Home Canadian Army CAF Recognizes First Ever Formal Norse Pagan Funeral in Petawawa

CAF Recognizes First Ever Formal Norse Pagan Funeral in Petawawa

Once the gavel rite (blessing of the place) was over, MWO Langer approached MCpl Caissie so that together they could go to the altar and lay down weapons before the ceremony continued(Cpl Lanny Jellicoe/4CDSB Ops Svc in Petawawa)

450 Squadron member Cpl Joel Iacurci was the first CAF member formally honoured with Norse Pagan rites

The first ever formal CAF funeral including Norse Pagan rites was held on 19 July in Petawawa for 450 Squadron member Corporal Joel Iacurci.

CFB Borden, Well and Pine Grove Kindred Pagan Community members Master Corporal Eric Caissie and Master Warrant Officer Will Langer were the Skald and Hall Chief of the ceremony and began with a blessing of the North and South.

By asking for protection of the space, the gods defended from any evil presences that may cause those in attendance any harm. A hammer and axe were then placed on the altar.

“We ask of all the Gods, come, watch over us here as we pay tribute to our fallen brother, Joel,” said MCpl Caissie.

MCpl Caissie reciting the saga, Iacurcaviðia (the Lay of Iacurci) to those in attendance(Cpl Lanny Jellicoe/4CDSB Ops Svc in Petawawa)

“We ask the folk, the weights, the jotun, the dwarves and elves, the gods of Aesir and Vanir to come, keep all evil from those gathered here, protect them from physical, spiritual and mental harm so we may give our full attention to seeing Joel off to Valhalla.”

MWO Langer raised the hammer while MCpl Caissie evoked Thor and the spirits, making MWO Langer the hand of the Gods by extension of the rite.

MWO Langer holding the hammer up while he blessed the space (Cpl Lanny Jellicoe/4CDSB Ops Svc in Petawawa)

The hammer’s presence represents the protector of mankind, Thor and was used to help bless the space before the funeral. The axe represents the community in which Cpl Iacurci belonged to and aimed to protect his spirit during the ceremony.

The role of the Skald during ceremonies is to write and perform poetry and song that commemorates the person who has passed and their achievements. MCpl Cassie’s words painted a picture of the type of person Cpl Iacurci was.

“Visage’s crack curved skyward, Joel was a benevolent beacon of joy and merriment,” MCpl Caissie said. “Ever on a quest for man’s true power, his strength was never sated, much in the way of the father of the hammer god. To others, however, he sat upon the three thrones on high, teaching lessons like Aesir to Gangleri.”

According to Norse belief, when a person passes away, they enter an afterlife known as Valhalla or ‘Hall of the Slain’ where warriors feast and drink until the end of time.

Left to Right: Chaplain Vautour, MCpl Caissie, Chaplain Wedel, MWO Langer. This was the slow march to the funeral space with the flag party (Cpl Lanny Jellicoe/4CDSB Ops Svc in Petawawa)

All in attendance took a moment to speak to Joel in his battle of the wits with the All-Father, Odin. In Norse tradition, by having so many people offer words for Cpl Iacurci to use, he will be the only one at the table to outwit Odin in his search for knowledge.

“I think Joel would be proud of being the first to be sent off properly as a CAF member and everyone preparing him to match wits with Odin,” said MWO Langer.

MWO Langer and
MCpl Caissie placing weapons at the altar after the blessing (Hammer in the south, axe in the north). The honour guard were positioned at the four cardinal directions (N, S, W, E) as, in Pagan tradition, these are the most important directions(Cpl Lanny Jellicoe/4CDSB Ops Svc in Petawawa)

Concluding the ceremony, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Harris and Chief Warrant Officer Carmen Bear of the 450 Squadron were the first at the ceremony to lay their Grave Bounty which are possessions and objects to be taken into the next world with Cpl Iacurci.

The ceremony was then taken to the officer’s mess where the Sumbl took place. A Sumbl is the portion of the ceremony where everyone gathers around the altar and has an opportunity to give oaths or boast while holding a communal drinking horn.

Rifle salute flight (Cpl Lanny Jellicoe/4CDSB Ops Svc in Petawawa)

Cpl Iacurci’s wife Danielle began the Sumbl by giving a statement, with his parent’s following. Once the immediate family was accounted for, all in attendance could speak while given the horn. It isn’t until the second passing of the horn that each person could take a sip of the mead inside, never letting it go empty. The final mouthful of mead was poured into a glass at the altar as an offering to Joel.

Cpl Iacurci was a loved by his family and was a father to the newly born Joel Magnus Iacuri. His wife Danielle is an Aviator on base in Petawawa and described him as an outdoorsman and man of many skillsets.

“[Joel] loved hunting, fishing and we would spend almost every day outside watching the sun set while he barbecued or smoked dinner,” Danielle said. “He was a superb carpenter, machinist, welder, and blacksmith. [He was] very intuitive with dogs, horses, livestock and the land.”

By: Caleb Hooper