30 November – Remembrance Day for Lost Species

I came across this idea recently, and it struck a deep chord within me. At this time of year we explore the themes of death and remembrance – In Britain, we celebrate Remembrance Sunday with parades for fallen service men and women, and at Samhain we have rites for the ancestors who have gone before us. But why don’t we grieve for extinct species? Where are our rituals for coping with extinction, ecological destruction or environmental loss?  [1]

Remembrance Day for Lost Species was begun by artist Persephone Pearl after she saw an exhibit of a thylacine in the Bristol Museum, an animal that went extinct in 1936.  Legend says the world’s last thylacine died cold and alone, mistakenly locked out of its night-time quarters at the zoo in Hobart, Tasmania, during an unusually cold night in 1936. The animal, which was never even identified as a male or female, perished from exposure. She realised that we barely remember it, let alone weep for it, and began the first Remembrance Day for Lost Species in 2011 with artists, activists and the general public finding ways to mark and mourn with performance, ceremony, poetry and art installations, each in their own way. [2]

Remembrance for Lost Species Ritual

We formulated this ritual and celebrate it with our Outer Circle. You can do this alone, or you can gather a group of fellow mourners. Research an extinct species or lost environment. Think how you feel about it, what you want to say about it, and how you would like to express your grief about its passing. Prepare a card ‘tombstone’, on which you can write this.  If you are doing this with a group, each person should choose their own subject.

The altar is set up in the centre of the sacred space, with a large cauldron, and lit tea lights, one for each species you wish to honour, grieve and remember.

Leader: “In this place that is not a place, in this time that is not a time, we gather together to mark the death time of the year. All things young and fair must fade, all that is vital eventually grows weary, all that is strong becomes weak, and all that is full of promise and hope must pass away. We remember our ancestors, we remember loved ones who have passed away. But who stands for the species that have become extinct, that die unmarked and unmourned?”

All: “We stand. We stand for them. Wemourn them.”

Each person comes forward in turn and speaks about their chosen animal, and expresses what they want to say. They put out one tea light, and place their tombstone against the cauldron, until all the lights are extinguished.

Drummer: “The Goddess is always with us, the steady heartbeat that supports us always as we remember and honour those that have gone before. (Begins a quiet, slow drum beat like a heartbeat, and chants) Honour, remember, honour, remember, honour, remember…”

All join in. This continues as long as seems appropriate.

Leader: “All things return to the womb of the Goddess, the great cauldron of creation, there to dissolve and be remade, and await another dawn. Here is the cauldron of Ceridwen which transforms all things, which can regenerate all things in her underworld womb. In her lies our hope.” (Places the extinguished lights in the cauldron.)

Leader: The ocean of time is wide and as your spirits sail upon its winds and tides know this – nothing passes from the records of the keepers. Each leaf, each feather, each child, each joy, each life is noted. Is recorded. Is held. All beings across time are potent within the record. All are held in the womb of the Goddess, ready that when the time is right, they can and will return.  Remember that what is lost to the mundane lives on within the Universal Spirit.

You have the power within you to elicit change. And change elicits the returning of life.

And all things, when the time is right, may return. [3]

Go forth and make change. You are the life bringers.

This rite is ended, blessed be.

© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Year, Llewellyn, 2021


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/nov/19/extinction-remembrance-day-theatre-ritual-thylacine-grief, accessed 20.10.19

[2] https://www.lostspeciesday.org/?page_id=14, accessed 20.10.19

[3] This passage was written by Dave Manley, or Dave the Flute as we like to call him, our bard.

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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