Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dead and Alive Project with Klaus Bo

In Upernavik, the soil is too hard to bury the dead. Instead, they are laid to rest in concrete and stone-covered coffins above ground. Often, these coffins face the ocean, so that dead sealers can watch the place they once worked. via

Photographer, Klaus Bo, has set forth a project documenting the different cultural experiences surrounding death. The project is called “Dead and Alive Project.”

In some places – like Denmark – death is taboo, in other places death and the deceased are natural parts of the life of the living. The background for this project is the desire to show how death rituals often reflect life. With its selection of different death and burial rituals, visitors to the final exhibition will gain insight into how much any given culture’s values, hopes and dreams are reflected in their thoughts about death and life after death, and how differently we treat our dead from culture to culture.”

Klaus has travelled far and wide to document different death traditions. Below are just a few of the photos that will be featured in the April issue of National Geographic with small insights to their stories:

Church members carry Nene Nomo’s body to his grave. His coffin pays homage to his profession, chicken farming. via
Ramri Tamang’s body is cremated on the outskirts of the village, surrounded by family members. According to their Buddhist beliefs, it is important to destroy the body so that the spirit cannot return to it. via
Bodies are cremated at Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi’s main cremation grounds. More than 150 bodies are cremated there every day, and its frequent use has caused deforestation in the area. via

Family members dance with and celebrate their ancestor during a Famadihana. via

Women in Port-au-Prince chant to lure the spirit of a deceased mambo, or Vodou priestess, into a kalabasa squash (seen floating in a bowl in the center). Afterward, they will release the spirit at a nearby road junction. via

To read more on the project, go to the project website HERE
To view the feature on National Geographic, click HERE

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Decomposing Bodies Power Ethereal Cemetery Lanterns

What happens to you after death? We expect that our loved ones will grieve, someone will say consoling words to our family and friends, and perhaps there will be a party with fond toasts to our memory. But what becomes of our remains? In most cases, bodies are either embalmed or cremated, buried or scattered in some meaningful location. But the Centre for Death and Society at England’s University of Bath held a competition in hopes of reimagining the future cemetery. They selected as their winner ‘Sylvan Constellation,’ a proposal that combines grieving with the latest in green technology to create a sustainable, peaceful space.

Sylvan Constellation envisions the cemetery as a series of woodland paths through clusters of ‘memorial vessels,’ some at the level of the path and some suspended on columns overhead. The vessels contain remains and microbial fuel cells that hasten decomposition. As the body breaks down, its energy is converted into electricity that causes the vessel to glow, lighting the nearby paths, creating beautiful surroundings while avoiding the environmental impacts of embalming or cremation. Centre director Dr. John Troyer said in a press release, “The proposal captured the Future Cemetery design competition’s larger themes by presenting a mix of different sustainable technologies.”
The proposal is the work of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. GSAPP will receive a prize of five thousand pounds and a month’s residency in Bath to research the nearby Arnos Vale Cemetery, where Sylvan Constellation will be constructed. GSAPP will collaborate with Arnos Vale and the Centre to bring the project to fruition. “By working together on this project, collaborators will establish networks for longer-term projects involving innovative, sustainable design around end-of-life planning,” said Troyer.
Original Article via

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Irish Funeral Traditions: The Wake

The Irish are famous for many things like their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, love of Guiness beer, and we can’t forget the accent! With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we thought we’d explore Irish funeral traditions.

The Wake
A wake used to be a very lively event, and for some it still is. However, in recent years there has been a shift to making it a more somber event. In years past, the wake would be held in a house. The deceased would be laid down to rest, while stories were shared, laughs filled the air, and drinks were all around! The body is not to be left alone at any time. A person, usually a woman, sits nearby at all times.

Some traditions include stopping all the clocks in the house at the time of death. Some believe this is an effort to help the dead pass on, when they realize time isn’t passing. Others believe this was an effort to help the doctor know when to declare an exact time of death when he arrived.

Anther tradition includes turning all mirrors and pictures. It was said that a soul could get trapped in a reflective surface. Later they would haunt the home. While this may sound hokey, this stemmed from a time when there was an unhealthy interest in death. (Think Victorian era.)

Another common tradition at the wake would be to have every male caller take at least one puff from a pipe to lift evil spirits from the body. Some would place the pipe next to the deceased, even on their chests!

Want to read more about the Irish wake? Click HERE OR HERE

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tips for Writing an Epitaph

When it comes to writing the epitaph, the challenge posed can be an emotional one. However, it can also be an opportunity to give the world a small window into the importance of the life lost. The process can actually aide in the grieving process, however bittersweet the experience may be. Below are some tips on how to write an epitaph.

  1.  Keep it Short and Sweet
  2.  Think of What the Deceased Would Write for Themselves
  3.  Describe What Makes up their Essence
  4.  Decide on Who is Speaking
  5.  Convey a Strong Feeling

Keep it Short and Sweet:
Many epitaphs are one to two lines in length. Some feel limited by the space restrictions, but for others it can be beneficial. The best way to look at it is quality over quantity. Keeping your epitaph concise keeps the significant and meaningful words to speak volumes instead of extra words “fluffing” the headstone.

Think of What the Deceased Would Write for Themselves:
Throughout this process, have you thought about what you would write for your personal epitaph? Try to put yourself in the shoes of the deceased. What would they write about themselves? What aspects of their life would they have wanted highlighted and displayed for the world for years to come?

Describe What Makes up their Essence:
Many use the relationships of the deceased such as, “Daughter, Mother, and Friend.” Perhaps their occupation is the best descriptor (or a combination), “Brother and Soldier.” It may be helpful to describe key aspects of their personality. For example, “A kindred spirit that loved you before she knew you.” Think of what makes them…them. Was it the way they interacted or served others? Was it a specific quote they lived by? Was it their dedication to a cause? What made them tick?

Decide on Who is Speaking:
An epitaph can be written from the viewpoint of the deceased or it can be written from an unknown third party. “Bob was strong until the bitter end” vs. “My loved ones will always be loved by me.”

Convey a Strong Feeling:
An epitaph can take on a melancholic tone or it can be celebratory! The message can be tragic or it can emphasize the love surrounding their life. Deciding on the feeling you want to elicit behind the epitaph will help guide you in your message.

An epitaph is a hard task that brings many memories to the surface. Some memories fill your soul with light, while others may bring a shadow to your heart. Writing an epitaph is process, and we hope these tips are helpful to this process.