Natural Burials


The first conference to be held in Ireland on Natural Burials was held in the Cultivate Centre, Temple bar, Dublin in October 2005. The following is an introduction to Natural Burials by Judith Hoad. Also related to this page is the programme for the conference, some photographs and some biodegradable coffins.


          by Judith Hoad         

We call ourselves a 'pluralist society'.   This really means we are no longer dominated by one culture; that it is no longer hazardous to have beliefs and observances that are different from the majority. Being different includes a variety of beliefs and allows for non-belief. In Ireland, non-believers and believers of minority faiths - non-Christian, especially - can be at a loss when someone close dies, because, in general, graveyards and cemeteries cater only for Christians. In several Western societies provision is made for such folk in an innovative way: 'woodland', or 'green' graveyards have been established, generically known as Natural Burial Grounds. Here, areas are set aside for a variety of trees and shrubs to be planted. When a grave is dug a particular tree is chosen to be planted over the grave, so that, gradually, a copse is developed. The actual site can be recorded on a  graveyard map and a plaque erected in a Ceremonies Hall. Ceremonies of any belief system, or non-belief , (the Humanists of Ireland publish a very useful book on ceremonies, which including funerals) can be booked to take place in the hall. TOP
How important it is for us to celebrate the lives of our loved ones when they die.   There's no action re-play of these events, so we need to get it right first time. Prior arrangement is vital..   This is particularly true for anyone who hopes to carry D-I-Y to its logical conclusion and to be buried on their own land. It's wholly possible and totally legal, but the organising of it can take up to a month, so the process needs attention in the full of your health!
Having experienced home burial, I speak with feeling.   Only because we had written to our County Council - Donegal - to discover how one applied for permission to be buried on one's own land, was I prepared when my husband died. In 1993, when we asked the question which I doubt the Council had ever received before, we were sent a form on which to apply for the extension of an existing graveyard. The only relevant part was the three basic criteria, which amount to Common Sense: no burial must take place that would, a) pollute a water source, b) pollute a drainage system, or c) that it is possible to dig deep enough to prevent disturbance of the grave by predatory animals, or by farm machinery.
Six years later, when Jerry died, I omitted to do two things: I did not engage an undertaker, (because it didn't occur to me), and I went ahead without any further reference to the County Council, whose Health Inspector had passed our proposed site as feasible about three weeks after we had submitted our application. The funeral was memorable and described by a neighbour in his 70s as 'the most loving and respectful funeral I have ever attended'.
In talking with people who wait and then try to fulfil the wishes of their dead loved ones, two things become evident: prior arrangements are essential for home burial and funeral directing is a conservative, 'closed shop', in most instances. For example, some crematoria in the Dublin area will not accept a coffin that has not been supplied by an undertaker, nor will they accept a coffin that arrives in any vehicle other than an undertaker's hearse.
The final gift of a friend or relative - to make and, perhaps, to decorate the coffin, is thus denied.   In a 'woodland' graveyard, this is not the case.  But.we do not, yet, have such facilities in Ireland.   Is there anyone willing to donate an acre?   Ideally, a donation in each of the Four Provinces.   It is possible, however, to obtain an environmentally friendly coffin/casket.   ECOPODS come in one basic, curvilinear design and five finishes, one of which is white. Living Earth Funeral Options supplies natural fibre brushes and organic pigments with the plain Ecopod. All the finishes are ecologically acceptable and the moulded shell is made of  recycled, biodegradable materials.   Willow caskets and cardboard coffins are also available.
If you are concerned about the risks to the environment from chemicals used by undertakers when preparing a body, enquire, because there are appropriate chemicals available.   Never be put off by 'that's impossible', or 'illegal' - it probably isn't!   Living Earth Funeral Options can also help you here.

Books available from Living Earth Funeral Options include:

The Humanist Philosophy - With An Irish Guide to Non-Religious Ceremonies

The Dead Good Funeral Book  and

The Natural Death Handbook
Enquiries about books and Ecopods, etc. can be made to 074 97 36406


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