Book Review: In the Service of Life – A Wiccan Perspective on Death

Book Review: In the Service of Life – A Wiccan Perspective on Death October 24, 2015

In The Service Of Life: A Wiccan Perspective on DeathIn The Service Of Life: A Wiccan Perspective on Death by Ashleen O’Gaea

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started reading this book when my good friend died earlier this year. I was looking for something that would help his lovely wife and kids (also my good friends) come to terms with his sudden death, especially in the wake of his wife asking me, “Why did the Goddess take him from me so soon?”

In general, I found this a good read. It details things from a lighter Wiccan perspective. The author philosophizes at length about the role of death in life, and how the two are sides of the same coin, and expresses some particularly Wiccan beliefs about the Afterlife. More importantly, it offers a wealth of practical suggestions, such as a checklist for dealing with the business end of the aftermath. There’s a lot of bureaucracy involved when someone dies, and the last thing a loved one wants to do is deal with it, and wrapping your head around it can seem impossibly daunting, so this list of things to do is exceptionally helpful.

Other readers have criticized the book for being almost too light. They’re not wrong; in some places it seems almost dismissively blithe, without giving the potency of grief its due. Also, it’s very idiosyncratic to the author’s individual eclectic tradition, making some broad assumptions about what it is to be Wiccan or Pagan; and while I suppose I must allow that this is probably inevitable in any Wiccan book that addresses theology, I found it distracting. Equally distracting was the way in which the author insisted upon referring to her loved ones by cutesy nicknames, such as “the Explorer” for her son, when I think “my son” would have been sufficient if the author didn’t want to give his name.

So, there were some things I would have liked to see presented in a different way. But all in all, not a bad read, and as a companion volume to the deeper, but much less practical, “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying” published by Starhawk and the Reclaiming Community (which is equally idiosyncratic to the Reclaiming tradition,) I think it could potentially help a lot of grieving Wiccans at a vulnerable time. Certainly I think O’Gaea is to be commended for taking this subject on without help or guidance, and I wish there were more books that addressed this subject out there.

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