Veneration of the dead

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

In many cultures the dead are seen as not permanently severed from the living. Some groups venerate their ancestors, some groups venerate heroic mortals as having god-like qualities, and some groups offer gifts to placate angry ghosts -- the approaches differ. This article will examine similarities and differences in the relationships between the living and the dead.

The minimum requirement for veneration offered to the dead is probably some kind of belief in an afterlife, a survival at least for a time of personal identity beyond death. These beliefs are far from uniform.


Celtic attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead
see Samhain
Greek attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead
Hebrew attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead
Rabbinical Judaism's attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead
Early Christianity's attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead
Catholicism's attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead
see All Saints Day
Chinese attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead


Egyptian attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead

The ancient Egyptian pyramids are the most famous historical monuments devoted to the dead (see Great pyramid of Giza). Egyptian religion posited the survival of the soul in connection with the survival of a physical receptacle for the soul - hence mummification and portraiture flourished.

see also History of Egypt


Roman attitudes toward, practices in connection with, and festivals of the dead

The ancient Romans, like many Mediterranean societies, had strong prohibitions against dead bodies. Bodies of the dead were often displayed for a time, but were then taken outside the pomerium or sacred boundary of the City - in effect, the City walls - for cremation. Ashes and bone fragments were then interred outside the walls. Aristocratic Romans had from their remote past observed the custom of keeping portraits of their male ancestors - they had probably borrowed this custom from the Etruscans. These portraits were originally in the form of masks - probably even death-masks moulded on the dead ancestor's face. On significant family holidays the living members of the family might wear the masks in procession. In the 2nd century A.D. practices shifted from cremation to burial. The reasons for this change are not at all clear. Scholars have posited influences from groups who practiced burial - for instance, the increasing numbers of Germanic foederatii (troops settled inside the borders of the empire) - and from the increasing numbers of practitioners of religions that practiced burial for doctrinal reasons, like Judaism, Christianity, and the Egyptian syncretistic Mystery religions.