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A Look at Funeral and Disposition Customs. Sueann F. Schwille, MSW, FSL Karl Schwille, FSL.

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a look at funeral and disposition customs
A Look at Funeral and Disposition Customs
  • Sueann F. Schwille, MSW, FSL
  • Karl Schwille, FSL

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for it’s dead, and I will show you with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of it’s people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”

-Sir William Gladstone

early history
Early History
  • All known civilizations throughout time have had the same three basic tenants regarding:
    • Some manner of ceremony or ritual at death
    • A sacred place for disposition
    • Memorialization of their dead.
early history4
Early History

Anthropologists have discovered evidence that Neanderthal man instinctively used ritual and ceremony when caring for their dead.

early history5
Early History
  • The earliest burial customs were crude efforts to protect the living from the bad spirits which caused the death of the person.
  • The Dead were burned to destroy evil spirits.
  • Many aboriginal tribes, even today, leave their dead to rot because of the belief that death comes from evil.
common beliefs r egarding death of early civilization
Common Beliefs Regarding Death of Early Civilization
  • Death does not end all relationship between the living and the dead but merely signalized the transition from one set of relationships to another.
  • Belief and Practicality Coincide :
    • Religious doctrine regarding disposition met need for sanitation and timely disposal.
ancient egyptian funeral practices
Ancient Egyptian Funeral Practices

Considered to be the most influential of all ancient civilizations on modern day funerary practices.

ancient egyptian funeral practices8
Ancient Egyptian Funeral Practices

The physical body of the deceased was preserved in an effort to prevent the three parts of the soul from being separated.

ancient egyptian funeral practices9
Ancient Egyptian Funeral Practices
  • Ka(individuality) remained inside the tomb with the body and was housed inside a figurine that was made in the likeness of the deceased;
  • Ba(soul) could take on any form and leave the tomb at will;
  • Akhuwas the part of a person’s spirit that could dwell among the stars and be one with the universe.
ancient greek funeral customs
Ancient Greek Funeral Customs

Early literary sources such as the Iliad stress the importance of a proper burial and view failing to provide burial rites as disgraceful to the humanity of the deceased (Iliad, 23.71).

ancient greek funeral customs11
Ancient Greek Funeral Customs
  • Female family members washed and anointed the body of the deceased with oil and then dressed and placed on a high bed in the house.
  • The deceased was taken by procession to the cemetery just before dawn.
  • Graves were often marked with elaborate marble statuary to memorialize the deceased.
roman funeral customs
Roman Funeral Customs

Funerals were an important part Roman custom to preserve the heritage of the family.

roman funeral customs13
Roman Funeral Customs
  • The body of the deceased was washed, dressed and laid out on couch with a coin in the mouth to pay Charon, the ferryman to row him across the river Acheron to the land of the dead.
  • The spirit was believed to haunt it’s home until the body was laid to rest.
  • If body was cremated, a small portion of the body must also be buried.
roman funeral customs14
Roman Funeral Customs
  • Achievements of the deceased as well as long past ancestors were celebrated.
  • A eulogy and songs of mourning were also part of the ceremonies.
  • Actors used masks to re-enact important parts of the life of the deceased and ancestors of the family during a ceremony.
  • The body was carried behind the mourners to the location of cremation or burial.
early hebrew funeral customs
Early Hebrew Funeral Customs

The dead were considered unclean and those who came in contact with the dead were declared unclean.


"Whosoever is unclean by the dead shall be put outside the camp, that they defile not the camp in the midst of which the Lord dwells."

-Numbers 5:2

early hebrew funeral customs17
Early Hebrew Funeral Customs
  • Man was believed to be composed of two elements:
    • Basar: Flesh
    • Nefesh: Breath
  • Believed that the soul remained connected to the body and continued to suffer if the body was mistreated.
early hebrew funeral customs18
Early Hebrew Funeral Customs
  • The soul of the deceased was thought to wander through a mysterious afterlife known as Sheol.
  • The Dead were anointed with oil, dressed in their finest garments and laid in state.
  • Burial was to take place on the evening of the death.
  • Cremation was not permitted and thought to be an indignity to the body of the deceased.
funerals of early christians
Funerals of Early Christians

Burial of Christian remains have always been deemed as important as evidenced by the stressing of the “Resurrection of the Dead.”

