would worry about.

A few nights ago my uncle died. I'm not broken up about it, since I wasn't close to him or my aunt (who is still living) at all. They're technically my step-aunt and step-uncle via my grandfather re-marrying very late in life. I only saw them occasionally at church growing up and sometimes they'd be invited to family gatherings, but I hadn't seen my uncle in several years due to his Alzheimer's. Last time I saw him, he introduced himself to me with his full name, so there was no point.

Despite my relative detachment from the whole situation, I had a dream last night where I was trying to do a little memorial offering of my own design for my uncle. I had a large ceramic planter filled with soil, and dumped a bunch of runes in it- not just rune stones, but the runes themselves. Mixed in with those was something else but I can't remember what exactly, since it wasn't as important.

I was going to present this at his wake, believing that his spirit would come into the planter and cause something to grow. Slowly, and with a few odd looks from people around me, I realized that this might not be the greatest idea. My uncle, like his wife, was steadfastly Christian, and if he was anything like my aunt (who I know a little better) he'd have had trouble accepting other Abrahamic religions besides Judaism and Christianity, let alone pagan religion. He spirit would be offended, I thought, and would reject my little ritual. I scrambled to try to pull the runes out, but felt as though that would be ruining the spell in my offering. Yet I had nothing to give from a Christian standpoint, since I wasn't one.

In the waking world, I hadn't really stressed much about this kind of thing except in that I don't normally call upon my Christian ancestors (especially the Puritans) since I feel they'd be offended or disappointed in me. After having this dream, I feel like it would be a bit different with someone I know personally. Their spirit could be upset with me specifically, and their feelings about me could change even after death, and even if they're gone from this world, that would upset me.

So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.
Interesting topic!! I have experience sorta with this...

In Autumn 2014 my grandmother - who I was close to, and she was like a second mother to me - passed away from cancer. When I found out, I did "ritual" in the sense that I talked - more like shouted - at the Gods and Goddesses. Offensive I know, but They understood that it came from a place of love and that I was very much hurt by her death. And when I mean conversation, I mean I could feel Their presence in the room to the point where either They or my grandmother gave me a hug that I could feel - a hug that radiated love, assurance, and serenity... And maybe gratitude...

That being said. My grandmother was Lutheran and while not overly concerned about religious affairs, I never got her opinion on me being a Pagan or of other religions. But I do know this: she loved people and did not judge them - no matter what they were. I'd like to think that she's fine with me doing a spell or ritual in her honor.

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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2017, 04:57:00 am »

So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

Well speaking personally I have it in my will what sort of funeral rites I want and I have threatened my nearest and dearest that I will come back and haunt them if they give me any Christian trappings!

So no. If he was a devout Christian who didn't accept other religions then I would respect that and not do anything. If he wasn't particularly religious that might be different but it doesn't sound like it in this case.

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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 06:47:37 am »
So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

The way I see it is that public rites are for the dead person and therefore should respect his/her beliefs (and personal requests for said rites -- if any). Private rites, however, are more for the person performing the rite and therefore generally need to be performed according to their beliefs -- but still with respect to the beliefs of the deceased where possible.
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2017, 06:57:45 am »
The way I see it is that public rites are for the dead person and therefore should respect his/her beliefs (and personal requests for said rites -- if any). Private rites, however, are more for the person performing the rite and therefore generally need to be performed according to their beliefs -- but still with respect to the beliefs of the deceased where possible.

As a Christian, I would see that position as reasonable. In both directions...for example, when someone here brings up a situation publicly where they ask for prayer or support in a public manner, I normally ask for their permission before approaching my God if there is any question as to whether my intercession will be welcome. If it's an inferred or more private matter, however, I'm much more free about speaking to my God privately.
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2017, 07:57:33 am »
The way I see it is that public rites are for the dead person and therefore should respect his/her beliefs (and personal requests for said rites -- if any). Private rites, however, are more for the person performing the rite and therefore generally need to be performed according to their beliefs -- but still with respect to the beliefs of the deceased where possible.

This makes sense.

I have wrestled with similar questions.  Should I pray for a deceased person when said person did not believe in intercession for the dead?

