USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘death rituals’
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Life cycle
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Cremation Ritual

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about an Indian tradition centered around cremation he is fond of and believes many Indian people practice.

SM: It is customary in Indian tradition to cremate someone’s body after they die. And then you take the ashes, and you put it in a place that’s very special to this person.

AK: Wow I think I’ve heard of something similar. What does this ritual mean to you?

SM: It’s a way of celebrating someone even after they have died.

AK: Where did you learn this ritual, and does your family practice it?

SM: I didn’t learn it from a specific person, but it’s just part of Indian culture. I haven’t had a chance to experience it because none of my relatives have died in my lifetime.

AK: Where would you want your ashes to be placed?

SM: Oh wow, that is a tough question (laughs). I guess I’d pick Mount Tambora, you can call it Mount Tam — in San Francisco because it’s this really beautiful hike, and it’s kind of the first hike I went on with my family. Yeah, I guess that’s where I would put mine.

I was definitely familiar with this ritual, but I had never heard the part about placing the ashes in the person’s favorite place. As I asked the question to my informant about where he would like his ashes placed, I began to think about how I would answer that question. It certainly is a very difficult question because it’s so difficult to determine someone’s favorite place. I feel like at this point in my life, I don’t really have a favorite place, but if I had to choose, I think I’d just pick my room in the house I grew up in.

 

Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Death Anniversary

Christopher Jean was raised in Los Angeles, California.  He graduated high school in 2003 and obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Loma Linda University in 2012.  He is Hatian and grew up in a devout Catholic household.  He currently resides in San Bernardino, with his wife Shirley.  He is a Physical Therapist Assistant.

A few months ago my mom planned this huge celebration for my dad, who died five years ago.  We had never done this before, so I was a little confused, but it was important to her so I went along with it.  I spent a lot of weekends before going down to her house painting and paving the driveway and being a general handy man in preparation for this day.  My mom said it was important that everything look amazing for all of our family that would be coming in from out of town and that it has to look like everything was in the best shape.  On the day of the celebration we went to Mass, had a huge feast of all of his favorite dishes, and we had a lot of family over to enjoy this lavish display.

While I miss my dad and everything looked really nice, and tasted really good, I’m not really sure why she did this.  In all that I remember, we never did this for any other family member.  But, when I think about it, I think that this is her way of dealing with her own demons.  She was outright mean to my father when he was alive and she treated him like he was nothing … She treated him like shit for no reason.  He wasn’t a bad man, he wasn’t abusive, or anything like that.  But she talked down to him and just didn’t behave the way that a wife should, you know? … … … when I think of it like that it really makes me believe that she did all of this because she felt bad about how she treated him when he was alive so she had to make a big show of it with all the food and cleaning and stuff.  (shrugs)

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I do not know exactly why his mother decided to do this, or what her motivations were, but I did find that this is actually something that is observed in Catholicism.  It is called Requiem Masses.  They are used to celebrate the anniversary of someone’s death.  There are a lot of rituals and customs involved n this practice, but it is, in fact, a true ritual.

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Cited: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12776d.htm

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