funerals of early christians20
Funerals of Early Christians
  • Little is known in regard to burial of the dead in early Christian centuries.
  • 7th Century Spanish Ordinals: “the Order of what the clerics of any city ought to do when their Bishop falls into a mortal sickness”
    • Ringing of church bells
    • Reciting of psalms
    • Cleaning and dressing of body.
funeral practices in the middle ages
Funeral Practices in the Middle Ages
  • By the late 5th century, the dead were brought to the church for the religious mass.
  • Burial garments were costumes or uniform of position.
  • Burial within city walls allowed:
    • The start of church grave yards
    • Important religious figures buried under churches
death becomes a profession
Death Becomes a Profession
  • For nearly 1500 years after Egyptian preservation practices were perfected, extensive use of preservative techniques were not used.
  • In the 15th Century there was a revival of interest in anatomy and surgery.

Leonardo Da Vinci developed a system of venous injection that was the precursor to modern embalming.


In early 17th Century through the 18th Century, a greater understanding of the circulatory system was helpful as the art of arterial embalming emerged.

the rise of the english undertaker
The Rise of the English Undertaker
  • Religion demanded high ritual funeral rites.
    • Ceremony always an integral part of life of English aristocracy.
  • Europe had already experienced “the Plague:”
    • Citizens demanded sanitation.
american colonial funeral practices
American Colonial Funeral Practices
  • Death was recognized as a natural reality.
  • Early New England burials were models of simplicity and quiet dignity.
    • Silent walk to grave site.
  • Over time, churches began to hold services and mourning became a social behavior.
    • Despite growing burial expenses and governmental attempts to curb “wasting money” on elaborate burials, the colonists continued make a death a celebration of the life of the deceased.
dr thomas holmes of new york
Dr. Thomas Holmes of New York
  • Considered the "Father of Modern Embalming“
  • By the start of the Civil War, he had developed a fluid free of previously used arsenic poisons.
  • It is said that Dr. Holmes embalmed some 4,000 bodies over the four year course of the War.
quaker religious society of friends
Quaker: Religious Society of Friends
  • Quaker (Religious Society of Friends)
  • Tend to have very simple funerals
  • Funeral called “Meeting for Worship in Thanksgiving for the Grace of God as shown in the life of _________________”
  • Primary emphasis of funeral (2 fold)
    • To honor the person
    • Experience God’s presence
  • There is no uniform agreement on life after death – emphasis is likely to be on person’s life
  • In the Quaker tradition – congregation meets in a plain building known as a meeting house
    • No ministers as “friends” (another name for Quakers) believe all are equal before God
    • There is often an explanation at the beginning of the service or in a printed program so to know what to expect
  • Quaker funeral services are similar to the Quaker services or “Meeting for Worship”
    • Elder may welcome those gathered and read a poem, scripture or other material
    • There may be music; instrumental or hymn singing depending on the traditions of that specific “meeting”
    • Typically no set ritual and no sermon though there may be a brief eulogy
  • Anyone who feels moved by the spirit to give a spoken message or prayer may do so in “open worship”
  • “Open Worship” – period of silence where family and friends are welcome to speak no matter age, gender, of faith tradition
  • Service may end with a closing prayer or song or an elder near the front of the meeting house will turn and shake hands with his or her neighbor which is a signal that the meeting for worship has concluded
  • Ushers do not dismiss and you are free to speak with the family or leave quietly
  • After the funeral those who gather are often invited for a light meal at the meeting house
  • If individual is buried a brief burial service follows the funeral with all invited
  • Funerals held typically within one week of death but no strict law dictates time
  • Many Quakers choose cremation due to simplicity so it is typical for service to be without body present
  • Monetary donations in lieu of flowers
  • If not organization is suggested a memorial gift to one’s “meeting” would be appropriate
  • Guests who are not Quaker are welcome
  • Professional or church attire required
  • Wearing black is not expected
  • No special clothing worn
islamic funeral customs
Islamic Funeral Customs

“Islam” means the “achievement of peace with Allah and man and complete resignation to Allah in thoughts, words, beliefs and deeds”

islamic funeral customs31
Islamic Funeral Customs
  • Muslims – followers of the Islamic religion
  • Koran – Book of religion of Islam
    • Koran teaches
      • There is one God – Allah
      • There is a day of judgment and a life after death
      • To pray 5 times a day
      • To fight for the sake of Allah
      • To perform duties of generosity
      • Actions follow you to the afterlife
islamic funeral customs32
Islamic Funeral Customs
  • Muslims view death as a transition from one state of being to another, not as an end.
  • If you follow the law of the Koran and live a good life you will be rewarded in the afterlife.
  • In death you will be separated from the ugliness of the world, unless you live a dishonest and bad life then you will be separated from all the beauty.
islamic funeral customs33
Islamic Funeral Customs