Should I honor my grandmother in my personal religious rites?

I have tended to think that since these rites are private and partly for my consolation that they are fine.  Also, I am honoring my grandmother in me, and the grandmother in me is not identical to the grandmother that lived.

An important matter to consider is whether one believes that the dead, if living in some other realm or some other way, have exactly the same beliefs and attitudes as they did when alive.

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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2017, 08:36:38 am »
The way I see it is that public rites are for the dead person and therefore should respect his/her beliefs (and personal requests for said rites -- if any). Private rites, however, are more for the person performing the rite and therefore generally need to be performed according to their beliefs -- but still with respect to the beliefs of the deceased where possible.

I do think that the public rite should be what the deceased person wants...but I also think there is a lot of it that caters to the living family.  I would not want to rock the boat at someone's funeral by trying to add in my own beliefs/rituals (unless they deceased were Pagan and had specified they wanted that, then I would of course respect that).  But even if I knew they had pagan beliefs and never told any of the rest of the family, I think I would keep things more with what the rest of the family wanted.  I feel that funerals are designed to help the living as much as they are the dead, and I would not want to upset people more (or disrupt the last honoring of the deceased).

In private, I do think that how I choose to honor my dead is my business.  I wouldn't ask for the help of an ancestor with something that I felt was against their personal moral/philosophical/religious viewpoint (unless I literally had no other options for asking for help).  But I'm also pretty flexible in my own practice, and I have no problem lighting a candle and saying a prayer to Jesus (not one of my typical people I work with), when one of my  Christian friends/family are in need.  I do list Christian family names at our Day of the Dead honoring, so it's not a black and white thing for me.
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2017, 08:49:14 am »
So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

I agree with Randall that there's a difference between rites for the person who has died and rites for the person grieving.

I think the 'this person has died, we are doing the things for that' should be what that person would prefer, as much as possible. But in many cases, it's also appropriate (and widely understood) that people will do their own private stuff that might take many forms.

My tradition invites ancestors at all rituals (not just Samhain), and one way I was taught to handle that is to make it an invitation. Just like if you throw a party, some people may decline. Some people may show up for some events, but not others. Some people will take any chance to see you they can get.

It's okay with beloved dead to say "I'm doing this thing, I'd love it if you show up." and see what happens. My impression from doing this, and talking to other people, is that a lot of beloved dead get less fussy about religious specifics after death - more open to the fact there are multiple things going on in the universe. Your thing may not be their preferred thing, but they'll still show up, because they have the connection to you.

(Note that this is not necessarily an instant switch: a lot of cultures treat the first year after a death differently than the time after that, and there are, I think, some good reasons for that. Transition is hard.)

There's also a big difference between rituals that are your form of ritual, but not expecting anything on the part of the person you're honouring or remembering, and ones that are 'you didn't make this choice in life, so now I'm making it for you' (baptism after death, for example). The first set are much more often okay (both in an absolute ethical sense, and in 'person involved seems okay with it'), than the second.
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 03:31:03 pm »
I wasn't sure how to title this, so I'm hoping that subject line is enough!

Anyway, this question was spurred on by a dream I had last night, and it brought me to wondering how certain deceased people may feel about others trying to honor them with a religion they were outright against or iffy about. Bear with me, this is a little bit longwinded, but I feel like I need to explain how I started thinking about this, since it's not normally something I would worry about.

A few nights ago my uncle died. I'm not broken up about it, since I wasn't close to him or my aunt (who is still living) at all. They're technically my step-aunt and step-uncle via my grandfather re-marrying very late in life. I only saw them occasionally at church growing up and sometimes they'd be invited to family gatherings, but I hadn't seen my uncle in several years due to his Alzheimer's. Last time I saw him, he introduced himself to me with his full name, so there was no point.

Despite my relative detachment from the whole situation, I had a dream last night where I was trying to do a little memorial offering of my own design for my uncle. I had a large ceramic planter filled with soil, and dumped a bunch of runes in it- not just rune stones, but the runes themselves. Mixed in with those was something else but I can't remember what exactly, since it wasn't as important.

