wicker casket with flowers

Rest In Peace: A Guide to Green Burials

A wicker basket casket with flowers on top for a green burial

Death comes for us all. It is the greatest certainty of the human condition, and our relationship with it is as old as human sentience.

While we can’t often control when and how our mortal coils are shuffled off, there is a certain beauty in death, as much as it may be painful for those of us left in its wake. It is a continuation of our journey. Death is the balance of life, and we honor our loved ones with the respect they deserve and return their bodies in a way that also respects the Earth. Mourning, grief, and funerary practices are almost as old as our knowledge of death itself.

Green burials are the future of death care, and it’s time we start advocating for death rights that honor our religion.

My first experience with a funeral was my great-grandmother’s. My family received the doctor’s call early in the morning that things weren’t looking too good, so we raced against death just to say goodbye. By the time we arrived, she had already passed.

Her funeral several days later felt stifled. This woman who was so fierce in life looked like a pale imitation of the one I had known as Grams. She laid in her casket, pumped so full of preservatives that she didn’t even look real. When the services began, the priest spoke flatly, reading from his bible empty words to try to make us feel better in our devastation. She hadn’t even been religious in her life, so why must her funeral be about God?

Most of us probably have a similar story of priest-lead funerals. The pews are full of people who didn’t know the deceased quite as well as they should’ve, and the priests drag on and on, reading their passages meant to show how caring and compassionate God is. The deceased must be in heaven, they say – as if that’s some sort of consolation. I had little to do with the choices that were made for my great-grandmother’s funeral as a young teen at the time, but it felt off to me. This was my first exposure to death, and I didn’t understand at the time how this was considered the best we could do to honor someone we loved so much.

While our Luciferian path is very life-loving, we must also take the time to advocate for our death rights. We balance life with death, and celebrating the life we led should be as positive as possible. There must be a better way for us, something as meaningful and beautiful as our religion is. We are designing Luciferian Dominion funeral rites and rituals, but choosing what happens to our bodies can be difficult.

Options that honor our religion may seem limited, as society has drilled it into our heads that the standard casket burial or cremation are the only appropriate ways to deal with death and that we must seek out professional funeral care. Considering the death industry is worth about $20 billion annually in the United States, it’s not surprising that funeral homes would want to market death in a profitable way. Unfortunately, most of our modern burial and cremation practices are also polluting the earth instead of nourishing it.

When burying our loved ones, oftentimes funeral homes are insistent on embalming their bodies, especially if we choose an open casket viewing. These bodies are only preserved with toxic embalming chemicals for the benefit of those left behind – to make the viewings more tolerable, or to prolong the funeral by several days. Embalming doesn’t stop the decomposition, it only slows it. Time breaks the body and caskets down, and those chemicals we used to preserve our loved ones for just a few days longer leach into our soils and waters. Each year we bury about 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluids, About 800,000 gallons of that are formaldehyde, methanol, and benzene. 

We also bury about 20 million board feet of wood, 1.6 million tons of concrete, 17,000 tons of copper and bronze, and 64,500 tons of steel, none of which contributes to the local ecology. After looking at the statistics for burials, cremation may seem like the cheaper and eco-friendlier option since it does take up less space and doesn’t rely on embalming the bodies.

Cremation is, in fact, also incredibly harmful. Most modern cremation facilities lack the proper filtration systems to prevent carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other heavy metals from spewing into our atmosphere. These should be considered crimes against our planet, and we pay hefty price tags just to poison our Earth further.

It’s beyond time we return to more natural, sustainable ways of honoring our dead. We have a very rich history of natural green burials since the dawn of humanity, complete with rites and rituals. In North America, we often held funerals in our own homes and buried our loved ones in family cemeteries. The current death industry as we know it didn’t really begin until the Civil War, when we started embalming bodies to ship back home to be buried.

This industry has grown significantly into our modern era, and while it will take time to dismantle, it’s important to start advocating now. Do the research, figure out what’s best for you and your loved ones, and start making the changes necessary. There has been a lot of innovation with green burials over recent years, and we have an increasing number of choices that we haven’t had in a long time.

This guide doesn’t reflect the full suite of options available in all areas, and does not cover emerging innovations, but hopefully will serve as a launching point into your own research and advocacy.

Are we required to use a Funeral Home?

Most states do not require anyone to use a funeral home, but you may be required to still hire a funeral director in some states. Per United States law, you do have the right to purchase whatever funeral plan or services you choose, and that includes choosing no services at all. Canada also does not require the use of a funeral home or transfer services.

What is considered a natural or green burial?

A natural or green burial is one that has minimal environmental impact and allows the body to simply be returned to the Earth in the natural cycle. The aim of a green burial is to conserve resources, and preserve or restore our habitats. Most often green burials do away with toxic embalming, burial vaults, and discontinue the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The goal is simple and sustainable death care, allowing for our natural processes to do the work of decomposition in an ecologically beneficial way.

