Unlike religious or traditional funerals, non-religious ceremonies do not follow set rituals or include prescribed readings or prayers.
The whole purpose of a non-religious ceremony is to celebrate the life of the loved one who has passed away and to allow everyone the space to acknowledge the memories and legacy left by the person they loved.
We have often found that friends and families enjoy the personal, joyous nature of non-religious ceremonies, and even after religious funerals, many wish to hold a non-religious memorial service to commemorate the life of the deceased.
Whilst there is usually no set agenda for a non-religious ceremony, cultural practices and such common aspects as music; messages; readings; themed dress codes; poetry, films, photos and slideshows often make up a big part of the ceremony.
At Compassionate Funerals, we have had the great honour of working closely with many friends and family members to design a ceremony most befitting to the memory of the person they loved.
From an Elvis-themed service to a Caribbean or humanist one, we make it our mission to ensure every aspect of the ceremony is given the respect and attention it deserves.
Below are a summation of just some of the non-religious practices, beliefs and rites we have come to understand deeply and help see to fruition.
Click on each icon to find more information.
Nine nights is a nine-day long wake, culminating on the ninth night after a person’s death and before the funeral and burial take place. According to traditional Jamaican / Caribbean and Islander belief, the journey from this world to the next is not complete until nine nights after death. A malevolent ghost, or the ‘duppy’, of a deceased person may linger after death, inhabit its old house, or wreak revenge on those who have mistreated it in life. On the ninth night, it is said to depart permanently, at which time its loved ones must give it a celebratory send-off and bid goodbye. Showing a departed soul due respect is said to prevent retribution or other harm from a duppy, who may otherwise cause havoc to the wider community.
The root of Nine-Nights, also known as ‘Dead Yard’, is believed to have derived from African religious tradition and is practiced across many Caribbean communities such as those from Grenada, Dominica, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Food and music are core to the celebratory nature of nine-night. One of the most common practice for the final ninth night, involves setting up a table which covered with a white tablecloth to symbolise purity, and laying out food for the departed family member. No-one may eat from this table until after midnight, when it is believed that the spirit of the dead has passed through and friends and family have bid farewell to the duppy.
Another common practice is to turn up the mattress of the loved one and place it against a wall to prevent the spirit from coming back. This is done not out of malice, but because family members feel a responsibility to help their loved one find their final resting place, so that he or she can be at peace. All elements constitute a positive ceremony which allows family and friends to express their love for the departed and bid their final goodbyes.
Across the nights, games such as Dominos are played, and special hymns (sankeys) are sung emphasising the soul's journey to heaven. These are is sung in a style known as 'tracking', in which one person will call out one line of the sankey at a time, and the rest of the gathering sing the line together.
Lean more about Nine-Nights HERE .
Druidism (or Druidry) is a movement that promotes peace, harmony, connection, and veneration for the natural world, and usually incorporates respect for all beings, including the environment itself. The core principle of Druidism rests in the following of the rituals and ways of living of ancestors – especially those who lived in prehistoric communities. With a rich tapestry of prehistoric tribes and traditions to draw upon, there are many different Druid communities living across the United Kingdom, each with their own unique burial rites to be realised. All funeral rites have one core aim: to honour and grant the wishes of the one who has passed on.
At Compassionate Funerals, we work closely to ensure that the will of the deceased is heeded. So whether a service is desired to be solemn, formal and to take place at a specific location or temple, or informal, laughter-filled and comprised of poetry and ancient prayers (or a mixture of both!), we will work with you and the Druid community to which deceased belonged to see all wishes through to fruition.
The funeral rites for Druid communities are usually written and led by a celebrant – a priest who works to hold the energy and sanctity of time and place together. and make sure everything that is needed is done. Where a celebrant cannot be accessed, an organiser of the funeral may lead.
Conflict both before, at the point of, and after death is undesirable for Druidic communities, so to avoid conflict and strife with members of families / loved ones of the deceased who may desire a more traditional event at which to grieve, a number of rites can be held after a passing, to allow everyone space to grieve peacefully.
As there are no one group of Gods or customs to strictly adhere to, practices across Druid communities vary in accordance with their own customs and beliefs. Funerals can take place in a sacred Grove or other historically sacred site; in forest burial ground; a cemetery; altered for a crematorium wherein the transformative power of fire is celebrated; or ashes scattered, or a standing stone or cairn placed to celebrate the life of the deceased.
Learn more about Rites of Passing for Druid communities HERE.
Jainism is an ancient religion of India, which teaches its followers (‘Jains) to live lives of harmlessness and renunciation. The essence of Jainism is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself, and so Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls, each considered of equal value. With a deep belief in reincarnation, Jains seek to attain ultimate liberation by escaping the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth, and obtaining an immortal soul lives forever in a state of bliss.
There are no gods or spiritual beings capable of helping human beings in Jainism. However, at its core, are the three guiding principles of (the 'three jewels'): right belief, right knowledge and right conduct, the following of which, is believed to help the soul eliminate all karma and reach true liberation and eternal peace.
All Jains must be cremated, and cremation ceremonies are usually very simple and short as death is regarded a festival (‘Mahotsav’), following which the soul is immediately reincarnated. The body of the deceased is usually dressed with garlands of sandalwood, and a swastika placed on / nearby the body on which a coconut, light and packet of rice with ghee is placed. Following recitations and a eulogy, family members apply water and rice three times on the body, and ghee (clarified butter) to the forehead, hands and feet. A piece of gold is then placed in the mouth and a pearl on top of the right eye, before the casket is closed and the body is taken to the crematorium.
It is essential that throughout the process, no living organisms like grass or insects are harmed. is selected so as not to harm them. Following cremation, the remains are collected and placed in a hole dug in the earth. Salt is then sprinkled on top so as to enable the ashes to dissolve easily. Jains are not permitted to place ashes in a river as this act may pollute the water.
Learn more about Jain funeral rites HERE .
The Rastafari faith is a young, Africa-centred religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930. Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie – often represented by a golden lion, was a God who will return members of the black community who are living in exile as the result of colonisation and the slave trade, back to their homeland of Africa.
Believing that black people are the chosen people of God, but that through colonisation and the slave trade their role has been suppressed, Rastafarians main concerns centre around the repatriation of black people to Africa, and the reinstatement of black people’s position in society.
Following strict dietary laws and abstaining from alcohol, Rastafari believe in the existence of one God and follow a number of Old Testament Laws, with a separate code of religious practice for women. All Rastafari believe that reincarnation follows death and that life is eternal, and that substances such as marijuana used for ritual inhalation can increase spiritual awareness.
The Rastafarian colours are red, green and gold with red signifying the blood of those killed for the cause of the black community throughout Jamaican history; green representing Jamaica's vegetation and hope for the eradication of suppression, and gold symbolising the wealth of Ethiopia.
Forbidden to cut their hair, the thick and twisting dreadlocks unique to Rastafari followers represent the lion’s mane.
As the Rastafari do not believe in death but in reincarnation, there is no formal funeral ceremony to mark the end of life. Whilst there is no special morning ritual during the condolence period, family members and friends do come together to share memories and celebrate the life of the deceased at their home for a period of nine nights. This party is to mark the belief that the deceased is no longer suffering in life and that their spirit is passing amongst the people gathered. Music plays a significant role in Rastafari condolence practices and is viewed as a method of meditation. Reggae and drums are played accompanied by vocal sounds, with of course, a sprinkling of Bob Marley – an icon and fellow Rastafrian – tunes.
Learn more about Jain funeral rites HERE.