Exploring the culture of death

June 6, 2014

My fear for death has decreased over the years in direct proportion to the ever increasing glimpses of the afterlife that I experience when I do mediumship readings as a psychic and anytime (which is basically all the time, lately) my spirit guides assist me in doing psychic readings of any kind. I get glimpses of this place in which spirits, that used to be in bodies on earth, live in beautiful white light and float around to connect with a variety of other spirits. Seems heavenly to me. 

I have also learned from societies in which death is a celebration and dying is not a lonely experience. For example, in one Buddhist religion, everyone begins chanting in support of someone who is dying and this chanting continues long after the person has died. I imagine this must be a great comfort to the dying person: that support, through chanting, will follow her or him into the afterlife.

Other ideas around death and dying are explored in the following article that I wrote after interviewing  Dr. Marilyn Walker:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

January 25, 2006

Exploring the culture of death

by Tanya Lester

Although Dr. Marilyn Walker believes death is the door into the afterlife, she does not have the definitive answer as to the nature of that spiritual culture.

Se compares each cultural interpretation to one aspect of a crystal through which shines a facet of the overall experience.

In a “Death and Dying from an Anthropological Perspective” course, the Mount Allison University professor will draw on her studies in countries as diverse from each other as Thailand and Siberia…

Throughout its four evening duration, Walker will facilitate participant discussion about death and dying. Her techniques will include storytelling about witnessing death and making lists of the most comforting words to use when consoling someone who is experiencing this loss.

“We don’t get tutored very well (in white North American culture) in how to talk with the grieving,” Walker said.

Canadian film footage that features people who are dying will be used.

“This is a way to bring the dead into the classrooms on their own terms,” she said.

One of Walker’s early experiences as a medical anthropologist in Thailand opened her eyes to cultural differences towards death when she was invited to a funeral. Each guest was expected to contribute a huge multi-coloured floral wreath (in sharp contrast to the sombre black of North American services). She said the event was a festive celebration of the person’s life and open to as many people as the family could invite.

People made memorial books in honour of the deceased, said Walker.

She pointed out that the presence of an altar brings the spiritual rite into the Thai home. Tiny delicate cakes will be offered to ghosts because it is believed these will fit into their tiny mouths.

In the south-east Asian Hmong culture, a type of ladder next to the altar provides spirits with a way to occasionally leave for a holiday.

Walker said that perhaps our Western fear of death is connected with our fear of being alone and belief that being by ourselves is a negative thing. This is not the case in many other cultures.

What she does see is a strong connection between how we live and how we die in most cultures. If we live a good life, death is a good experience. She has also observed that forgiveness is very important. 

“It’s not over for the dead and it is not over for the living,” Walker said.

For example, before her brother died, he told her that he was going to miss her — the implication being that he realized he was going to continue his existence in some other form and place.

In many indigenous societies, said Walker, the shaman is the intermediary between the living and the dead. If a spirit cannot “let go” of someone she or he loved in life, the shaman can facilitate the release.

The dying can be teachers to the living. Walker said her brother had created films on the subject of birth and had thought this was the most “amazing transition”. When, he was dying, however, he concluded that death was more incredible.

Walker hopes the course will assist people in preparing for dying and death. She expects emotions, including joy, to surface during the course…




To read earlier posts on this blog, please go to http://www.writingsmall.wordpress.com

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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased directly from the author or you can go to the title and author name on amazon.com


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