Where are natural or green burials allowed?

Natural or green burials are legally allowed in all of the United States and Canada.  In the United States, we have been quickly adapting to new ways of approaching death, but we still have a lot of catching up to do, especially when it comes to cemetery laws. A lot of our laws are outdated, unfortunately, so while you should still be able to access simple natural burials, accessing certain alternatives may be out of the question for some states.

It is important to know exactly what you want for your burial and what is legal, and how to access and execute it in your state, because your family can’t rely on funeral directors to know or advocate for these things, and there is a good chance your family members would have no idea where to begin the process of returning your remains to the land, especially while also grieving. Do the research for them and leave behind extremely detailed and specific instructions. Put everything in writing.

Canada allows for green burials, but is lagging behind since they’re lacking green burial sites. Only a few Canadian provinces have access to green burial sites, but most provinces don’t have any. Green burials themselves are legal in Canada, but you may need to advocate for more access if you’re in a province lacking designated space.

Advocating for our rights to proper methods of returning our bodies to the Earth is the best thing we can do. Reaching out to our local and state governments may be the push that’s needed to secure our rights, since change most often comes by popular demand.

Are green burials cheaper than regular burials?

Green burials typically are cheaper than your standard burial. The median cost of a regular funeral with burial is about $7,849, while a funeral with cremation’s median costs are about $6,971. The prices can go up and down depending on what services you choose, but on average you should be able to have a green burial for between $1,000-$4,000. 

Are we required to embalm bodies?

No states require embalming except for under certain situations. Most states have imposed a time limit of about 24-48 hours after death to dispose of the body before embalming or refrigeration is needed. Refrigeration can include ice, dry ice, or mechanical refrigeration. Often embalming is only required if the person died of a communicable disease or if you intend to ship the body to a different state.

If circumstances insist you need to embalm a body, there are also several formaldehyde-free and biodegradable embalming fluids that are available now. These are usually made with essential oils, and if you can find a green funeral provider they should have green embalming options available to you. 

Home Funerals

You may be surprised that home funerals are still legal in every state, but there are nine states that do require you to still work with a funeral director (NY, NJ, NE, IL, FL, LA, MI, IN, CT, IA).  The laws in these states can be very complicated, and it’s best to do your research if this is something that interests you. Some of these nine states only require a funeral director to sign off on the death certificate, while others do require a funeral director to supervise the funeral and burial. Canada also allows for home funerals, but may require burial to be at an approved cemetery or for the body to be cremated depending on your province.

Home funerals are a great option for those who want a more personal experience and for those who wish to avoid costly funeral homes where we lack control. These types of funerals were the norm prior to the 20th century, so this is a very safe and affordable solution that allows us a deeper connection with death and the ability to perform the necessary rites of our religion. Having a home funeral will require more research to perform, such as how best to prepare the body after death (such as washing, clothing, cooling, etc.). Some states have regulations about when the body needs to be refrigerated, and if you’re looking to transport the body after death you may need a permit to do so.

Home Burials

Home Burials can be tricky depending on your local zoning laws. If you’re living in a city this may not be an option for you, but if your local laws allow family cemeteries or private property burials you can legally bury your loved ones on your property as long as you have the space to do so.  Only three states (CA, IN, WA) currently have laws against home burials. Canada also does allow home burials in certain provinces and with the proper permits. Do your research and leave directions well ahead of your funeral.

Shroud & biodegradable casket burials

a shrouded body in a wicker basket casket with flowers on the ground awaiting a green burial

A shroud or biodegradable casket may be one of the most accessible and affordable green burials at the current time. There are no laws requiring a casket for burial or cremation, and there are also no requirements for what a casket may be made from. You can make a casket with paper, newspaper, wicker baskets, cotton, wood pulp, a pine box, or even just a simple fabric shroud. There are some cemeteries that require a vault to still be used, so you’ll want to look for cemeteries that do allow for natural burials.

Shrouds are used in various religions and cultures, and it’s something that humanity has a long history of practicing. In this modern age, using organic fibers such as wool, cotton, hemp, or other natural fibers that will decompose is the best practice. You can purchase shrouds for between $150-$1,000 or biodegradable wicker caskets for around $900-$1500. Soft-wood or cardboard caskets can be even more economical at about $350-$400 for the cheapest ones. You can also make your own shrouds or caskets. Simplicity is best when it comes to these natural burials. 

Terramation

a terramation container with flowers and clothes via Return Home
Terramation container with flowers and clothes via Return Home.