I was going to present this at his wake, believing that his spirit would come into the planter and cause something to grow. Slowly, and with a few odd looks from people around me, I realized that this might not be the greatest idea. My uncle, like his wife, was steadfastly Christian, and if he was anything like my aunt (who I know a little better) he'd have had trouble accepting other Abrahamic religions besides Judaism and Christianity, let alone pagan religion. He spirit would be offended, I thought, and would reject my little ritual. I scrambled to try to pull the runes out, but felt as though that would be ruining the spell in my offering. Yet I had nothing to give from a Christian standpoint, since I wasn't one.

In the waking world, I hadn't really stressed much about this kind of thing except in that I don't normally call upon my Christian ancestors (especially the Puritans) since I feel they'd be offended or disappointed in me. After having this dream, I feel like it would be a bit different with someone I know personally. Their spirit could be upset with me specifically, and their feelings about me could change even after death, and even if they're gone from this world, that would upset me.

So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

This is a great question, and I think relevant for anyone practicing ancestor worship whose actual recent ancestors do not share their religious beliefs. Ancestor worship is important in Heathenry, but the only recent ancestors I actually interacted with are my grandparents and they were varying shades of Christian.

The way I try to reconcile this is differentiating between "Heathen" offerings to ancestors and less specifically religious acts of remembrance. So when I do something to acknowledge the presence of my grandparents in my life, telling stories about them, talking to my kids about them, etc. I don't feel any particular issue with it because in that case I am simply remembering them which is something that I think they appreciate as well as not contradicting any of their beliefs.

However, when I actually do something in ritual - specifically making offerings to the dead, I identify them as a collective - "the ancestors" or "the disr", etc. In my mind, this is general enough that ancestors who wish to accept/recognize an offering can do so without compelling ancestors who do not wish to be individually honoured in this way to participate.
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2017, 06:20:15 pm »
The way I see it is that public rites are for the dead person and therefore should respect his/her beliefs (and personal requests for said rites -- if any). Private rites, however, are more for the person performing the rite and therefore generally need to be performed according to their beliefs -- but still with respect to the beliefs of the deceased where possible.

Looks like this is the general consensus in this thread! I think you put this very simply and well.

My only qualm with the public rites is my feeling of being a "faker," hiding my own beliefs from everyone else and pretending to pray to a God I don't follow. Though I don't think there's really anything wrong with going to a Christian wake or funeral while being pagan, or praying to the Christian God while being pagan, it brings up personal memories of being stuck worshiping a god I didn't want to, and feeling disrespectful towards Him for being confirmed and taking communion while not really meaning it.

However, when I actually do something in ritual - specifically making offerings to the dead, I identify them as a collective - "the ancestors" or "the disr", etc. In my mind, this is general enough that ancestors who wish to accept/recognize an offering can do so without compelling ancestors who do not wish to be individually honoured in this way to participate.

This is definitely something I've been struggling with as I've gotten into ancestor worship! I've never known whether I should call on or invite the Christians or not, so I end up kind of just... leaving them out for fear of offending them. Thing is, I've also felt badly about excluding them. And open invitation I suppose is a better solution than trying to address each group personally like I've tried to.

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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2017, 11:36:27 pm »
Looks like this is the general consensus in this thread! I think you put this very simply and well.

Yup. I too am with Randall on this.

Quote
My only qualm with the public rites is my feeling of being a "faker," hiding my own beliefs from everyone else and pretending to pray to a God I don't follow.

I faced a somewhat similar issue with the funeral for my grandmother, who was devoutly Catholic and wanted a Catholic funeral. I, as a gay man, won't have anything to do with that church's rituals, period. So I made sure she had a Catholic funeral; but I did not attend. I busied myself getting the subsequent reception ready and participated in that.

She and I were very close, and I know somewhere she was sighing in annoyance, the way she did in life when I'd walk her to church for Christmas Eve mass but refuse to set foot in the door. So we kept to our pattern and respected each other's deeply held beliefs, in life and in death.

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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2017, 02:16:20 am »
So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

Since my Oma died I've had a few strong sensations of her; one included full visual contact. She has a space on my ancestor shrine & I talk to her often. (We were really very close. It's been 7 years since she died and I'll still get hit with extreme grief.)