Islamic customs require…

There are no photos allowed

The death is immediately announced to all family and friends

The body is bathed and covered in white cotton

Within 2 days following the death the body is carried to the graveyard by 4 men. A procession of friends and relatives follow

No discussion takes place at the time of the burial but all pray for the soul of the departed

  • The body be turned to face Mecca
  • Guests of the same sex should greet each other with a handshake and a hug
  • Person sits next of the body and reads from the Koran
  • An Iman presides over the service
  • The deceased’s eyes and mouth are closed
  • There is rarely an open casket
  • Arms, legs and hands are stretched out in alignment with the body
islamic funeral customs34
Islamic Funeral Customs
  • After burial all the guests go to the house of the family of the deceased
    • A meal is prepared for the guests who stay all day
    • Family my stay the entire week
    • Family members socialized and weep
  • Mourning period is officially 40 days long
    • Family only wears black clothing
  • For 1 year wife of deceased wears black but anniversary of the death is not observed
  • Dress code
    • Men no head cover
    • Women cover arms and legs
hindu funeral customs
Hindu Funeral Customs

As a religion Hindu has no founder, no common creed or doctrine.

hindu funeral customs36
Hindu Funeral Customs
  • In Hindu tradition the body remains at the home until it is cremated which is usually within 24 hours after death.
  • During funeral service mourners are encouraged to dress casually and white attire is preferred.
  • Flowers may be offered.
  • Food is not part of the Hindu custom.
hindu funeral customs37
Hindu Funeral Customs
  • Prevalent among Asian Indians.
  • Teaches that God is within each being and object
    • The essence of each soul is divine
    • Purpose of life is to become aware of the divine essence
  • Believe that although the physical body dies, the individual soul has no beginning and no end
    • May pass to another reincarnation depending on one’s karma or how they have lived over past lifetimes
    • If the soul has realized the true nature of reality, it may become one with Brahman
hindu funeral customs38
Hindu Funeral Customs
  • There is always an open casket and guests are expected to view the deceased’s body
  • Hindu priest and elder family members conduct the service
  • Guests of other faiths welcome
  • 10 days after the death a ceremony is held at the home of the deceased in order to liberate the soul for its assent into heaven
  • Visitors are expected to bring fruit
jewish funeral customs
Jewish Funeral Customs

Judaism focuses on how life should be lived not on defining an afterlife.

  • Jewish people hold the philosophy that one should embrace life while accepting the inevitability of death.
jewish funeral customs40
Jewish Funeral Customs
  • Conservative Jewish cultures follow a strong set of customs and beliefs based on the Torah.
  • Reform Judaism modifies some traditional customs.
  • Burials are to take place as soon as possible
  • Simplicity is emphasized to avoid signs of status.
  • Implied that living a praiseworthy life will prepare for what comes after death.
  • There is no open casket or cremation.
jewish funeral customs41
Jewish Funeral Customs
  • Tahara – traditional Jewish practice to perform a ritual washing of the body and then place it in a plain burial shroud
  • Watchers or ChervaKadisha remain with the body around the clock until the funeral
  • Funeral is to be held on a synagogue or funeral home the day after death
  • There is no visitation with the presence of the body prior to the funeral
  • Male guests wear a jacket and tie with yarmulke
  • Women wear conservative dress with somber colors
  • Rabbi conducts the services begins with Kria Ribbon cutting, symbolizing the deceased’s breaking away from loved ones
    • Service includes a Eulogy
  • A minyan or group of at least 10 Jewish adults is required to recite prayers
jewish funeral customs42
Jewish Funeral Customs
  • At interment family members participate in placing dirt on the casket before it is buried to symbolize their acceptance of the finality of death.
  • Jewish funerals are often held entirely at the funeral home.
  • Flowers are NOT approved of for Jewish funerals.
  • Donation to a charity is encouraged.
  • Kosher food is welcome.
  • The initial mourning period is called Shiva and lasts seven days
    • Appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved.
jewish funeral customs43
Jewish Funeral Customs
  • Family mourning practice may include:
    • Covering mirrors
    • Burning memorial candles
    • Wearing cut Kria Ribbon
    • Men do not shave
    • Women do not wear makeup
    • Couple intimacy is frowned upon.
  • Break from daily routine symbolizes disruption in life from death and demonstrates grief through self sacrifice.
jewish funeral customs44
Jewish Funeral Customs
  • Twice a day the bereaved pray for their loved one.
  • At one year there is a service on the anniversary to unveil the gravestone at the gravesite.
  • Candles are lit on the yearly anniversary of the death known as yahrzeit.
buddhist funeral customs
Buddhist Funeral Customs

