Beginning of January

My goal for this project about crisis

My goal would be to answer to the need of funeral rituals by participating in the motion of recreation of funeral rituals and by trying to provide different rituals. I will work on the post mortem collective rituals (I intend to work on the ritual of mourning and not on the ones of support of the sick person before dying) but also the personal ones, the ones practised in intimacy.

Research made during Christmas holidays

Collective funeral rituals

I divided my research of collective funeral rites into three categories: rituals for the future of the deceased, rituals to reassure and comfort the close family and rituals for the revitalization of the group (disrupted by the death of one of them). These three categories are actually the three goals of a rite defined by the ethnologist, Louis Vincent Thomas.The rites I quote here come from different cultures and different times. Of course, it is not exhaustive, I have selected the ones I thought could inspire me.

rituals for the future of the deceased

Rituals to accompany the deceased during the journey

Southeast Asia, parts of mainland China, the Kong Tiek ritual ceremony

For funeral, Chinese who follow the Daoïst religion buy paper and bamboo replicas of familiar objects, and display them in a ‘soule house’. They burn the replicas, releasing their spirit form to pass on to the next world. By doing this, the mourners hope to help from grateful ancestors, who continue to influence the well-being of their living relatives.

Funny and interesting article to look at:


Asia, the ritual of cremation

The smoke rising towards the sky symbolises the varnishing of the deceased towards the sky.

Masks and statues in Africa

The big statues representing the ancestors belong to the community, the priest keeps them, and they are only taken out for the ceremonies. In this situation, the villager meditates next to them and asks advice.The small statues are really important in the private house in which they are seen as protective objects.The masks are worn during sacrificial or exorcist ceremonies. The person wearing the mask is transformed by the strength of the ancestors that the mask permits to transmit.THOMAS L-V., Les chairs de la mort, Institution d’édition Sanofi, Paris, 2000, p168.

Rituals to prevent the spirits of the deceased to come back, (death represented by the deceased is seen as a threat for the livings)

Mali, ethincal group: Dogon

The funeral procession makes a lot of detours to go to the cemetery and to come back to the village. This is mainly to mislead the deceased and to prevent him from annoying the livings by coming back.

Côte d’Ivoire, ehnical group: Senufo

There is a destruction of the belongings of the deceased. It helps the livings to figure out that the person is dead and that the objects he used are no longer useful.It also makes the deceased aware that he has nothing to do with the livings anymore.

North Ghana, ritual Lua

Bow and arrows of the deceased are broken and fired.

THOMAS L-V., Les chairs de la mort, Institution d’édition Sanofi, Paris, 2000, p179-181

Rituals to reassurate the livings

The Furekuro, Senegal, ethnical group: Mandenka

The Furekuro is an oblong stone left on the grave over the head of the deceased. The day of the end of the grieving (the first anniversary of the death), the stone is brought back home where it becomes a holy stone which reminds to everybody that the deceased has become pure spirit.

THOMAS L-V., Les chairs de la mort, Institution d’édition Sanofi, Paris, 2000.

rituals to reassure and comfort the close family

Hoxosuxide in Africa (Benin, ethnic group: Fon)

This ritual gives a symbolic support to the mother who has just lost her child: a statuette representing him is given after the funerals; it’s on this substitute that’s going to be made the mourning. At a first stage, she becomes attached to it, feeds it and washes it. Steadily the principle of pleasure gives way to the principle of reality, the loss is acknowledged: from mother, the woman becomes priestess and venerates the statuette almost deified.

Cenotaphs, subitutes of the body when it’s not there

France, Ouessant island, Proëlla ritual

On the Ouessant island, the people who died in the sea and whom body wasn’t found afterwards, a small cross in wood or wax was used as a subsitute for the funerals.The community used to come in the house of the deceased and place a white tablecloth on the table, then on this tablecloth, they placed two folded napekinds. Where this napekinds would cross, they would place a small cross.This would be a substitue to the body of the deceased during the funerals. After the ceremony, the cross was placed with the other crosses in a special urn, in the church. once the urn is full, the crosses are brought in the cemetery, in a specific mausoleum.


Rituals for grieving

Tanzania, ethnical group: Nyakusa

The funeral dance is a warrior dance. It seems that this behaviour is a way to express and, above all, to relieve some unbearable emotions.

The old garment, England, Orthodox Jew

All the closest relatives of the dead person should be gathered in the house of mourning, wearing some old garment- such as a jersey- from which a piece is ritually cut by an official of the burial group; this rent garment should be worn continuously during the seven days of intensive mourning.

