Death Rituals

Death Rituals

It was believed that the work of evil spirits and the duration of their evil— whether it was 7 or 40 days—surrounded the person, family, and community at the time of and after death. Rites evolved to protect both dying and dead persons and the remaining family from these evil spirits. The dying person was cared for in specific ways (ritual washing), and the grave was prepared in set ways (storing food and water for the journey after death). Further, rituals were performed to protect the deceased’s survivors from the harm believed to be rendered by the deceased’s ghost. It was believed that this ghost could return from the grave and, if not carefully appeased, harm surviving relatives (Morgen- stern, 1966, pp. 117–160).

Countless ethnocultural and religious differences can be found in the ways we observe dying, death, and mourning. Table 6–5 displays a sampling of the ways death is talked about at various locations in the United States. The expressions for death have been collected over several years of randomly read- ing the local newspapers’ death notices. It is interesting to observe the regional

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