Death & Funerals

For thousands of years Southeast Asians have buried their dead with extraordinary care, laying out expansive graves filled with splendid gifts for the deceased and their glorification in the afterlife. In many animist cultures funerals continue to be the most spectacular and extravagant rites, for one of the most important tasks of the living is to ensure that the deceased are sent satisfied into the next world. To carry out these proceedings successfully the utmost consideration and the greatest art are required.

The recently deceased are the ancestors of the future, especially for members of the village elite. Enormous energy and wealth are expended on funeral rites to honour the dead in a manner appropriate to their social standing in the family and community. Lengthy and complex mortuary celebrations, sometimes held years after death, ensure a soul’s safe passage to the ancestral realm where it will oversee the activities and welfare of the living. Failure to appease a spirit can impel it to join the many other destructive spiritual beings capable of sabotaging the community’s quest for fertility and wellbeing.

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