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History & Cultures of Funerals

candles at a funeral.jpg

Understanding Funerals

In Latin the word Funus means torch.

The use of torches in burial ceremonies dates as far back as the Neanderthal era. 

The Romans believed torches used in funeral  ceremonies guided the deceased person to their eternal home. 

Customs and traditions of funerals date back about 300,000 years ago.

Many funerals were held to celebrate the transition from life to the afterlife. whether it was a religion, pagan or other belief would depend on where the soul of the deceased would find themselves after death. 


Some Christians believe his or her spirit goes back to God, the body returns to dust and the soul of that person no longer exist. 


Some Muslims believe the soul will enter Barzakh, which is a state of waiting until the day of Judgement. 


The Hindu people believe that the body is temporary and eventually dies and that the soul is eternal. After death, the soul is reincarnated, taking birth in another physical body or form. Rebirth of the spirit in different bodies until the spirit learns that happiness and immortality are not a result of the fulfilment of desires but are attained when all desires and needs are no longer important. 


Buddhists believe that upon death, there is rebirth to another life. Death is accepted as inevitable and not feared. They believe that this life’s actions will determine your next life - Karma. To some Buddhist, death is no more than the dream at the end of time.


The Jewish religion believe that the deceased soul rises to Heaven for judgment before the Divine Tribunal. The soul feels a deep sense of serenity, of being at peace with itself – as if it is preparing to return home. 


Atheists believe that God does not exist and there is no life after death. Once a person dies it is the cessation of the existence of that individual.

Agnostic people cannot be sure if there is a God or not. However, in more modern times a new-age belief is known as Spiritual belief. 

The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common  during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism. Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions. The emphasis is on the deepest values and meaning by which people live - their personal growth. Today spiritual beliefs in relation to death, differ from person to person. There is no right or wrong spiritual belief. 


Sometimes this helps a person face death with less fear as their belief sustains their strength and courage at the end. This can be said for any religion, so long as their belief gives them a sense of peace and calm. 


Spirit derived from the Latin spiritus meaning soul, courage, vigor and the latin - spirare - meaning breath. 

So I guess that’s just it. The last breath is the letting go of the soul.


Pagan funerals are often similar to a Spiritual Funeral. Pagans beliefs have a deep respect for all things living. They may refer to the Goddess, a female deity. Many pagans believe in reincarnation or the union of the spirit with nature. Which is why they often prefer a green burial without embalming the body. An eco-friendly option usually held outdoors where possible. 


More information about individual ceremonies will be available soon. 

Links are available to all references. 

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