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A November Reflection

graveThe days of the traditional graveyard seem to be dying themselves. Going are the monuments and statuary in favour of a more "natural" setting. Since 2010 The Green Graveyard Company is developing this optional trend here in Wexford with Ireland's first Natural Burial Ground at Woodbrook. It is a graveyard where the land has a second use, as a living, developing native Irish woodland. Gone are the marble headstones and concrete surrounds that are common place in other Irish burial grounds, replaced instead by a small simple grave marker and the planting of a native Irish tree.

Is it a pagan trend? Visitors will be able to walk along the pathways surrounded by nature. This new-style burial ground will be a sacred and natural place where people of all faiths and those without any religion will find a beautiful resting place. Personally, I think it will take some time to catch on in Ireland. The traditional graveyard will put up a good fight.

"Don't lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a walluntitled
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all,
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way
To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done
I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun."

- Pam Ayres


In London the trend towards 'garden' cemeteries is mainly financial. Managing large cemeteries with numerous gravestones and monuments - many of which are no longer tended by families, is expensive. Famously (infamously) West Norwood Cemetery was purchased by Lambeth Council in 1966 for £1 and the council immediately started to turn it into a garden cemetery by destroying and removing hundreds of Victorian monuments, without keeping any record of the internments, or having any regard for the architectural value. They were eventually stopped by the courts, and the place is now co-managed with a Trust.

I imagine Irish graveyards have similar upkeep problems. People who love traditional graveyards will have to fight to keep them.
Expense would certainly be a big factor in buying new grave plots. If traditional graveyards were kept clean and properly managed I think I would go for them.
This would certainly be MY preference.
I don't know the comparable figures, but all the funerals I have ever attended have been cremations, thus bypassing the burial question completely.
Cremations are certainly increasing in Ireland at present too. Perhaps all kinds of graveyards will be kept for genealogy research only in years to come.
As the late, great Spike Milligan once said: 'Bury me up a tree. I want people to look up to me after I die.' :o)
Surely you must be tired of people looking up to you by now!
My own family plot has been there since the 1820s - and still has a few spaces to spare.
Is it a pagan trend?

Why do you say that? What do you think?
Is it a deliberate move away from 'religion' and traditional concepts of death and the next life?
Why do you think "death and the next life" are not also pagan concepts? They are very prominent in many pagan groups. For Wiccans Samhain is very much about ancestors and the veil between worlds.
I'm not Wiccan but I have participated in some very moving Samhain celebrations remembering the departed.
I don't see why it has to be a move either away from or towards... though I can see that some will interpret it that way.