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Book Review: Do I Have to Wear Black?

This book focuses on the death and funerary rituals of several Pagan beliefs. Because of that, I will want to provide some trigger warnings for potential readers right off the bat. Content Warnings include: frank discussion of death and dying, discussion of embalming techniques, discussion of suicide, discussion of assisted suicide, suicidal ideation, discussion of abortion, discussion of miscarriage, discussion of stillbirth, discussion of infant death, discussion of child death, discussion of pet death, discussion of terminal illness, discussion of discrimination and prejudice toward Pagans, and pretty much every single death related trigger you might have.

You have been warned.

That being addressed, this book has been sorely needed for years and I wish it had been published long ago. As 2020 and 2021 have made clear, western society – and in particular American society – is not as prepared to handle death and respectful disposal of the dead as we had previously thought. Additionally, if your faith falls outside of the five major world religions – Christianity (including all variants), Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism – that finding resources for how to respectfully pay tribute to the dead is made even more difficult. This book seeks to aid with that by providing resources and examples of several, primarily western, Pagan religions' ways to honor the dead.

And I do need to make that last bit clear, this book mostly focuses on Western Pagan religions – British Traditional Wicca, Heathenism, Druidism, Hellenism, Eclectic Paganism, Discordianism, etc. So it is important to know that going in. The book is geared toward primarily two groups: the bereaved who know that their deceased loved one was Pagan and want to honor that but don’t know where to start or what is appropriate and the Pagan themself – because many Pagans in the U.S. and Europe are solitary practitioners mostly due to the stigma surrounding their religion.

Much like Caitlin Doughty and her Ask a Mortician series on YouTube, this book seeks to demystify the funerary and postmortem processes and provide information for respectfully dealing with the Pagan dead. I personally appreciated that each section went into what was considered acceptable to do with the body including if organ donation, embalming, or body donation would be allowed. I liked that there were sections that answered “what can I do to help those that are grieving?” including what to say, and more crucially, what not to say… Spoiler Alert: It’s generally a good idea to stay away from the Christian platitudes of ‘they’re in a better place now’ or anything like that – it’s a micro aggression.

The book is well laid out, and I was pleased that the author consulted practitioners/leaders of the religions they were writing about.

Frankly, this book needs to be in every library as a resource. Straight up. This is a book that is sorely needed.

Because of that, I give this.

Five Stars

If this is your jam, you can get it here. Although the price is pretty hefty for an ebook. Consider asking for it for your library or buying it from your local new age/pagan store. (Let’s support small businesses.)

If you like these kind of honest reviews, please consider supporting us here!

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

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