The goal of the Buddhist is to escape the cycle of rebirth by achieving Nirvana:

  • Nirvana not seen as heaven but a state of bliss beyond the world of suffering achieved only through conscience effort and practice to purify the soul.
  • Purification comes from ones separation of self from unjust and material world.
buddhist funeral customs46
Buddhist Funeral Customs
  • Funeral customs within the Buddhist religions often differ but share a basic philosophy of life and death
    • Every soul is reborn into the world of suffering (our world) until the soul has been cleansed.
  • Open casket encouraged.
  • Knowledge from past lives enhance the journey to enlightenment.
buddhist funeral customs47
Buddhist Funeral Customs
  • The objective of a Buddhist expressing grief at a funeral service is to show hope for a safe and pleasant journey to the next life.
  • Wear a traditional white cloth as a head band or arm band.
  • Walk with sticks to symbolize that grief has left them the need for support.
  • Chant appropriate prayers (sutras).
  • Bring offerings of flowers and fruit.
  • Burn incense to sweeten the air.
irish wake
Irish Wake

Historic Irish Wake

  • Began with neighbor women washing the body of the deceased and preparing it for viewing in the home
    • Body was covered in white linen
    • Adorned with black or white ribbons
    • Flowers when the deceased was a child
    • Lighted candles were placed around the body
    • Clay pipes, tobacco and snuff were placed in each room and on table next to body
      • Every male caller was required to take at least one puff as the smoke was thought to keep evil spirits from finding the deceased
    • Clocks were stopped at the time of death
    • Mirrors were covered or turned
  • Body was never left alone until burial
  • Crying was not allowed until the body was prepared and then keening began
    • Keening- reciting of poetry lamenting over the loss of the loved one. It includes crying and wailing.
irish wake49
Irish Wake
  • Not the same as “viewing” or “visitation” which are more subdued gatherings.
  • Wakes are often held at smaller venues such as a home where casual atmosphere and comfort are available.
  • Some feel laughter and sharing stories with joy are inappropriate
  • last 2 – 3 nights.
  • Food, tobacco, snuff and liquor were plentiful.
  • Laughter, singing, crying, storytelling and game playing. No disrespect to deceased was meant.
  • Church frowned upon the Irish Wake because it was thought that the customs of merriment were influenced by the Irish Pagan Heritage
  • Often turned into heated debates or religion politics and economics
irish wake50
Irish Wake

Modern Wake

  • Coming back into practice in certain circles
  • A celebration of the deceased
    • Friends and family gather together
    • Share stories about the person who has died
      • Humorous
      • Serious
irish wake51
Irish Wake
  • Final respects paid on morning of funeral, body is placed in a coffin and brought outside the house where it stayed as mourners passed by to kiss the deceased prior to the lid being placed on the casket and it was carried to the grave and buried.
  • Shovel and spade were laid on top of the new grave in form of a cross.
  • Prayers were said bringing the wake and funeral to a close.
  • Atheists do not believe in any deity
atheist funeral customs
Atheist Funeral Customs
  • Are becoming more common.
  • Appropriate memorials to those who lived their lives without religious affiliation and were against the traditional religious views associated with life and death.
  • No specific reference to an afterlife.
atheist funeral customs54
Atheist Funeral Customs
  • Funeral services are a tribute to the life the deceased lived
    • Memories are shared
    • Centers around sincerity and affection for the deceased
  • Both cremation and burial is accepted
  • Open casket is individual preference
  • Body may or may not be present for the service
  • Music not part of the service but music is allowed
scientology funeral customs56
Scientology Funeral Customs
  • Passing happens automatically, no ritual or ceremony.
  • No mention of heaven or hell.
  • Deceased is spoken to directly and thanked for presence and achievements. Wishing them well in their future existence.
  • Services often end with Hubbard’s message “You are a spirit. You are your own soul. You are not mortal. You can be free.”
  • Non-scientologists are welcome to all parts of service.
  • Lead by scientology minister.
  • Typically include special readings from founder L. Ron Hubbard.
  • Body may or may not be present.
  • Generally held in a scientology chapel.
  • No specific guidelines regarding physical remains because very little meaning is given to the physical body.
  • Views the spiritual self as “thetan” as being unique and billions of years old passed on from one life to the next through reincarnation.
  • The body is simply the vehicle for travel and the mode of interaction.
new orleans jazz
New Orleans Jazz

