1. After the week of waiting, and then the nasty phone call, finally shake off compulsion to deny/scream/weep/drink compulsively that you were already carrying around with you. Toughen up. You've got others to think about.

2. If you're far away, in the middle of school/work, make travel arrangements while either chain smoking or writing terse e-mail explanations to your bosses. Do not negotiate. Do not think about money. Do not think about time. Note to self : Forget self.

3. It would seem that 72 hours is the stipulated (if unspoken) de facto period of mourning for the contemporary workplace. This sadly (yet eerily convenient) is just about how long a cat, if provided music to listen to, a large bowl of food, and two dishes of water, can hang out in an apartment alone without getting too skittish. Try not to think about it.

4. Remove baggage small enough to carry-on during flight in order to avoid a) possible loss which would currently make you go postal and b) baggage carrousel crowds, which would have you pushing people on the conveyor belt.

5. Remove best dark suit from closet, regardless of current state, along with dress shirt, dark tie, shoe polish. Fold carefully. Fold again. Try once more. Start getting really, really angry as shirt continues to not fold properly, so instead bundle it into a ball.

6. Taxi to airport. Get on plane. Cough/cry/clench your teeth a lot to avoid being talked to or sat with.

7. Now is the time to either a) try to catch up on a week of no sleep, or b) begin the fortifying drinking immediately; appropriate action here will depend largely on your current Guilt deficit, which itself is a sum of a) the last time you saw the departed, b) the circumstances of that meeting, c) overall closeness, d) other crap things happening in their or family's life at the time, e) other crap things happening in your or family's life at the time.

8. In other words, commence bottling like wild, press forehead firmly against window, try to convince yourself the plane crashing would be a remotely negative outcome.

9. Arrive at airport. If lucky this will be in the middle of the night at a very small, one terminal affair. If not, you're on your own.

10. Greet younger relative(s) who've arrived to pick you up. If you're from a family of ten aunts and uncles, this number may be slightly inflated. However, if the funeral is on for ten hours after your arrival, some of them may be a little out of it. Make attempts at defusing through humor. Fail miserably. Try again.

11. Drive to home town/childhood locale which you haven't seen in years. Marvel at how things have remained seemingly frozen in time. Breathe deep breaths before arriving at the church : you need oxygen to breathe. Keep this in mind after you park and walk towards the archway.

12. See state of family and immediately forget 11.

13. Resist overwhelming desire to get back in car and drive away. Recommence bottling. Funerals are not about your feelings. Do what is asked of you, do not argue. Read in front of hundreds from the Bible, be a pallbearer, kneel before the casket, take Communion. You are the strong young, there to support the grieving old.

14. See the state of your younger brother and immediately forget 13. Crack into a million, tiny jagged pieces near the end.

15. And then, suddenly walk out into the blue sky and sea air, see the gulls whirling above, hear the sounding of the bells. Think how sick and wrong it is, for a half second, how everything is so pretty when you walk out of a funeral. If you're burying your nanny up the hill, in a rocky rural cemetery from the 1800s, try to suppress this thought even more. Until your mom arrives, in which case it'll disappear anyhow, on its own.

16. The Wake, and a drink to the dead, and then slowly, joking here and there, and then a slight unbinding of nerves, and then food and more drink, and more laughter. Then stories, as many as possible, as funny and exaggerated as possible. Then the younger ones cart off, maybe down to the shore. By the banks of the bay. And then the sunset. And then the stars and the waves. Think about the other Dead, wish them well, and finally, then when it's all over - the ceremony and structure, the formality and ritual, then really say goodbye.

Hello Preacher,

I've been to a few dozen funerals by now, so I'd like to clear some things up for you, since you seem to be a little fuzzy about the social and spiritual purpose of a funeral.

A funeral or memorial service exists as a way for the friends and family of the deceased to gather to share their grief and to pay tribute to the deceased's life. The role of the clergy present is to provide a formalized spiritual component that is intended to provide comfort to the survivors.

By all means, lead us in a few prayers or songs as appropriate to the deceased's religion or lack thereof. Funerals are for the living, but they should not dishonor the life and wishes of the deceased.

However, there are some things that just aren't cricket at a funeral. You may not know it, but midway through your "service" you had two fairly large men considering whether or not to take your slick-talking, glad-handing self out to the alley for a little "chat" afterward. For myself, I felt ill for most of the rest of the day.

