Pagan Book of Living & Dying: Reviews

Reviews about The Pagan Book of Living and Dying:

From “Booklist”, a library review journal review by Jeff Ahrens

The several books about wiccans and pagans only briefly mention beliefs about an afterlife. Wiccan and pagan funereal rites seem practically nonexistent, a fact Starhawk and company discovered when her husband died, (** editor note: actually it was Macha’s husband who passed away, not Starhawk’s) and that spurred them to assemble this useful resource. It is a collection of essays that begins by explaining pagan thealogy (the distinctive spelling indicates goddess study) and proceeds to actual rituals and chants, a discussion of symbolism, and the personal experiences of pagans and wiccans. There are several types of wiccan and pagan sects, and although there are connections between them, there is nothing like a synod to establish dogma or particular rituals. Yet any religious tradition must meet its adherents’ strong needs for dealing with grief, which Starhawk and her coauthors answer by drawing on ancient and global mythologies. Virtually every modern mortality issue is covered in this book–physician assisted suicide, dying from AIDS, and care of the terminally ill, among others. This is a beautiful and unique book on a very important topic.

This is from a website for Growth House Books in San Francisco. Tove Beatty of Maitri Hospice alerted them to the book. You may wish to check out other info. on death and dying that that have at

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, 288 pages (**editor note: actually it is 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.