Forest cemetery Memento mori between Kohaveskovens ash, oak and maple
Kohaveskoven forest southeast of Odense consists of an old forest, new forest, cows in flower meadows and burial sites on the forest floor. Or - not really burial sites as you might know them. No crosses; no gravestones; nor any flowers or candles. Not a single name scratched into any surface. In fact, there is not the slightest indicator of death to be seen, except for discreet signage along the path, which confusingly resembles the Danish Nature Agency’s plant signs, which tells you that you can put an urn in the ground here and also points out that it is unconsecrated ground.
Unconsecrated ground means that there is no servant of God (regardless of faith) who has blessed the soil that covers the urns. Perhaps because in Denmark there is a tradition of Protestant folk churches that run cemeteries with space for both non-believers and pagans (read about the other graveyards in this week's recommendation), burial places that mix religion around farewell rituals and afterlife are a fairly new phenomenon. Only in 2008, it became legal to establish burial places in nature, and the Kohaveskoven was Denmark's first of its kind when it opened in 2014. Since then the forest burials have appeared all over the country - just see the list here https://skovbegravelse.nu/skovoversigt/. And unlike other urn graves, there are no markings of the individual grave. Here the dead are nameless and become compost of the ecosystem under the roots of the forest, while the cattle graze on neighboring meadows and the light falls through the foliage.
Still, there are small signs in the forest that could act as pointers to someone who comes to visit their loved one. A broken branch slopes between two others; a twining plant has taken over a stump in a sculptural way. Track down a bonfire between two fallen trees. Or maybe I am just reading into the signs on my Sunday bike ride through the Kohaveskoven on one of the first hectic ice-cream days, where the town center is tumbling full of people excited to be alive and showing each other that they are. It is hard to imagine something that is at the same time as solemn and as straightforward as having a living tree as its memorial.Link to the event