A Christeniing is not in the baby's interest, it is in the interest of the parents who believe that the baby needs to be protected from Hell. It's like insurance coverage for your kid's soul. A funeral and wake are not for the benefit of the deceased, they are to give the surviving friends and relatives closure and reassurance that the deceased is not suffering. That's not to say these are inherently useless rituals, they have very valid uses. I just think that a lot of the window dressing is sanctimony. We have a funeral so we can give structure to our grief, the deceased doesn't care. We have a christening to make a child part of our community, the baby (in the case of infant baptism) doesn't care. It's all to the good of the community in both cases, so far be it for I to decry such practices, but it is nevertheless not principally for the benefit of the subject that these rituals are performed. We should maybe be more honest with ourselves and our communities about this.
You are only the whim of a collection of atoms to take the form of you for a while. Those atoms are changing all the time, so you're not even made up of the same stuff now that you were ten years ago. Birth and Death are just another part of that process of constant change. Death is not an end, just a redistribution. As biological pocesses they are all pretty much the same thing, happening all the time. It's only in their most dramatic manifestations that we notice them.
I like to say of my late cat that he has turned into a tree. Really, he turned into a lot more than that, all kinds of bugs and things that ate the cat remains and the tree foliage. But mostly, I now see the tree as the same entity as the cat, just in a different shape. Even when he was a cat he shed bits and they were decomposed into other things. I ate more than a few of his hairs over the years myself. I'm already experiencing redistribution *right*now*, and one day I'll experience a really fucking dramatic distribution.
Birth, Death and Rebirth as symbolic or psychological processes is something else again. The symbolic or psychological event I have come into being--I have departed being--I have come into being again can be a profound experience. Or it can be fucking annoying if it happens all the time. Honestly, I think it's pretty overrated sometimes. A great many people can benefit from having the experience once or twice, but when illness or injury causes it to happen over and over and over again for many years without reprieve, it's crippling.
I think a little less emphasis on the Shamanic dismemberment experience is needed. Many people have actually expressed envy towards survivors of terrible injury & illness ("gee I wish I could get tortured/raped/menengitis/depression/hit by a car! You're so lucky!" WHAT?!), and others assume that surviving injury or illness automatically confers magic superpowers. All kinds of scab picking ensues. The whole thing is pretty badly mishandled by the so-called Pagan Community.
I'd llike to see a more sensitive, discreet approach taken towards the dismemberment thing. Just putting that out there. It's not fun, it's not a shortcut to wisdom or power, it's not an essential, character-shaping experience, it does not confer a shiny Best Pagan Evar badge. It's fucking horrible. Going through it once is a wretched enough experience for most people. Unfortunately there's also this lopsided emphasis thing happening, where the dismemberment part is emphasised, but the rebirth thing is sort of left to happen automatically. WELL IT DOESN'T. Rather than emphasising that people should go out looking for a symbolic death, seeking & facilitating rebirth should be more heavily emphasised. After all, many pagans do so love to call themselves healers, so helping someone heal after dismemberment should be far more highly prioritised than encouraging people to go out and get dismembered.
I don't believe in reincarnation or that since we're never really incarnated, we're transient things, functions or processes rather than objects or entities. I'm not convinced of death. Life should be a verb, not a noun. Human Being should already be a verb, it's verb-shaped. Hell, let's just throw out nouns altogether. Nouns might all be lies.
So. There you go. Three aspects of the concepts birth, death and rebirth; ritual, physical, and symbolic/psychological.
30 Days of Paganism