The New Orleans Jazz Funeral salutes a life well lived and the passage of a departed soul into a better world.

new orleans jazz59
New Orleans Jazz
  • Music and dancing of the Jazz Funeral were intended to both help the deceased find their way to heaven and to celebrate the final release from the bounds of earthly life:
    • This was, in the past the release of slavery.
  • Music – call and response style of music and chant. Coupled with tambourines, drums, music and dancing were elements of African funeral ceremonies which crossed the seas with captive slaves.
new orleans jazz60
New Orleans Jazz
  • In American culture this funeral remained among the African American population of the deep south but was not welcomed by the Catholic Church so was restricted to the Black Protestants of New Orleans, especially impoverished people and musicians.
  • Toward the middle of the 20th century, movement caught on as did the ability to better afford funeral services, giving rise to the more elaborate funerary events lasting up to a week and including a parade from the home of the deceased to the church or funeral home and finally to the site of final disposition.

Wiccan funerals share characteristics with those that choose green or eco-friendly burial customs.

  • Encourage individuals to make their wishes for a funeral known to family and significant others well in advance of death:
    • Encouraged to have Coven-mate and lawyer listed as Executor of will so as to have requests honored by other family members.
  • Only deceased’s closest family, friends and Coven-mates attend services at the gravesite:
    • During the brief funeral ritual, the other participants wait for this special group to return to the larger group
  • First part of ritual:
    • The priest and priestess conduct the funeral ceremony and their assistants serve as ushers
    • The ritual space is cleared of furniture and the deceased’s body is laid out at an altar
    • Mourners wait at the outside edges of the space while the priestess continues to prepare the space and recites a ritual chant
    • After a recitation by both the priest and priestess, mourners are invited to come and speak to the deceased saying whatever is needed to help along the journey of death.
  • Eventually the body is wrapped and a candle is lit. The ushers direct visitors to food and drink and encourage them to converse with each other while the priestess, priest and other coven-mates and close friends take the body to the grave.
  • A private ritual is conducted and then these members return to the rest of the group to share stories, memories and offer prayers.
  • Person to be buried is wrapped only in cloth in order to allow the body to decompose naturally and as quickly as possible in order to provide nourishment for other life:
    • When this type of burial in not permitted, Wiccans encourage cremation and the burial of ashes as opposed to the use of traditional embalming fluids and airtight caskets.
mexican american
Mexican American

Most Mexican Americans are Catholic and consider the funeral an important part of life.

mexican american65
Mexican American
  • Since early stages of Mexican culture, Mexicans have embraced death as part of life. The Mayans and Aztecs were both warriors who practiced human sacrifice which shows a casual acceptance of death:
    • Combine this with Catholicism’s deeply religious regard for death brought to the country by missionaries
  • Acceptance of death has defined some modern Mexican rituals such as the “Day of the Dead”, a celebration that honors those who are deceased:
    • In celebration many Mexicans decorate with skeletons that dance and play instruments
      • Sometimes thought of as irreverent, it is not meant to trivialize the loss of a loved one but rather their belief in an afterlife, and ease grief
  • Services are heavily attended and are lead by Catholic priests who honor the recently deceased.
mexican american66
Mexican American

