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Funeral Rituals and Rites

    There are many different funeral rituals practiced around the world. The specific rituals will often vary depending on the culture, religion, or tradition of the person who has died. Here are some that CeremonyCast has shown in our funeral live streams.

    Why are funeral rituals important?

    Rituals are important at funerals. They provide a way for people to express their grief and sadness, and to honour and remember the person who has died. Funeral rituals also provide a sense of closure and a way for people to say goodbye.

    Therefore funeral rituals can also serve as a way for people to come together and support one another during a time of loss. They can be a way for families and friends to express their love and affection for the person who has died, and to share memories and stories.

    Additionally, they can also have a spiritual or religious significance, providing a way for people to connect with their faith and belief in an afterlife. They can also serve as a way to honour the person’s cultural or ethnic heritage.

    In summary, funeral rituals provide an opportunity for individuals, families and communities to express their grief, come together to support one another, honour the person who died and to have a sense of closure.

    Sprinkling the coffin with holy water

    A Catholic priest sprinkling holy water on a coffin during a funeral
    Sprinkling a coffin with holy water

    The practice of a priest sprinkling water on a coffin during a Catholic funeral is known as the rite of “Commendation of the Dying.” This ritual is a way of offering blessings and prayers for the deceased. It’s done as a final farewell to the person who has died.

    The water used for the rite is typically holy water, blessed by a priest with special spiritual significance. The priest will use a brush or aspergillum to sprinkle the water on the coffin.

    The rite of Commendation of the dying is usually accompanied by prayers for the deceased and for the family. They ask for God’s mercy and protection for the deceased, and giving comfort to the living.

    Additionally, the rite of Commendation of the dying is also seen as a symbol of purification and cleansing of the soul. It is believed that the water sprinkled on the coffin symbolically washes away the person’s sins, as well as any other imperfections.

    Incensing the coffin

    A priest wafting incense smoke around a coffin
    Wafting incense smoke over a coffin during a catholic funeral

    Incense is used at Catholic funerals for several reasons. It symbolises the prayers of the faithful rising to God. The smoke from the burning incense also represents the prayers of the congregation, while helping to purify the space in which the funeral is taking place.

    Incense is also used as a sign of reverence and honour. In Catholic liturgy, incense is used to honour the altar, the sacred vessels, the priest, and the congregation, and also the body of the deceased.

    Additionally, incense has a long history in the Catholic Church. It has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years and has become an important part of Catholic tradition. The use of incense in funerals is a way of connecting with this ancient tradition and honouring the deceased in a way that has been done for centuries.

    Indigenous Smoking Ceremony

    Smoking 03
    An Indigenous smoking ceremony performed at a funeral

    A smoking ceremony is a traditional Indigenous Australian practice that involves the burning of various plants, such as native grasses, leaves, and twigs.

    The specific plants used and the specific rituals associated with a smoking ceremony can vary from one Indigenous Australian community to another. The smoke generated by the ceremony is believed to have spiritual and medicinal properties, and is used for a variety of purposes, such as purification, blessing, and healing.

    Similarly, a smoking ceremony can be held at a funeral. CeremonyCast live streamed a funeral at Mooney Mooney on the Central Coast where the coffin was given a special Indigenous blessing before the ceremony began.

    Traditional Haka

    A New Zealand serviceman performs a traditional Haka by a hearse
    A New Zealand Haka by a hearse

    A haka is a traditional dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is characterized by vigorous movements, stamping of the feet, and loud chanting. Haka is performed by men, women and children as a form of expression and celebration.

    In a funeral context, a haka can be performed as a tribute to the deceased. The haka is considered as a way to pay respects, to show love and to say farewell. The haka is a powerful and emotional performance. Additionally, it helps to express feelings of grief and loss, and to honour the memory of the person who has passed away.

    The picture above is from when CeremonyCast lived streamed a funeral at Cherrybrook for a New Zealand war veteran. Afterwards a haka was performed by the hearse before it departed.

    Sound of bagpipes

    A Scottish bagpiper leading a hearse from a church after a funeral
    Bagpipes at a funeral in Manly Vale

    Bagpipes are often played at funerals because they are associated with mourning and remembrance.

    They are traditional instruments in many cultures, particularly in Scotland. They have a long history of being played at funerals and other solemn occasions.

    Therefore, the sound of the bagpipes is often thought to be fitting for a funeral. It is considered to be mournful and evocative.

    Other funeral rituals

    There are many different funeral rituals practiced around the world. Specific rituals will often vary depending on the culture, religion, or tradition of the person who has died. For instance, here are a few examples of funeral rituals:

    Wake: A wake is a traditional ritual where family and friends gather after the funeral service. This is a way to say goodbye and pay their last respects, as well to share stories and memories.

    Viewing or Visitation: This is usually done in a funeral home or mortuary. The body is typically viewed in a closed casket.

    Shiva: A Jewish mourning ritual where the immediate family members of the deceased sit shiva for seven days after the burial. Friends and family members come to offer condolences and support.

    Joss paper: A Chinese traditional ritual where paper representations of material objects are burned as offerings to the deceased.

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    About the author

    CeremonyCast Sydney Funeral Wedding Live Streaming Webcast Stephen Lee

    Written by Stephen Lee
    Owner, CeremonyCast​Professional Funeral Live Streaming

    Covering Sydney, Southern Highlands, Wollongong, Central Coast, Newcastle & The Hunter