Thursday, January 15, 2009

Forest Burial in Germany

Yes, that tree is looking at you
Germans now have an option for burial in a forest that funtions like a cemetery.
This excerpt from an article by Christina Sticht follows a group as they shop for their trees.
A Final Resting Place in a Quiet Forest
Traditional Christian funeral rites are becoming less significant in Germany. More and more people are deciding in favour of alternative forms of funerals. Many are turning to forest burial grounds, where urns are buried at the roots of trees in the countryside.

Death is not for free, it is more costly than life. Forester Fritz Mewes knows that, and so do the 46 men and women whom he is taking on a guided tour of Reinhardswald, the woodland burial ground in Northern Hesse. They march along a muddy forest track, clad in bright cagoules and walking boots. Most are somewhere between 60 and 70 years of age, but some are younger. They are all here to see whether they would like to be buried in this place.
Mewes talks about money first. The starting price for a small beech is EUR 3,350. An old oak with a broad crown costs EUR 5000 or EUR 6000. You can choose between family trees, friendship trees and community trees, with the latter offering burial sites for EUR 770. Mewes says, "If you buy a tree, it belongs to you until the year 2099. You have to rebuy a tomb in the cemetery after just 20 years."
Seen like that, woodland burials are relatively inexpensive, especially since no money is needed for constant care of the grave, or for candles and flowers. Pictures and crucifixes are not allowed in the forest – the tree is marked only with a numbered label and a small sign which may bear the name of the deceased, a saying, a verse from the Bible or a Christian symbol.

No burden for the children
Lieselotte Hosung thinks a resting place in the woodland burial ground is definitely more dignified than an uncared-for grave in the local cemetery. She would like to select a tree with her husband, today if possible. "We are thinking of a young beech tree." Burial in urns is compulsory in the woodland burial ground. "I had to get used to the idea of cremation," said the pensioner. But she likes the idea of finding her last resting place in the forest. "We have known the Reinhardswald for a very long time and often come walking here." Her children have no objections. They do not live locally, and the Hosungs do not want them to have to ask a gardener to look after the grave.
Mewes turns off the wide forest track and takes the group into the forest. A small path wends its way past birches, larches and beeches. It has stopped raining. The sun is coming through the treetops and the wet leaves are glistening. You can breath more freely in the forest and it smells of earth, sap and herbs. You can hear a woodpecker somewhere in the distance.

Talking to trees
"Many people buy their tree when they are 50 or 60," says the forester. "They come to visit it regularly." Just a moment ago, he was like a businessman, juggling figures and using rational arguments about good value for money. At the beginning of the guided tour, one would never have thought him capable of the soft touch. But now Mewes says, "Before you choose a tree, you should put your arms around it and speak to it. I am entirely serious. It is important that you build up a relationship with your tree."
Each urn is buried beneath the tree’s roots so that the ashes are absorbed into the tree’s nutrient cycle. Lieselotte Hosung thinks that is a lovely idea. She will be back, like most of those who have visited the woodland burial ground today.
-an excerpt from an article by Christina Sticht for the Goethe Institute- for the full article, visit

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Contact Me

My photo
Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.


Blog Archive