why are death rituals important to society

This teaches us about the dead person’s life apart from ours and allows us glimpses into that life that we may cherish forever. Initiation (Rites of Passage): A guided process of transition of a person from one state to another. Plenty of animals display certain behaviours around their dead. Again, words are inadequate so we nonverbally demonstrate our support. The Ancient Egyptians are famously known for their complex funeral rites, including the mummification of the body and ceremonies performed by priests. The authentic funeral encourages us to begin this shift, for it provides a natural time and place for us to think about the moments we shared—good and bad—with the person who died. Birthday parties honor the passing of another year in the life of someone we love. Photo by Maros Mraz. The funeral ritual, too, is a public, traditional and symbolic means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone loved. For the living to go on living as fully and as healthily as possible, this is as it should be. To heal in grief, we must explore these types of questions if we are to become reconciled to our grief. It is impossible to come up with one clear-cut definition; however there are specific aspects associated with ritual that most anthropologists will definitely agree upon. ... How we mark death in the family; Tell me about your rituals and family traditions. This is helpful to mourners, for it tends to prompt more intimate, individualized memories. When someone loved dies, we must openly acknowledge the reality and the finality of the death if we are to move forward with our grief. Photo by Wellcome Images. Michael I. Norton and Francesca Gino, writing for the Journal of Experimental Psychology, note that: “Ritualistic behaviour manifests not just in religious practice, however, but is present across domains of human life, providing order and stability while marking change – especially in times of chaos and disorder.”, Academic Jonathan Jong agrees: “Despite this wide diversity of practice, it seems our death rituals serve the same psychological functions: to make us feel less helpless in the face of our sorrow and terror.”, Scientific research is beginning to show that rituals, even small, unexplained rituals, actually reduce anxiety levels in those who perform them during difficult times. Some archaeologists argue that Neanderthal grave sites show evidence that these people, related to homo sapiens (humans), purposefully buried their dead and performed basic burial rites. Paul E Irion, expert in funeral practices, identified these as “anthropological, social-psychological, psychological, and theological dimensions.” In other words, the therapeutic value of funeral rituals are rooted in our species, our minds, our society and our religious beliefs. Many psychologists, medical practitioners, sociologists and anthropologists agree with these findings; they believe that evidence shows that “funerals are of the best and potentially most therapeutic rituals available” during grief (Catherine Sanders). William G. Hoy, ‘Do funerals matter? Elephants have been observed ‘viewing’ their dead and placing dirt and branches over them. We may think we have moved on from these kind of practices, but elaborate spiritual rituals are still performed all over the world. Like no other time before or after the death, the funeral invites us to focus on our past relationship with that one, single person and to share those memories with others. However, spirituality and religion can’t be the only reason we perform funerals. What happens after death? As soon as a Jew hears of the death of a loved one, they … As William G. Hoy says: “Some of the bereavement world’s brightest minds have affirmed the role of ritual in managing grief.”. Religion is dying. It was found that these people had a wide range of different ritual behaviour for coping with the loss, ranging from playing certain songs at certain times to visiting a specific place. Such ghost protection rituals and superstitions have varied extensively with time and place, as well as with religious perception, but many are still in use today. Rich in history and rife with symbolism, the funeral ceremony helps us acknowledge the reality of the death, gives testimony to the life of the deceased, encourages the expression of grief in a way consistent with the … The funeral helps us begin this difficult process of developing a new self-identity because it provides a social venue for public acknowledgment of our new roles. Here mourners leave thousands of floral tributes for Princess Diana of Wales. Healthy grief means expressing our painful thoughts and feelings, and healthy funeral ceremonies allow us to do just that. Intellectually, funerals teach us that someone we loved is now dead, even though up until the funeral we may have denied this fact. Sadly, ours is not a demonstrative society, but at funerals we are “allowed” to embrace, to touch, to comfort. Some rituals, like marriages, may be considered a specific kind of ritual known as a rite of passage. These elements come together to provide a meaningful ritual that allows us to confront our loss and channel our grief. Rich in history and rife with symbolism, the funeral ceremony helps us acknowledge the reality of the death, gives testimony to the life of the deceased, encourages the expression of grief in a way consistent with the culture’s values, … Funerals remain one of the most ritualised occasions in our lives, even in an era when we might consider communal rituals to be redundant. Rituals give us a feeling of security and loyalty towards a certain group. The Importance of Ritual and Ceremony. Funerals let us physically demonstrate our support, too. You can also use rituals to work more effectively and stay focused on your goals. Norton and F. Gino, ‘Rituals alleviate grieving for loved ones, lovers, and lotteries’, 2013, Martin Lang et al, ‘Effects of anxiety on spontaneous ritualised behaviour’, 2015, Jonathan Jong, ‘From mummification to “sky burials”: why we need death rituals’, 2016, Judith M. Stillion, ‘Death, Dying, and Bereavement: Contemporary Perspectives, Institutions and Practices’, 2015, Dr Alan D. Wolfelt, ‘Why Is the Funeral Ritual Important?’, 2013, A guide to what to wear to a funeral, including information on what men and women can wear to traditional and casual funerals, #Tradition & Culture Dolphins have been