By Frances Cleveland Fitzgerald, Herbalist
A ceremony can welcome a newly acquired animal into your life and help it let go of the life it left to come into yours. If you foster animals, a ceremony can be a beautiful way to say goodbye and bless them as they move into their new life. The hardest ceremony of all is, of course, saying goodbye as an animal passes on to the next realm.
When I prepare to perform a ceremony for one of my animals or for a friend’s, I plan for a daylong event or, at the very least, a half day. This is a time set aside for me, the animal and the people who are invited to participate in this special moment.
First, I choose my setting. If the weather is agreeable, I find a spot outside and place my ceremony blanket in the middle to form a circle for us all to sit around. I gather plants, tying the bundles for the plant brushings with a special ribbon and placing them in a beautiful vase (I always make a plant bundle for each person attending the ceremony). Next, I place the plants chosen for the spiritual bath in a crystal bowl filled with water, and then set the bowl in the sun, along with a special cloth I use for the bath. I gather my smudging materials and set them in the circle. I also place pictures and mementos of my animals that have already passed on alongside significant objects relating to the animal the ceremony is being conducted for. These items can be things such as collars, favorite toys or favorite treats. As participants arrive, I ask them to spend a few minutes walking the yard and collecting any plants they might like to contribute to the spiritual bath. When the bath is ready, I add two drops each of the following essential oils: frankincense, myrrh, rose and sweet marjoram; I call this my Peace Blend. Then I place the completed bath in the center of the circle.
Once the center of the circle is complete, everyone is in attendance, and our special animal has been welcomed, we begin the ceremony. I go around the circle and smudge everyone by waving a feather over the smoke so it covers the person, and during this time I am saying an opening poem or singing a song. Each participant then introduces him or herself and says something about the animal that the ceremony is being held for. I welcome to the ceremony the spirit of all the animals whose photos are in the center of the circle. Then we give the animal present a spiritual bath and a very light plant brushing, always mindful of how the animal is receiving the bath and the plant brushing and adjusting them according to their response. I quietly talk to the animal expressing my love and gratitude for them and if someone has something to add, it will be during this time.
Once this part of the ceremony is finished, everyone sits in silence with love in their hearts. This is my time to connect with the animal in a quiet state. When the silence is broken, we all stand in a circle and perform a plant brushing on each participant with them standing in the center of the circle as we gently brush them with our plant bundles and sing a song. When we have completed giving the last person their plant brushing, we smudge everyone and close the ceremony. The end of your ceremony is yours to decide. If you are having a goodbye ceremony with your animal whose time it is to pass on, you may wish for your vet to be present and say your final goodbye at the end of the ceremony, or you can wait for everyone to leave and then say your goodbyes privately. It is your ceremony, and you can shape it in whatever way feels most appropriate to you and your animal.
Unfortunately, sometimes our animals choose to leave suddenly and there is no time to prepare for a ceremony. If this is the case, you can create a quick ritual with the plants around your home, or any essential oils you may have available. Frankincense is a good one to have on hand, and I always have my Peace Blend with me. With these simple plants and oils, you can create a blessing and say your special goodbye.
Frances Cleveland Fitzgerald, Herbalist - Excerpt from the book Your Dog's Golden Years - www.seniordogbooks.com
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