To avoid possible unpleasantness at future funerals, I'd like to offer you a few helpful hints:

  1. If there are plenty of friends and family stepping up to the microphone up to pay tribute to the deceased in words and song, you aren't needed for much more than a closing prayer. Really. Hijacking the service and using it as your own bully pulpit to promote your own agenda for 40 minutes is rude and shows tremendous disrespect to both the mourners and the memory of the deceased. This is especially true when you do it in a place that isn't even a church, much less "your" church.

  2. Remember the advice of professional speakers and comedians: hit your topic three times and then move along. Saying the same thing 20 or 30 times does not make you a convincing speaker: it makes you tedious. Saying it very, very loudly also does not make you more convincing. We got it, really; we just weren't buying it.

  3. And speaking of professionals: actors, when required to fake tears, often use a little bottle of glycerine that they can hide in their sleeves. You started out your hijacking sermon with a moment in which you dramatically broke down weeping ("I'm -- I'm sorry folks, but I can feel {insert deceased's name} with me here today!") and yet you had the dryest eyes in the house. If you're going to steal Jimmy Swaggart's moves, try to be more convincing.
    • Also, good actors remember their lines: try not to slip up and momentarily forget the deceased's name when you're talking to the bereaved afterward. Makes all your talk of how dear the deceased was to you sound like a holy load.

  4. If you're not the theologian you claim, stick to Bible passages and hymns. Don't spout a bunch of harebrained misinformation that better-read people in the audience might be sorely tempted to call you on. For instance, if you feel you must exhort us to do good so that God will build us a mansion in the afterlife -- as if avoiding sin is just so we can all win the Lottery Ticket In the Sky -- don't do stuff like draw dodgy parallels between the word "repent" and "penthouse".

  5. Don't brag about how you came to the deceased in the final year of his life when he was frail and bedridden and "turned him to the Lord". What you did was emotionally and spiritually blackmail a sick old man. This isn't D&D, and he wasn't a wraith in need of "turning".
    • Don't talk as if the deceased's life was nothing but a pointless waste before you got hold of him. The deceased's children sitting there in the audience came along during this time of supposed waste and pointlessness, remember?

  6. Don't blurt out things that the deceased told you in confidence or confession. That is unbelievably disrespectful, and reveals you to be an untrustworthy character who isn't fit to be any kind of spiritual leader.

  7. Don't stand up there and condemn or mock the deceased's achievements. You're supposed to help us celebrate his life, remember? I shouldn't have to tell you that laughing about things the deceased cared about is not appropriate for a funeral. If you feel really strongly about it, save it for your sermon next month after the dead are buried.
    • If the deceased wrote horror novels, don't imply that his books (which you never even read) were tools of Satan, then proceed to spend the next 30 minutes trying to scare us all with the threat of hellfire if we don't get ourselves saved. You actually had a little kid crying at the end of your sermon. I guess you fire-and-brimstone types just don't like horror fiction because you don't like any entertaining competition in the fearmongering business.

  8. Don't stand up there and condemn or mock other religions. The deceased has friends of many faiths and educated nonfaith. Don't add your insult to the pain of our loss.

  9. After you have dishonored our dead friend's life and mocked our careers and beliefs, don't demand that we hold up our hands to show that we've been saved by the Lord. Don't further say "If you're not holding up your hand, I'll come out there and lift it up for you!" No, you won't. Really. Because if you try, you'll be leaving with one less arm than you arrived with.

Instead of comforting us in our grief, you made us angry. Instead of celebrating the deceased's life, you belittled him, set him aside, and aggrandized yourself.

Shame on you.

The meaning of a rite of passage in different religions

Rituals are like ballet in that the language they speak is that of dramatic symbolism, or to describe this in different terms, ‘theatricality’ 1 . In many cases costumes are also incorporated as a part of the ritual, as well as music and various other elements which vary as you move over the face of the planet, after an order that nobody seems to have figured out. The differences between rituals and ballet run more fundamental than the similarities of course, ballet is just a handy point of comparison and a form of expression, as are rituals, and rituals are also attempts at preserving traditions- some would be happy to speak of improvized actions as part of ritual too, Bobby Alexander for instance, that ‘ritual defined in the most general and basic terms is a performance, planned or improvised, that effects a transition from everyday life to an alternative context within which the everyday is transformed’2, but nevertheless all rituals are essentially performances with mythical relevance and transformative power. They are a means of telling a story in symbols where sometimes the narrative will be more oblique than in other examples, and sometimes it will be clear where the origins of the actions performed lie, for instance as in Easter passion re-enactments.

