Ever since before time started people have been fascinated with death. Death comes to us all, it’s inevitable, yet asides from the physical aspect of the body’s inevitable decay we know very little about it. There are many cultures that revere death and even worship it. Death is a strong cult symbol because it’s something we all know, fear, and one day will experience.
In western culture we often see black as a color of death or mourning. Black is a very Victorian construct, much like the white wedding dress. Many cultures prefer white to show the spirit realm connection. Purple, green, gray and yellow are all commonly used around the world instead of black.
- In Sulawesi Indonesia families keep loved ones bodies in the home, dressing and taking care of them as if they were alive. They will tend them for years, often having multiple mummified bodies and offering them food and prayers.
- In Victorian times photographs were expensive and families may never have had money to afford pictures of loved ones. Post-mortem photography was the final opportunity to capture their loved one before they said goodbye. Many of these images involved the person posed to look “sleeping” but often they were in a casket draped in flowers.
- In New Orleans jazz funerals fill the streets with music, beginning with a traditional dirge while carrying the casket and finishing upbeat as a commemoration of the deceased’s life as they parade.
- In Ghana people are buried in coffins of all shapes and sizes. Many choose things they love in life like aeroplanes, a car, a bible, animals, and literally any shape the person can think of.
The afterlife and spirit world fascinates a range of people. Death culture isn’t really interested in the afterlife which is what makes it so interesting. Death culture is literally dedicated to the physical act of death and the body itself.
Memento mori (Latin: “remember that you have to die”) is the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. It is related to the ars moriendi (“The Art of Dying”) and similar literature. Memento mori has been an important part of ascetic disciplines as a means of perfecting the character by cultivating detachment and other virtues, and by turning the attention towards the immortality of the soul and the afterlife.
In art, memento mori are artistic or symbolic reminders of mortality. In the European Christian art context, “the expression […] developed with the growth of Christianity, which emphasized Heaven, Hell, and salvation of the soul in the afterlife”.
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