John Morehead has been penning some more post Burning Man reflections which feed into my own interests in alternative ritual. He notes:
This Burner recognizes something that scholars have touched on as well.. For example, Sarah Pike says that this mourning process at Burning Man is "a substitute for failed rites of passage in the outside world, healing emotions left behind after more traditional death rites were completed." The resonance of such ritual and communal acts of memorialization at Burning Man may point out a deficit in the ways in which we deal with death in the West.
But we need look so far to see this deficit. Witness the numerous makeshift shrines at the feet of telegraph poles along busy Sydney streets. Testament to primal needs to express grief in ways beyond what custom normally offers.
I recently made the observation on one forum that Australian census statistics on religious preference said more about people's wedding and funeral preferences than about their everyday spirituality, but the emergence of these roadside rituals says to me that people are looking for more even here.
The new expressions of Christianity we are seeing birthed in the West have, unsurprisingly, focussed more on life rituals than funeral rituals, and I think that is as it should be. But as these expressions mature I think we should expect to see new Christian grief rites emerge as well. And after all, death is not the only thing we need to grieve.
What might such rites look like…?