Rites of passage, or transition rituals as they are sometimes called3, are one particularly interesting category of ritual. Their purpose is to mark out clear lines at points along personal or social timelines- naming ceremonies, coming of age ceremonies, marriages and funerals are a few examples of transition rituals. They have been studied in great detail by Arnold van Gennep, who identified the three essential stages in this type of ritual, possibly inspired by the transformative life stage of butterflies, the pupation of the larva: there is an initial separation, from one’s former state or location, followed by the middle (‘liminal’- from the same etymological root as ‘limbo’) stage where the object is neither what it was nor what it will soon become- and finally there is the reintegrating stage, of a return to society, somehow transformed. What was once recognized as a boy is now a man, two individuals are now legally and socially one and so forth4.

The defining of certain human social phenomena as ritual for instance, or as anything at all is entirely a matter of convention. People formally or informally agree upon what we call things, e.g. rituals and it is only because we call something a ritual that it is made so. This word is the common element to all of the various things that lie under it, but it is only because we are able to recognize certain other common elements that our logical minds can categorize them all as such. I have found no discoveries thereof as far as my reading has gone but if I may present my personal conviction, I think it is entirely the theatrical aspect, symbolism communicated through a physical display that we recognise as the essential part of these rituals.

There are many methods that humans have used to dispose of their dead and the most popular seems to be inhumation, a practice observed in most human societies globally and since proto-human times up until the present day and it is probably reasonable to suppose that it will continue to be practised beyond our time. And indeed there is no evidence to suggest that any other method was ever practised until roughly 3000 years ago5,6,7. Other methods favoured by our species include but are not limited to cremation, abandonment and necrophagy, in descending order of popularity8. Some societies prefer to preserve, rather than to recycle or destroy their dead9.

Funeral rites will appear differently depending on the afterlife beliefs of the culture they are performed in, or in our modern multicultural world, the beliefs of the individual concerned. Permit me for a little while to describe a few from various places and times. Descriptions of funerals from pre- Christian Europe, ancient Egypt and ancient to contemporary Iran follow, which will be elaborated on further down:

The Vikings were a people who enjoyed a spectacular funeral. For a Viking, death meant moving from one world to another so the function of the funeral rituals was mainly to ensure safe passage into what in our place and time we would probably call ‘Heaven’. It was assumed that life on both sides was roughly similar so whatever was done to the dead, burial in a grave or burial at sea (very neatly combining the practices of inhumation and cremation), they were given plenty of provisions, amusements and items of personal utility to take with them- men were buried with tools of their trade and of war10, as well as various other luxury and recreational items11, 12; women were buried with items relevant to child rearing and housekeeping13. Graves of both sexes have also been found to contain food and containers designed for holding food14, as well as the bones of domestic animals15. Whether these animals were deliberately buried with the humans remains a mystery.

The Ancient Egyptians similarly left little to chance when working to ensure the safety of the deceased, specifically the safety of the deceased’s body until the return of their soul. A human’s soul was believed to take a three thousand year journey after death, after which it would ultimately return to the body it was born into once before, and the idea was for the soul to have a well maintained body to return to, like house-sitting for a friend who has gone on holiday16. As far as anybody knows, corpse preservation seems to have begun with the Egyptians. Another concept originating with the Egyptians and possibly coincidentally with their approximate neighbours in space, time and level of cultural advancement the Mesopotamians, was that of post mortem life, and specifically a life that would be similar to the one lived in this world. So when a Mesopotamian king died he ‘took’ all of his ministers ‘with’ him as he intended to enjoy the same luxury in death that he had grown used to in life17. The concept of judgement was introduced fairly late in the formation of Egyptian cosmogony and mythology18 and brought with it the idea that one had to work for the approval of various bouncer type characters who spend their time scrutinizing the hearts of men and playing guard with defenses heavier than guns19.

