The Sacred Rite of Composting

Before we slide into the joyous, let-us-eat-now-for-tomorrow-we-freeze holidays of December, let us take one final, sincere look at the time of Hallows and the meaning of this season.

This post relates to a previous piece, Death, the Creator. Go ahead, read that first.

In my Wheel of the Year, the period between Hallows, the Sabbath of Death, and Yule, the annual “birth” of the Sun, is the time of composting and recomposition: metaphorically, it is when I recognize that after death, my body will be disassembled through the process of decomposition, and its component molecules will return to cycling through the vast and wonderful apparatus of Life.

It is the part of the cycle of Life we don’t get to experience directly, because we are dead. But it deserves no less attention in our observances; indeed, it is arguably the most miraculous and fascinating part of the entire process.

Decomposition is accomplished by small critters. While we may lose some of our component parts to scavengers (birds, insects, etc.), most of what returns us to the source bank of raw materials for creating new life forms is done by microorganisms: bacteria, fungi, and a few archaea (in fact, even in within the digestive tracts of the scavengers, that is really what is doing the work).

Think about it: all the Good Stuff you are made of. The carbon and calcium, the sulfur and water and iron. That’s Good Stuff! Life loves that stuff: loves to play with it and form it and make it into things that breathe, that rise in thanks to the light and the warmth of the mighty Sun that drives it all.

Your death is a day of celebration for the burst of life that will come after. It is your gift to the future, the most possibly generous gift to the Earth That Will Come that you can possibly make.

Try to embrace this. Try to understand it. Live, finding the joy, eating with both hands, offering to others with both hands, making happiness not just for yourself but for all that surrounds you, including that which is not human.

And then let go. Laugh, knowing the honor, the nobility of your generous gifts.


Shown: decomposing human body at a research cadaver farm.

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