The Wake

  • In rural communities, the wake is usually held at the family’s home, where loved ones come to strengthen ties and pay respects to the deceased.
  • In rural areas, the coffin is placed on a table or stand under burning candles and herbs.
  • In an urban setting, viewing is held in a mortuary.
mexican american67
Mexican American
  • The wake is followed by a church ceremony.
  • Strong emotional responses to be encouraged.
  • Children are socialized to accept death at a young age.
  • A final ceremony is held at the burial site.
  • Relatives throw a handful of dirt on the coffin before the grave is filled.
  • Family members to bring candles to church and light them at the altar for 9 days following the death.
  • Although Mexican Americans embrace death, it is important for them to say goodbye to loved ones with elaborate funerals and long periods of mourning.
italian funeral customs
Italian Funeral Customs
  • Customs for those who live in Italy and for those who live in the United States share many similarities despite the physical distance between the homeland and its immigrants.
  • Many funeral traditions are in line with major funeral traditions in Catholicism due to the influence of the religion throughout Italy.
italian funeral customs69
Italian Funeral Customs
  • Superstitious beliefs in Italian funeral:
    • Person’s soul does not want to leave the earth and as a result survivors must perform a number of rituals to help them leave.
    • Many Italians will not speak about the dead following the period of mourning out of fear of bringing them back to the earth.
    • Earthly favorite material possessions are often buried with the deceased in hopes this will encourage them not to return.
italian funeral customs70
Italian Funeral Customs
  • Italian Funeral service:
    • In keeping with Catholic traditions; last rites, prayer vigil, funeral liturgy and Catholic Mass are observed.
    • Family or friends are chosen as pallbearers.
    • Family may or may not choose to say a few words about the deceased.
    • Open casket during the funeral is encouraged.
    • Customary to kiss the deceased cheek or forehead out of respect for the deceased.
  • Following Mass mourners gather at the site of the grave
    • Mourners are each encouraged to throw a fist full of dirt or a flower on top of the casket in the grave.
italian funeral customs71
Italian Funeral Customs
  • Funeral flowers are an essential part of Italian funeral customs:
    • Commonly given to family members of the deceased and they are placed on the casket and in the church.
  • Black is traditionally worn for funerals.
  • Meals and food is prepared at first word of death by friends and neighbors to feed family and their visitors.
african american
African American
  • Family members, close friends and even acquaintances are expected to attend the service
    • Services may even be postponed to ensure that everyone can be there
  • Aspects of African American funeral services that have remained traditional particularly among southern families are:
    • Flower girls – female counterpart of pallbearer offer special attention to grieving family members
    • “nurses” are sometimes present to aid a mourner who becomes overwhelmed with emotion
    • Musical performances are presented by a choir and/or loved ones
    • A large assortment of flowers to decorate the coffin is common
african american73
African American
  • The most distinguishing characteristic in African American funeral service is Keening, a very dramatic expression of sorrow:
    • Common for grieving family members and friends to cry and wail at the loss of their loved one
    • Can sometimes be assumed that if family members do not react this way that the deceased was not loved and his death is not mourned
  • Keening is on the decline.
orthodox funeral rite
Orthodox Funeral Rite
  • The Orthodox Church is known by various names depending on the location or makeup of its membership:
    • Greek Orthodox Church
    • Russian Orthodox Church
    • Eastern Orthodox Church
    • Orthodox Catholic Church
greek orthodox funerals
Greek Orthodox Funerals
  • In Greek the word for funeral also means “to take care of someone”
  • Burial and cremation allowed
  • In Greek funerals the casket is always open and the disposition takes place in the deceased’s home
  • Body is watched throughout the night before burial by his or her dearest loved one
  • Professional mourners were once hired to sing songs of mourning with the family
  • Following disposition the body is transported to the church and then the burial site
greek orthodox funerals76
Greek Orthodox Funerals
  • Before the casket is closed the family each offers a final kiss to the departed and places items of importance to the deceased in the casket
  • The funeral procession is a quiet affair 
  • Following burial flowers are planted around the burial site
    • Originally carried out in order to purify the grounds
  • Following the funeral mourners’ return to the home to share a dinner
greek orthodox funerals77
Greek Orthodox Funerals
  • Additional ceremonies take place days after the burial:
    • 40 days,
    • 3, 6, 9,
    • and 12 months
orthodox funeral rite78
Orthodox Funeral Rite


  • Generally there will be a Trisagion (three short blessings or services) held:
    • at the funeral home the evening before the funeral service
    • at the funeral home immediately before leaving for the funeral service at the church
    • and at the gravesite.
orthodox funeral rite79
Orthodox Funeral Rite