The Zoroastrians had an entirely novel approach to the disposal of corpses. Earth and fire would be defiled by the introduction of a human corpse into either so by way of a solution the Iranians began to carry their dead to the top of stone pillars and abandon them, leave them to have their bones picked clean by vultures20. Similar practices have been observed in certain native American, Tibetan and aboriginal Australian societies, among others21, where bodies are left out in trees or on hills to be eaten by birds or carnivorous mammals. The Zoroastrian funeral is two-fold: firstly there is a period of preparing the dying for death, preparing the corpse to be taken to a column where it will be eaten by vultures, then taking the corpse to and leaving it on top of this column; this is followed by a period of praying for the soul of the deceased22. Although both stages seem to be given equal weight in practice, the first stage seems to be more in preparation for rather than a part of the actual ritual.

As these three examples have probably made clear, the purpose of funerals goes beyond the merely practical. There is evidence that inhumation has been performed since Proto-human times, which is a remarkable thing. Burial is a deliberate act and the reason why there have been more fossils of bones belonging to Neanderthal skeletons than of any other kind of ancestor to our species is because Neanderthals buried their dead rather than letting the Earth gradually swallow their bones and as far as we know Neanderthal graves are the first graves the planet has ever known23. On top of burying their dead, there seems to be evidence of some kind of ceremony attached to the burial. Pollen, evidence of the presence of flowers, has been found in Neanderthal graves, and where the position of the body can be made out it is clear that there are two specific prescribed positions dead Neanderthals have been buried in, either flat on their back or curled into a foetal position.

It is not clear how far Neanderthal ideas about any kind of afterlife went. It would appear that religion is not an essential criterion where grave burials and funeral rites connected with them are concerned, which may sound like an oxymoron. There may never have been any ritual associated with the burials, the only thing that is certain is that Neanderthals were buried in graves, and this could simply have been a survival measure. But then again elephants and some of the higher modern primates other than humans demonstrate grief at the loss of a loved one24 and we assume that Neanderthals must have been more intelligent than elephants and gorilla because they wore clothes, so it is not unreasonable to suppose that everything found in Neanderthal graves that looks as if it was deliberately placed, probably was.

One theme which is common to all three of the above examples is the separate-yet-also-connectedness of the body and the soul. The additional ideas which are built on top of this infrastructure differ between the cultures, which is why there is so little similarity in the treatment of the dead between the three examples. In the ancient Egyptian religion, the dead are buried with personal belongings they will find useful in the afterlife, which if they are to use them, they must return to their bodies so it is understandable why so much importance was placed on the proven methods of corpse preservation. When a Viking was buried with his belongings it was probably understood that he would be eaten by worms, and to assume that the Vikings thought otherwise would be an insult. No effort was made to preserve the bodies of Vikings at death so clearly the material form of a man was not considered essential to what that man was.

The protocol for treatment of a recently deceased body in the Zoroastrian religion on the other hand is designed to ensure the rapid and complete destruction of the body and therefore that the entire process be as hygienic as it can be. This quite clearly means that the soul must have nothing to do with the body after death. Zoroastrian funerals appear to be two-fold, i.e. they appear to actually be two successive funerals, or a funeral preceded by a cleansing ritual, and this derives from the Zoroastrian belief in dualities, here specifically pertaining to the duality of man. Actually it is closer to a butterfly that has very recently broken out of its pupa shell- the shell may be discarded, it has done what it had to and has no further use. Compare this with present-day British funerals where the portion of the funeral that is to deal with the body of the dead and the portion that is to do with the soul are performed at the same time.

Van Gennep’s model of transition rituals will have to be stretched slightly before it can be applied to funerals but it basically fits, or funerals are not transition rituals at all. In the first stage of transition rituals according to this particular model, the object is set apart from society somehow, and there is no more definite way for something to be set apart from the rest of society, which almost by definition must be living, than for it to be dead. The liminal stage of moving between states of being must correspond to the funeral itself, which means the final reintegrating stage must be to do with the soul in some way, as the only way corpses have ever been reintegrated into society is for them to have been stuffed and kept in a glass case, and even in these few instances these corpses are only as much a part of society as circus mutants. This is what happens when somebody attempts to consider funerals or any ritual at all on the surface level alone.

But if we were to look at rituals from a spiritual point of view we would see that there is really no difficulty in fitting then around van Gennep’s model. As a matter of fact it probably works perfectly.