This is one of the newest green options in the world of death care, and frankly, one of the best options in my opinion. Terramation is also known as Natural Organic Reduction, or essentially human composting. The terramation process is one of the most sustainable practices currently, using about 1/8th of the energy a typical burial or cremation would use. The body is placed in a reusable container along with biodegradable materials (like wood chips, straw, alfalfa, etc.) and is essentially broken down over a few weeks into organic nutrient-rich soil. The family would receive about 1.5 cubic yards of soil (or about 10-15 full burlap bags), or the soil can be donated. The whole terramation process from start to delivery costs $4,950 on average. This soil can help our impoverished and decimated lands and forests recover lost nutrients, and it is safe enough to be used to grow plants and vegetables.

Unfortunately, the process is only fully legal as of this time in five states: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont and California. Reaching out to terramation companies in these states may be your only option if this is something that you would like to do for yourself or your loved ones. There is proposed legislation in several other states (DE, HI, IL, MA, MN, NY), and some states will not allow this soil to be used to grow food for human consumption. While this is still an emerging option in the field of death care, I’m excited to see this grow. Hopefully with people expressing their interest in this option in states that have no proposed legislation yet, we can allow this practice to flourish. Letting new life spring forth from the old is one of the most beautiful things I can think of, and I believe this is one of the best options we have that would allow that.

Aquamation

aquamation machines via resomation
Aquamation machines via Resomation

Aquamation, also known as Alkaline Hydrolysis, is a water-based cremation that is one of the newer services in the death industry. The process itself was invented in the late 1880’s, but only in recent years has it gained popularity as an alternative to fire cremation. Aquamation uses water, lye and heat to speed up the natural decomposition processes of the body, and it doesn’t burn any fossil fuels so it’s a very energy-efficient way of performing a cremation. It also doesn’t release any harmful emissions into our atmosphere, and uses a minimal amount of water which is then returned to the ecosystem via normal wastewater treatment facilities or used in gardens or other green spaces. What’s left after the process finishes are soft, porous bones that are either easily crushed or further cremated to create a fine powder that can be returned to the family.  

If you or your loved one are set on cremation, this is a great alternative that is much more sustainable. It’ll cost between $1,100-$2,000 and you will also receive about 20% more remains than a typical fire cremation would create. Aquamation is currently legal in nineteen states (AL, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, KA, ME, MD, MN, MO, NV, NC, OR, TX, UT, VT, WA, WY) and pending legislation in several other states (NJ, NY, OH, PA). In Canada, Aquamation is legal in Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Ontario.

Forest Burials

a forest with sunlight filtering through the trees

There are quite a few options with forest burials if this is something that is attractive to you. There are some cemeteries that use forests for green burials, and you can either be buried in a natural burial or with your ashes and a tree planted over you. Often these cemeteries use coordinates to help find your memorial tree so your family has a lovely forest to visit you at instead of the typical cemetery. There are also burial pods that can be used, which essentially allow you to become a tree. These burial pods can be used with either the full body or ashes, and as the pod breaks down, your body would provide nutrients for the tree to grow. Tree burial pods are usually between $300-$500, and a full tree pod burial would cost about $1,000-$2,000. If you’re looking to do a tree burial pod or natural burial on private property, check your local zoning laws. If you opt for Terramation, you should be able to spread the soil in the forest if you wish. However, remember that you should ask permission before laying any terramated soil on property you don’t own.

Death Positivity

One thing that I want to stress is that death can be very positive and beautiful if we allow it to be. That isn’t to say that we can’t grieve or that we must just “accept” death as it is. The systems in place for death care as it is right now are not that great. We are often silent and complacent when approaching funeral care because it’s easier and it’s a time we are vulnerable. We tough out our grief for the sake of others, not wanting to be a burden when it breaks us and we allow our society to dictate the way we approach death.

We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about death in an open and constructive way. This is a part of life, and while it may be difficult to discuss, considering your options is healthy and allows us to open forward a path to better things. Being silent about death does us no good, and especially no good for our religion. We need to allow it to be part of our conversations. How do we have a good death? How do we honor our loved ones in an appropriate way for us? It’s not a typical conversation topic for a Luciferian. I think most often we have allowed others to dictate for us what is appropriate for death care, and that isn’t working for us any longer. We can’t heal the world by being silent.

Resources

Green Burial Council USA

National Home Funeral Alliance

Home Funeral State Requirements

How To Create a Family Cemetery

It takes less than 30 days to compost a human body

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Environmentally Friendly Burial Options

Order of the Good Death – Death Positive Movement

Green Burial Grounds in the US

Green Burial Cemeteries in the US and Canada

Green Burial Society of Canada

Planning A Home Funeral in Canada

Canadian Burial Laws: Everything You Need to Know

Lilyth Black is a Theistic Luciferian Witch. She has been practicing for 16 years, and specializes in energy work, divination, meditation, ritual craft and demonology.