Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Curious funerary customs of the world

The Macabre Catacombs of Sicily
The dead preserved and standing.Capuchins’ Catacombs in Palermo, Silicy date back to the year 1599 when local priests mummified the body of Silvestro of Gubbio, a holy monk. Throughout the ages, hundreds of corpses were similarly embalmed and displayed including young children and an army officer from the mid 1800s who still wears his uniform today.

The Whimsical Coffins of Ghana
The people of Ghana have appreciated the art of coffin-making for over 50 years now. The rich tradition has resulted in people being carried to the hereafter in caskets modeled after foods, vehicles, animals, or even mobile phones.
“If you want it, we can do it,” says Samuel Odai Afotey, 23, the sawdust-covered lead carpenter at Paa Willie’s Coffin House. “I like a challenge.”
From The Seattle TimesTo increase your understanding of the curious art of Ghanian coffins, visit the The Daily Undertaker blog.

The Wendish skating Funeral Procession
Sorbs also known as Wends, are a Slavis people settled in Lusatia, which is in the territories of Germany and Poland.

The Gravestones of the Sufis
Sufi Dervishes are Muslim mystics who often where a headdress such as a turban or a tall hat. When their gravestones were carved, often the hat their wore in life was depicted at the pinnacle of the monument to symbolize the spiritual attainment they achieved in life.
When a Muslim dies, it is preferred that he or she be buried where they died, and that their body not be moved a long distance. They are washed in a manner similar to Muslim ablutions for prayer and are wrapped in a white shroud. If the person performed the hajj during life, they will be wrapped in the robe they wore while in Mecca. They are buried on their right side facing Mecca. The outcome of this ritual is that today, the remains of millions of deceased Muslims are arrayed in a symmetrical circle, with Mecca at the center.

The Chinese Pauper’s Burial
In traditional Chinese funerary custom, rituals must be followed closely to bring good fortune on the relatives of the diseased. The funeral procession for this pauper, however, was short indeed.When the prayer ceremonies are over, the wailing of the mourners reaches a crescendo and the coffin is nailed shut (this process represents the separation of the dead from the living). Then yellow and white “holy” paper is pasted on the coffin to protect the body from malignant spirits. During the sealing of the coffin all present must turn away since watching a coffin being sealed is considered very unlucky. The coffin is then carried away from the house using a piece of wood tied over the coffin, with the head of the deceased facing forward. It is believed that blessings from the deceased are bestowed upon the pallbearer, so there are usually many volunteers.The coffin is not carried directly to the cemetery but is first placed on the side of the road outside the house where more prayers are offered and paper is scattered. The coffin is then placed into a hearse that moves very slowly for one mile (more rarely, it is carried for a mile), with the eldest son and family members following behind with their heads touching the hearse. If there are many relatives, a white piece of cloth is used to link the hearse to family members behind. The order of the funeral procession follows the status of the family members. A white piece of cloth is tied to vehicles accompanying the hearse, or a white piece of paper can be pasted on their windshields. The eldest son usually sits next to the coffin. A long, lit joss stick is held throughout the journey, symbolizing the soul of the deceased; it is relit immediately if it goes out. Occasionally, paper models of such objects as cars, statues, ships, etc., are carried during the procession to symbolize the wealth of the deceased’s family. If the procession must cross a body of water, the deceased must be informed of this since it is believed that an uninformed soul will not be able to cross water.

a model of a more extravagant procession:


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