Funeral Service

  • At the church the casket and family will move into the church, be met by the priest.
  • The priest will bless the casket with holy water before leading the procession down the aisle of the church.
  • The priest may or may not be accompanied by a cantor.
  • The casket is placed in the Solea perpendicular to the altar.
  • The casket is usually left open for the funeral service.
  • The order of service is followed from the Parastas or Great Panachida.
  • The final portion of the service may include a eulogy.
  • After the eulogy the casket is turned parallel to the Iconostasis.
  • The Priest anoints the body with earth and olive oil.
  • An Icon is place at the foot end of the casket and those seated on the right side of the church may pass by the casket , stopping to kiss the Icon on their way.
  • The Icon is then moved to the head end of the casket and the process repeated for those on the left side of the church.
  • After the final viewing of the friends, the family has the opportunity for a final viewing and the casket is closed.
  • The casket is taken in procession to the cemetery for the committal service.
native american burial traditions
Native American Burial Traditions
  • Naturally eco-friendly:
    • Native American Burial Customs follow the belief and practice that the natural world is truly sacred.
    • Many services are specifically linked to a specific location and to harm that place would be contrary to Native American beliefs.
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Native American Burial Traditions
  • Although each tribe has its own specific customs all have a common respect for the earth.
  • Many groups believe that birth, life and death are the elements of something larger and endless life cycle.
  • Families take care of deceased making all funeral arrangements. They transport the body themselves and their burial techniques are eco-friendly.
  • The body is placed in a simple shroud or wooden casket.
  • The body is often honored for up to 4 days.
  • Bodies are not embalmed, dry ice is used to preserve the body for service.
  • Native American Nations do not share a single faith or common practice.
  • Native American burials are naturally green.
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Native American Burial Traditions
  • In some Native American funeral practices relatives of deceased are subject to strict rules in order to assist their departed in their journey:
    • Personal items are placed in coffin
    • Sympathy is welcome for the loss.
home burials
Home Burials
  • Home burials were a common practice for many years until the mid 1900’s.
  • In many cases the home burial must be done with the assistance of a funeral director.
  • Not just about saving money:
    • Personal
    • Dignified.
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Home Burials
  • Home built caskets
  • Burial on private land
  • Biodegradable caskets – no need for burial vault
  • Must meet state and local health and safety codes:
    • Minimum acreage requirements and a plat map may also be required.
green funerals burials
Green Funerals & Burials
  • Green burials consume fewer resources:
    • Use of burial vaults requires transport from manufacturer.
    • Mixing of concrete or casting the vaults and creating the lining and seals of vaults require consumption of valuable resources.
  • Green funerals can save money:
    • Can save as much as $4-7,000.00.
  • Green burials reduce the use of carcinogenic chemicals:
    • Most embalming fluids contain formaldehyde a known carcinogen.
    • Funeral directors have been found to have a higher incidence of myeloid leukemia.
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Green Funerals & Burials
  • Green burials conserve land:
    • Today’s cemeteries take up many acres of land.
    • Cemeteries are typically stripped of trees and natural vegetation adversely impacting local and global environments.
    • Upkeep of cemeteries requires chemicals for weed control impacting the environment.
  • Green burials preserve wildlife:
    • When trees go – so do the animals that inhabit them.
    • Even the slightest shifts in the balance of an ecosystem can have negative and long lasting effects on the environment.
catholic funeral practices
Catholic Funeral Practices

The Wake

  • A Rosary Service or Wake is usually held in the funeral home or church the evening before the funeral Mass.
  • This is a time for family and friends to share a series of prayers.
  • It may be lead by a priest, a layperson, nun, family member or even the funeral director.
  • It is not a substitute for the funeral Mass.
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Catholic Funeral Practices

