Death rites have been practiced in every human society since Paleolithic times. These rituals before death and at the time of burial were most likely motivated by the notion that something of the individual survived after death. Therefore, it was the obligation of each society to perform the proper rituals and provide the necessary tools to support the dead on their journey into the afterlife.
Rituals, activities that are repeated with a prescribed sequence of events, have been passed down through the generations. The constancy of their form gives us a sense of comfort in the knowledge that our supplications will be heard by God or a Great Spirit. All religions and spiritual traditions have developed rituals for the dead. At the time of death, we turn to these traditional rituals for solace.
However, in our modern world often the death rites that are practiced have lost their energy to connect with the needs of our hearts. Families who are not rooted in a spiritual community have no rituals to support their loved ones or themselves as they approach death. Most people die in hospitals where death is treated as a medical emergency instead of the sacred threshold that it is. There is little time or space to practice rituals that can bring peace to all involved.
After the death of a loved one, funerals are hastily constructed most often without the time to create ceremonies that might help to process the grief of those who are left behind. There are celebrants and chaplains who can assist but they often do not know the person who has died. Because our culture is uncomfortable talking about death, often families do not know the wishes of their loved ones. Monies are spent but the ceremonies are hollow, leaving us unsupported in our grief.
The Living & Dying Consciously Project seeks to support all those involved in the dying process to help them hold the concept of death more fully. We strive to re-enliven modern death rites by drawing inspiration from a variety of ancient traditions, which support a more natural concept of death.