1. Grainger 1974: 45
2. Alexander 1997: 139, quoted in Bowie 2006: 140
3. Bowie 2006: 138
4. Van Gennep in Hicks 2002: 130-132
5. http://www.deathonline.net/disposal/cremation/index.cfm
6. Davidson 1949: 71
7. Modi 1928
8. Quigley 1996: 214
9. http://www.ispub.com/journal/the_internet_journal_of_alternative_medicine/volume_7_number_2_21/article/trends-in-the-development-of-embalming- methods.html
10. http://www.lore-and-saga.co.uk/html/viking_burials.html
11. http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/vikings-believed-that-their-dead-played-board-games-on-their-way-to-the-afterlife_10065998.html
12. http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-news/tm_objectid=14613304&method=full&siteid=50081&headline=experts-stunned-as-viking-graves-found- name_page.html
13. http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-news/tm_objectid=14613304&method=full&siteid=50081&headline=experts-stunned-as-viking-graves-found- name_page.html
14. Lee 2007: 72-86
15. Lee 2007: 61:69
16. http://www.ispub.com/journal/the_internet_journal_of_alternative_medicine/volume_7_number_2_21/article/trends-in-the-development-of-embalming- methods.html
17. Brandon 1967: 49
18. Brandon 1967: 16
19. Brandon 1967: 47-48
20. http://www.avesta.org/ritual/funeral.htm
21. Quigley 1996: 223
22. http://www.avesta.org/ritual/funeral.htm
23. http://humanorigins.si.edu/ha/neand.htm
24. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/destinations/africa/article1271944.ece



Fiona Bowie, The Anthropology of Religion, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)
S. G. F. Brandon, The Judgment of the Dead, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967)
Arnold van Gennep, ‘Ritual’, in Ritual and Belief: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion (second edition), ed. by David Hicks. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002)
Christina Lee, Feasting the Dead, (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007)
Christine Quigley, The Corpse: A History, (Jefferson: McFarland & Company Ltd., 1996)


Daniel Sutherland Davidson, ‘Disposal of the Dead in Western Australia’, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society vol. 93 no. 1 (1949) pp. 71ff

Last month I went to the funeral of my uncle Ken, my mum’s brother-in-law. He was 82. I was a funeral virgin, as my grandparents all died while I was living abroad, and my parents decided - sensibly, I think - that they would donate their remains to medicine rather than shell out over three thousand quid to have them elaborately packaged and incinerated. So there was no funeral for my dad, and there won’t be one for mum. There is another reason why my mum doesn’t want any ceremony: she has a horror of being overwhelmed by emotion, especially in public. I suppose this is the one streak of Britishry in her personality. There’s no lack of powerful emotion in there, but it is only given expression when she’s alone. On the eve of the do, my sister and I drove up to my mother’s from Suffolk and Lincolnshire respectively, and my niece and nephew came up by train from London and Southampton. We invited a friend round, cooked a nice dinner, and had a pleasant evening with no mention made of the obsequies to come.

The following morning.

We drive to the crematorium where people are gathering, some of whom I have not seen in forty-odd years and would have walked past in the street, but recognise because I knew they’d be here. Someone tells me I haven’t changed much, although I’m pretty sure I look older than eleven. Others I see occasionally. Lesley, my mum’s younger sister, mutters to me ‘I hate this bloody place!’ and reminds me of a story about my grandad, a stone mason who’d worked on the crematorium building. It seems that he’d been asked if he wanted to witness the burning of a corpse, and on the grounds that this was not an offer you got every day, accepted. He watched through a spy-hole as the stiff unstiffened and writhed in the flames like the damned in the Lake of Fire. I’m not sure if all the details of the tale would stand up in court, but whatever it was that grandad saw that day made him a vegetarian for at least a week. He declared that he never wanted to go there again - a vain hope if you’re going to live in the same town into your eighties, for the crematorium just sits here, waiting patiently. We also remember Auntie Cilla, our family’s medium manquée, who also hated the crematorium because she always heard voices calling her by name as she walked through the grounds, a phenomenon readily explicable in a place as thick with archetypes as this. Lesley herself came to sign the book of remembrance a year after grandad had undergone the same process as the corpses he had watched combust all those years before. She had walked down the long winding drive to the crem as daylight was fading, and found the place closed and the air as always heavy with loss, misery and dead meat. She turned and fled. This reminded me of a monochrome dream I had in the eighties. I was in a crematorium building alone at night. There was a horror movie feeling of don’t-look-now as I tried to escape, for then I was always creeped out by the sight of coffins, hearses, wreaths and shrouds, all the trappings of death.