The Mass

  • The funeral Mass begins when the casket is moved into the narthex or vestibule of the church.
  • Following the greeting and invocation:
    • The casket is blessed with Holy Water.
    • The casket is then covered with the pall.
  • The procession down the aisle of the church is led by the:
    • crucifer
    • Acolytes
    • Priest.
  • The pallbearers and casket follow after.
  • The family follows the casket.
  • The casket is placed at right angles to the altar with the paschal candle at the feet.
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Catholic Funeral Practices
  • Following the order of service for the Celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial:
    • The priest will conduct several Bible readings of Psalms and the Gospel.
    • A Homily will be said by the celebrant.
      • This may include a eulogy.
  • Communion will be offered.
  • After communion the Final Commendation is said:
    • again blessing the casket with incense and Holy Water.
  • This is followed by the recessional.
  • Then procession to the cemetery and the Committal Service.
lutheran funeral practices
Lutheran Funeral Practices
  • Believe that death is a new beginning.
  • Believe that those who have faith are assured eternal life with God.
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Lutheran Funeral Practices
  • When conducted in the church:
    • Funeral service follows the Order of Service as indicated in the Lutheran Book of Worship or the Lutheran Hymnal of Lutheran Worship.
    • The casket is usually closed and covered with a pall.
    • Communion may be offered as part of the funeral service if it is the wish of the family.
  • When conducted in the funeral home:
    • the pall and communion would be eliminated.
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Mormon Funeral Practices
  • The funeral service is conducted by the Bishop of the deceased’s congregation.
  • The service typically will last for 60 – 90 minutes.
  • The funeral is a teaching opportunity for those who have not heard the gospel.
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Mormon Funeral Practices
  • The family will follow the casket into the church, the congregation will be asked to stand out of respect to the deceased and the family.
  • When the service begins you can expect to hear an opening prayer, a reading, at least one song, but there may be several, a few words from the ward Bishop and a final blessing.
  • The ward Bishop may be the only man to speak, other men may stand and speak.
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Mormon Funeral Practices
  • Following the funeral service, guests may be invited to the graveside service for burial.
  • If guests are not invited, then you should assume you are not invited to attend.
  • It may be specifically for those in the family, or for those who are members of the Latter Day Saints.
  • In some cases, the graveside service is the only service held for the deceased.
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Mormon Funeral Practices
  • At the gravesite, a small service is rendered as a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, who has the authority to act in the name of God, offers a "Dedication" of the grave.
  • The dedication typically follows this model:
    • Addresses Heavenly Father.
    • States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
    • Dedicates and consecrates the burial plot as the resting place for the body of the deceased.
    • (Where appropriate) prays that the place may be hallowed and protected until the Resurrection.
    • Asks the Lord to comfort the family and expresses thoughts as the Spirit directs.
    • Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Typically a Priesthood holder will stand guard until the grave has been closed if closing is not a part of the graveside service.
non liturgical protestant funeral practices
Non-Liturgical Protestant Funeral Practices
  • Non-liturgical Protestant churches include:
    • Baptist
    • Methodist
    • Assembly of God
    • Church of Christ
    • Presbyterian
    • Church of God
    • Nazarene.
  • No set order of service for the funeral service.
  • There is little difference between the funeral service in these churches and in a funeral home.
  • The preferences of the clergy and the family will determine the order and content of the service.
episcopalian funeral practices
Episcopalian Funeral Practices
  • Part of the Anglican Communion:
    • Only churches in the United States and Scotland use the word Episcopal.
  • Has both Catholic and Protestant ties.
  • Strongly encouraged to have the funeral service in the church.
  • Flowers are generally not allowed in the church.
  • The order of service will is found in the Book of Common Prayer.
  • Communion may be a part of the service
  • No eulogy as such is given.
  • Cremation is an accepted means of disposition.
military funeral services
Military Funeral Services

Arlington National Cemetery

Services provided for:

Retired Military Members

Veterans with Silver Star and above

Cremated Remains of Any Veteran

Spouses of Eligible Service Members

  • Conduct 4 – 5 funerals per hour
  • Funerals performed from 9 am to 3 pm Monday thru Friday
  • 28 – 35 funerals a day
  • 140 – 175 burials a week
  • 7,280 – 9,100 burials a year
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Military Funeral Services
  • Military Honors
  • 1 OIC (Officer in Charge)
  • 1 Chaplain
  • 6 Casket Bearers
  • 6 – 7 Member Firing Squad
  • 2 Flag Folders
  • 1 Flag Presenter
  • Full Military Honors
  • 1 OIC
  • 1 Chaplain
  • Riderless Horse
  • Caisson as casket beir
  • Military Band
  • 6 Casket Bearers
  • 6 – 7 Member Firing Squad
  • 2 Flag Folders
  • 1 Flag Presenter
  • Booth, S. (2009). A Comparison of Death Rituals: Islam, Hindusiam, Roman Catholicism, New Orleans Jazz. Retrieved on January 20, 2011 from You Tube web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoqSGbn9Tol.
  • Booth, S. (2009). A Comparison of Death Rituals Part II.: Islam, Hindusiam, Roman Catholicism, New Orleans Jazz. Retrieved on January 20, 2011 from You Tube web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfCFEzur1P4.
  • Funeral Practices from Around the World, (n.d.). Retrieved on January 20, 2011 from You Tube web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DemSu3hKL4.
  • Habenstein, R., & Lamers, W. (Eds.). (1981).The History of American Funeral Directing. Milwaukee, WI: National Funeral Director’s Association.
  • Iserson, K. (1994). Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? Tucson, AZ: Galen Press, Ltd.
  • National Association of Colleges of Mortuary Science, Inc. (1994). Funeral Services and Ceremonies. Dallas, TX: Professional Training Schools, Inc.
  • World Religions Views on Death, (n.d.). Retrieved on January 20, 2011 from You Tube web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10BcUhoRLUs.