I've done a Heilig Avondmaal, or holy supper, for my ancestors before, including her and her husband (my step-Opa; died a year after she did). It was a very pagan ritual.

The impression I get from the times I've contacted her is that she is far more relaxed and chill about different religions now. When she was alive, she knew I was into paganism and she didn't really approve, but we did manage to get to a point of agree-to-disagree about religion. We also came to one point of major agreement: Jesus was a nice dude.

The time I had visual contact with her was in church, a year ago. She was sitting next to me, as was my Opa, though he was much fuzzier visually. (I never knew him.) I got an overwhelming sense that she just wanted me to be happy, and that however I expressed my spirituality -- even if it wasn't Dutch Protestantism like hers -- she was happy with that.

I think if I asked her for her help in a pagan-esque ritual, she wouldn't refuse.

(ETA last bit because somehow my computer posted this before I was ready????)
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2017, 02:29:22 am »
(ETA last bit because somehow my computer posted this before I was ready????)

Ok, because that posted before I was done:

Anyway, this story is to say...the public things we do for the dead are for them (but they're also for us, for us to get closure and be able to move on, which is why it's important that before we die we set down what we want and don't foist decision fatigue upon our loved ones), but beyond that...private stuff is private, and it's for us.

I pray for certain people who died this year (2 friends; one from high school, the other from college) when I'm in church and it's time to pray for the dead. I don't think either of them were Christian (for that matter, neither am I). But it's for me. It's for me to find some closure and solace, and that moment in church during prayers where they say "ok, time to pray for the dead" (not said that casually) is the best and easiest way for me to do that.

Also, though, my experience with my Oma has led me to think that maybe death softens people. She's definitely way chiller than she was when she was alive. We were close and I loved her dearly, but truthfully she had a mean streak a mile deep. She could be cruel. She wasn't to me, but to her daughter (my mom)...she said some awful things.

But I don't sense that mean streak anymore. I think wherever she is (which I believe is heaven), it agrees with her, and it's smoothed down the rough edges.

So when it comes to other ancestors/Mighty Dead, I don't stress too much over it, because to be honest, I don't think they are either.
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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2017, 08:34:55 pm »
Also, though, my experience with my Oma has led me to think that maybe death softens people. She's definitely way chiller than she was when she was alive. We were close and I loved her dearly, but truthfully she had a mean streak a mile deep. She could be cruel. She wasn't to me, but to her daughter (my mom)...she said some awful things.

But I don't sense that mean streak anymore. I think wherever she is (which I believe is heaven), it agrees with her, and it's smoothed down the rough edges.

So when it comes to other ancestors/Mighty Dead, I don't stress too much over it, because to be honest, I don't think they are either.

For what it's worth, I've seen a number of people from several different traditions say basically this: that for the most part, the dead are a whole lot chiller than they were when they were living.  Death brings, if nothing else, a very different perspective on what's important.

That isn't to say that all the Westerners are going to be chill, but...
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Respecting the Deceased's Religion
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2017, 07:31:13 pm »
So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

I don't care what the deceased thinks/would think about the rituals I give to honor them after their death. Funerals and rites are for the benefit of the living, not the dead, and the dead are already in the afterlife (or nowhere at all, if theism is wrong) and thus their opinion is of little consequence. They have already died, and so at this point they have already seen the truth; either they are right, and their Christian beliefs are validated, or they are wrong and some other religion is true, perhaps even my own Hinduism (or... they are just gone, and there is no afterlife).

If I'm wrong, and my christian relatives are right, and are up in heaven, and get mad at me for honoring them with Hindu rites, that doesn't bother me; I chose the life the life I lead because I follow my heart, and I will deal with whatever judgement I face in the afterlife when I get there.

On the other hand, If I my beliefs ARE right, and the spirits of my relatives benefit from the rituals I perform, it would be rather shallow and rude of the deceased to cling to their prejudice even after death, and to hold my Hinduism against me.

If I am wrong, and they are wrong, and we all end up in hell together (if Islam is the true faith, for example), then  still say it doesn't matter. If they want to be mad at me for being a different religion, when neither of them is true, that's monumentally stupid.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." - Sri Krishna

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