Now the hearse arrives, with the coffin and the flowers, the trappings of death. We troop into the chapel and take our seats. I lived for many years in Greece and have not been in a British church since my sister’s wedding thirty two years ago. Greek churches have seats only for the elderly and the service goes ahead whether anyone’s listening or not. People walk around, talk, go out into the square for coffee, come back for a bit, go out again. Here, we are seated as at a cinema, and we’re obviously expected to listen. Looking at the coffin, I see Ken standing beside it. He’s laughing and pointing at the box as if it and the whole pricey, poker-faced rigmarole we are engaged in were one huge practical joke, and we had yet to see the funny side. Back in my woo-woo days, I’d have taken this ‘vision’ very seriously. Now I just dismiss it as a brain-fart.

A bloke in a suit closes the doors, another comes up to the mike, and we’re off. It’s a relief that Ken was not a believer, and we will not be required to pray or sing hymns. The second suited bloke reads the eulogy: ‘In life, we encounter our death only once…’ No shit, Sherlock! Well, there’s a profound observation for you! I’m tempted to whisper this to my nephew but forbear, correctly anticipating that there’s a fair bit more such stilted deepity to come and we can’t spend the next forty minutes stifling our clever-clever snickers. Actually, the whole thing is just boring. I sit counting the breaths and giving myself Alexander technique instructions: ‘neck free, head forward and up, shoulders out and down…’ obviously to prevent myself from getting in any way emotionally involved – I have a lot in common with my mother. At length, we’re informed that Ken, like pretty much everybody else who's gone on ahead, has chosen to be played out to Frank Sinatra singing ‘My Way’. The ‘final curtain’ closes off the alcove where the coffin lies, and it’s extraordinary how poignant this song, which I’ve always loathed, has suddenly become.

We file out into a pleasant conservatory-like place behind the crematorium building. My mum is in tears and apologising for it: ‘I do wish I could do better than this!’

We reassure her that tears are perfectly OK at a funeral, and that she’s far from the only one weeping, but she’s not having it. ‘You feel such a chump when everybody else is handling it so much better.’

A friend of my auntie's says to her gently, 'come on, Shirley, you need to be strong for Joan.'

'I can't help it,' mum sniffs. 'Some are just better at handling tears than others.'

This buttoned-up attitude would be inexplicable to the Greeks, who don't think you have emotions at all unless you're playing to the gallery. Auntie Joan, in British terms at least, is doing remarkably well, accepting consoling hugs with smiles, dignity and composure. In contrast, after my dad died my mum wouldn't answer the phone for three weeks in case it was someone offering condolences, which would result in instant meltdown.

We're a bloody odd bunch.

Along the path up to the car park there’s a wall where you can leave flowers under a plaque with the name of the person whose funeral you have attended. Ours was not the first today and it isn’t the last. There are a few hundred more people today who’ll be feeling the same heaviness on entering and relief on leaving.

There’s a reception at a nearby pub which restores some normality, but not entirely for me. I haven’t fully digested my first funeral yet. I keep going over it in my mind, and thinking how not so long ago, I was so sure that death was the start of a big adventure, and now this belief seems absurd – it’s simply illness, death, a box, a curtained-off alcove and then the flames. I know I will not have one of those dos for myself. For me as for my mum, a funeral brings no sense of closure, only a sense of brooding darkness. They can dump my corpse in an old pram and shove me over a cliff.


I live here. Rummage around and talk to me.

Fu"ner*al (?), n. [LL. funeralia, prop. neut. pl. of funeralis of a funeral, fr. L. funus, funeris, funeral: cf. F. fun'erailles.]


The solemn rites used in the disposition of a dead human body, whether such disposition be by interment, burning, or otherwise; esp., the ceremony or solemnization of interment; obsequies; burial; -- formerly used in the plural.

King James his funerals were performed very solemnly in the collegiate church at Westminster. Euller.


The procession attending the burial of the dead; the show and accompaniments of an interment.

"The long funerals."



A funeral sermon; -- usually in the plural.


Mr. Giles Lawrence preached his funerals. South.


© Webster 1913.

Fu"ner*al, a. [LL. funeralis. See Funeral, n.]

Pertaining to a funeral; used at the interment of the dead; as, funeral rites, honors, or ceremonies.


Funeral pile, a structure of combustible material, upon which a dead body is placed to be reduced to ashes, as part of a funeral rite; a pyre.

-- Fu"ner*al*ly, adv. [Obs.]

Sir T. Browne.


© Webster 1913.

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