Okay... slept the day away, and went out for a nice supper with George. Now I'm up for sharing more details about yesterday's funeral service.
The personnel at the funeral home, including the owner of the business, were very polite and professional. The family and friends were wonderful to deal with, even though I accidentally stated that the deceased had relocated to Winnipeg in 1998 (rather than 1999) and forgot to bless the mourners with the phrase "Kia Kaha" (Maori for "be strong") as they came up to take a stone from the bowl. Very kind and forgiving folks, they were. *is ashamed*
The service went very well. The mourners, in spite of overwhelming unfamiliarity with Wicca, had instructions on the handouts they'd been given to say "Hail and welcome" at certain points in the ceremony -- and actually did so. Afterwards I received many congratulations for an excellent service, but I expect that this is standard operating procedure at any funeral. Still, it was gratifying and encouraging. Some of them even asked intelligent questions about Wicca, including books that they might read to learn more. *feels a little better*
During the service, two accidental events were accepted by the family as proof that the deceased had truly joined us and was present during -- and involved in -- the proceedings.
First, just as I was saying "I would now like to share with you a traditional Wiccan tale, that of the Goddess in the Kingdom of --", the picture of the deceased fell off the altar with a loud THUMP, and the glass cracked across the middle! The picture was in a big oval frame and balanced on one end, leaning back against the podium, which was up against one corner of the altar, so perhaps I accidentally shifted the podium and that made it fall... still, the family chose to see it as her intervention, because apparently she was clumsy in life and it was JUST the kind of thing she would have done. (Her best friend remarked afterwards that perhaps Lesilee felt how very sad everybody was and decided to lighten the mood a little...)
As the family chatted and laughed, I stepped forward, picked up the picture, and repositioned, it, saying to it: "Thank you, Lesilee!", which brought good-natured laughter from the audience. Whew! Crisis averted. (I was later told by at least one person that they admired my coolness and leadership, and the way I kept charge of the situation in spite of the accident. I was also told that in her home, the deceased had a picture of her father, and whenever it fell off the wall, she would say to her partner, "See! Dad's trying to tell us something!" Genuinely spooky.)
The second incident was a lot less explicable, and occurred just after the mourners had come up to make offerings of flash paper "prayers" in the cauldron (and most of them did, which surprised me). The very last person was the deceased's best friend, who brought up a leather medicine bag with beaded tassels, which she started opening to take out some incense to put on the charcoal as an offering. She was standing at the altar in front of the cauldron and the bowl filled with the remaining strips of flash paper... and suddenly the flash paper just went UP, all at once -- WHOOOSH! -- in a ball of flame easily a foot in diameter! She jumped back -- the crowd gasped... then, when they realized that no harm was done, they started to laugh, and some people actually clapped. Apparently this was ALSO the sort of thing the deceased would have appreciated and even caused to happen!
The flash paper was a good eight inches away from the cauldron that enclosed the charcoal, specifically to prevent accidental ignition. The only explanation I can think of that even vaguely fits is that somehow the best friend, in opening the medicine bag, generated a spark that touched off the flash paper... but HOW that could have happened, I have no idea 0_o However, it delighted the family and friends, so it was all good.
There were about 60-80 people present, including one woman who did not know the deceased but who'd had a dream the previous night telling her to come to the funeral home that afternoon. The owner of the funeral home even made noises like he'd be willing to have me back to do another service at some point... and I don't think he was just being polite. Now that I have a ritual under my belt, I'll be putting in my business card and a little package to various funeral homes around town, letting them know that if someone calls, I'm available, because the family in this case called EVERYWHERE looking for a priestess, and nobody knew where to find one.
At the very end of the afternoon, as I stood before the altar to bid farewell to the God and Goddess and extinguish the candles representing them, several people joined me, including the Pagan best friend but also people who were definitely not Wiccan. They listened as I thanked the Deities, mostly off the top of my head; this is what I said, as best I can remember:
"Gracious Lady (or Lord), Goddess (or God) of a thousand faces and names, O Thou comforter and consoler, we thank You for attending and protecting this rite, and for joining us as we gathered to mark the passage of Lesilee, Thy child, into the Summerland. And ere you depart for your lovely realms, we bid you hail -- hail and farewell!"
And darned if they all didn't repeat "hail and farewell!" after me, with real feeling. :-)
At any rate... my earlier post about the ritual can be found here
.( And now, the Funeral Ritual, Final Version )