funeral customs, rituals surrounding the death of a human being and the subsequent disposition of the corpse. Such rites may serve to mark the passage of a person from life into death, to secure the welfare of the dead, to comfort the living, and to protect the living from the dead. Disposal of the body may be by burial, by conservation (see mummy), by cremation, by exposure (see Parsis), or by other methods. Funeral ceremonies have certain common features: for example, the laying out of the corpse; the watching of the dead, of which the wake is a standard example; and the period of mourning with the accompanying ceremonies.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Sections in this article:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Customs and Artifacts