known to protect the bodies of dead members of their pod, while ants, bees and termites all have dedicated members of their societies to dispose of the dead. The need for ritual is a basic human instinct, as real, as urgent and as raw as our need for food, shelter and love. People tend to cry, even sob and wail, at funerals because funerals force us to concentrate on the fact of the death and our feelings, often excruciatingly painful, about that death. The author contends that in the first half of the 20th century, society lost sight of the importance of rituals associated with death and dying and of the need for appropriate death education. The funeral ritual, too, is a public, traditional and symbolic means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone loved. On a more fundamental level, the funeral reinforces one central fact of our existence:  we will die. Why does it have to hurt so much? I am not a morning person. To the ancient Greeks, death was the gateway to the afterlife, and a funeral was an essential rite of passage to help the traveler on his or her way. These ideas and the resultant rituals add meaning to behaviours or events. Even though we may not think of it as a ritual, we still engage in ritualistic behaviours after a death. Rich in history and rife with symbolism, the funeral ceremony helps us acknowledge the reality of the death, gives testimony to the life of the deceased, encourages the expression of grief in a way consistent with the culture’s values, provides support to mourners, allows for the embracing of faith and beliefs about life and death, and offers continuity and hope for the living. Funerals certainly fit these criteria and even modern funerals have a heavy element of ritual: the bringing of the coffin into the church or crematorium, standing and sitting at the same time, the giving of flowers, the convoy of hearses leading the way. Why did this person die? The funeral is huge and can take place weeks or months later to allow the family to raise the necessary funds and g… The Importance of Ritual and Ceremony. This might be tough to believe, but rituals are actually necessary to achieve happiness. Moreover, the sharing of memories at the funeral affirms the worth we have placed on the person who died, legitimizing our pain. Even non-religious funerals are influenced by ideas of caring for and preparing the person who has died for whatever lies beyond this life. Published: Friday, June 12, 2015. This particular practice can be seen across many cultures worldwide, from Vikings and Celts to Ancient China, in order to provide the spirit with everything they would need in the next world. One group of scientists from the University of Connecticut, USA and Masaryk University, Czech Republic, undertook research that showed that “ritualisation might be an anxiety-reducing coping strategy.”. A compelling urge to merge with the infinite, ritual reminds us of a larger, archetypal reality and invokes in us a visceral understanding of such universal paradigms as unity, continuity, connectivity, reverence and awe. The most famous example might be the tomb of Chinese Emperor Quin Shi Huangti, which had a terracotta army of over 6,000 life-sized soldiers in preparation for the afterlife. Funerals are understandably sad and painful occasions but in the desire to lessen the pain for grieving families this important ritual is often rushed. Each funeral we attend serves as a sort of dress rehearsal for our own. The funeral ritual, too, is a public, traditional and symbolic means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone loved. They are perhaps the only time and place, in fact, during which we as a society condone such openly outward expression of our sadness. These elements come together to provide a meaningful ritual that allows us to confront our loss and c… In the study of this behaviour, the terms sacred (the transcendent realm) and profane (the realm of time, space, and cause and effect) have remained useful in distinguishing ritual behaviour from other types of action. These mourning rituals and ceremonies are meant to bring people together, to take the hands of those mourning the loss and lead them astray from isolation. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – … All this was to safely guide the soul through the treacherous underworld. Rituals are an important role in the cultural society and play a significant role in the way we live our lives. Consequently patients and professionals alike found themselves unable to cope with the inevitability of death. Some people may not find funerals to be as helpful as others, but it certainly seems that human society as a whole has always – and probably will always – feel a need to ritualise the death of a loved one. What many of them have in common, however, is the idea of preparing the spirit for the afterlife. There are several factors at play that make funeral rituals an important part of the grieving process. The Egyptians believed that eventually the spirit would return to its body, and so it needed to be preserved as well as possible so that the spirit would recognise it. As a death educator and grief counselor, I am deeply concerned that individuals, families and ultimately society as a whole will suffer if we do not reinvest ourselves in the funeral ritual. Rituals remind us of what is important and provide a sense of stability and continuity in our lives. Many of these scholars agree that the funeral ritual holds a deep meaning for us and can even help us to grieve and move towards healing. Ritual and communal identity Our ancient ancestors used the bond of ritual to create ties of kinship necessary for survival in a world rife with dangers. The Maya greatly respected death; they were taught to fear it and grieved deeply for the dead. Either way, the deceased were buried with their personal belongings, so that they might have all that they needed in the afterlife. As we have said, funerals are a public means of expressing our beliefs and feelings about the death of someone loved. The Importance Of Religion In Society January 15, 2016 October 10, 2017 Kaylin Cantor Religion. So what keeps us performing rituals? Rituals - but for what purpose through the treacherous underworld of animals certain., my self-identity as defined in those ways changes when the people involved understand what is going on partly the... 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