Heartward Sanctuary Ancestral Grove
Green Burial & Ritual Grounds
Over the past century and a half, our culture has dramatically shifted its way of tending our beloved dead. As medical and funeral industries have taken the place of traditional death rites and burial practices, end-of-life passage has been packaged for profit and stripped of its sacrality, creating great economic strain on families in grief-stricken times. Some families cannot offer the desired rituals for body disposition due to lack of land or financial constraints. Our conventional burial and cremation options are environmentally toxic and disconnect our bodies from completing the life cycle, the giving back of our remains to nourish the earth. There is a dire need for more ecological, relational, and ritually connective practices for meaningful transitions and soul processes.
As of May 2020, we have become stewards of 36 acres of land in Silk Hope, NC that will serve as the center of Heartward Sanctuary. We will set aside five acres of meadow land adjacent to a forest and creek for the Ancestral Grove and Burial Ground. The Heartward Sanctuary Ancestral Grove is our attempt to reconnect our end-of-life processes to the circle of life and earth-honoring ways. It is a place for earth-friendly burials--in simple shrouds, wood or natural materials--and a place for transition, ritual, grief tending and celebration. Returning to traditional, older ways of honoring our dead, we seek to help restore balance, connection and wholeness.
Instead of having loved ones whisked away, we will provide a cabin turned small chapel, a liminal space for families and loved ones to stay with and tend their beloved dead for up to three days. In many traditions, post-death rituals may include bathing, anointing, prayer, grief, dance, music, readings and so on. As ritualists and ancestral lineage practitioners, we're dedicated to continued study of ritual technologies to tend the dead and provide opportunities for folks to document their final wishes and requests. We'll also continue our tradition of honoring a seasonal liturgy of quarter/cross-quarters through ancestral offerings and seasonally relevant ritual. Our vision is to create an animist burial ground for the bones of people of many faiths--including earth-worshipping pagans and even atheists who wish for carbon neutral body disposition.
Our intention is to slowly fill this land with a variety of plant species as humans are buried here. Slowly, we'll plant gardens and trees atop the deceased creating an Ancestral Grove, a place to honor our ancestors who have become part of the land. In addition to offering our remains back to the earth as nourishment, this project will offer affordable burial options. In an effort to disrupt the dominant transaction-based death economy, we are considering alternative models that allow all of our Sustainers to have the option to be buried there at no additional cost. (Opening & closing the grave can be done by family & community or paid for by the family, generally $500-1000, as that labor may be outsourced at the time of burial.) For those interested in being buried here who aren't Sustainers, we're envisioning a sliding scale option for burial in alignment with other green & conservation cemeteries.
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