GORER Geoffrey, Death, grief and mourning in contemporary Britain, The Cresset Press, London, 1965, p.73.

Mourning, England, Orthodox Jew

After the burial, the funeral party then returns to the house where the death has occurred (or occasionally to the house of a near relative). The closest relatives of the dead person sit on special low mourning stools (these can be borrowed from the synagogue) wearing their rent garment and special slippers without any leather in them. For the whole seven-day period the mourners should sit, thus dressed, on the low stools, unwashed and unshaven and the women without make up, from sunrise to sunset. They should move as little as possible and do not work at all.

GORER Geoffrey, Death, grief and mourning in contemporary Britain, The Cresset Press, London, 1965, p.74.

England, Orthodox Jew, mourning

The mourners are meant to do nothing and in theory only to eat the food that the visitors bring them.

GORER Geoffrey, Death, grief and mourning in contemporary Britain, The Cresset Press, London, 1965, p.74.

Mourning, England, Orthodox Jew

The visitors greet the mourners who either do not reply at all, or only very briefly. They then start talking to each mourner about the person they have lost.Testimony given by the wife of a business-man from the South-East, remembering the mourning for her mother:

‘It is amazing how these visits comfort you. They talk to youand start discussing the person you have lost: picture albums are brought out and everyone reminds you of a little episodes in their lives. Suddenly on laughts and enjoys those memories. One’s grief is lightened; it is a most healing and comforting week. Brothers and sisters who have drifter apart come togheter again and recall good memories. It is a comfort’

GORER Geoffrey, Death, grief and mourning in contemporary Britain, The Cresset Press, London, 1965, p.74-75.

Symbolisation of the death: Principle of reality.France, catholic contemporary ritual

The contemporary ritual of the candles is inspired by the one used during the Holy week in monasteries. During the holy Friday are read nine holy texts. A candelabrum for 9 candles is placed at the entrance of the choir. After each lecture, one of the candles is extinguished. The last one symbolised the death of the Christ.The contemporary ritual of the candles has been used, among other in 1996 during the whole time during which nobody had news from the seven French monks kidnapped in Algeria. Seven candles were lightening up at Notre Dame of Paris: these little candles were signifying the hope and also the fragility. Once their massacre announced, each candle went extinguished one by one in the silence.

Ghana, ethnical group: Ashanti,Zaïre, ethnical group: Iele

An Opening is made in the wall of the house. It shows that the deceased is not a living anymore and that he can use the classical door to leave a place.

The scarf, being hidden

rituals for the revitalization of the group (disrupted by the death of one of them)

Give a signification to the death, rituals to maintain alive the spirits of the deceased

Asê in Africa (Benin, ethnic group: Fon)The asê is made of a stem with a bulge in the middle. At the top, there is a metallic circle with pendants attached to it. On the metallic circle, moments of the ancestor’s life are represented.It seems that the stem represents a tree of life with the branches (pendants) as offspring of the bulge (seed).The âse is the expression of the belief that the deceased who are in the soil (from which the âse is coming from) continue to live through their descendants.By expressing the idea of continuity, the Asê becomes the symbol of the victory of the community over death indeed, the death of the individual is only an illusion.

Rituals in Mexique

Beginning of January

As I find very difficult to imagine a ceremony of death with humans, I chose to imagine one with animals. Here is the story of the death of a cat.

I have decided not to carry on straight away and try to answer some of my questions before:
20th of January 2009
1) One of the first question I had: Is it possible to create rites since rites are usually based on a certain tradition as well as beliefs?
With further lectures about the new creation of rituals of passage nowadays (funerals rituals but also rituals of birth etc) I had the answer to my problem as well as some examples of the kind of rituals which can be created.
Here is another type of answer:
“Puisant dans le stock limité des references symboliques et munis d’une structure relativement fixe, les rituels ne sont jamais “nouveaux”, ils sont réinventés sans cesse .”
« As the rituals own a structure relatively fixed and are drawing in the limited stock of the symbolic references, they are never new but constantly reinvented”.

Martine Segalen « Rites et rituels contemporains ». (Contemporary rites and rituals)
2)Then came the problem, closely related to the first one, to know if the rituals, once created, can be really adopted by people.
This question I have still not answered it completely yet.
3)Then, the question is to know if the speciality: Design Products, really permits to answer to my brief. First of all, it seems that design service would be maybe more adapted. However, design service can still end up on a product, so, this is not so mucGrash of a problem. Another problem is that a rite which needs a product to work will only be accessible to the people who can afford it...
The questions of the price will have to be considered in the design.

My goal for this project about crisis
I will try to answer the need of funeral rituals for atheists.
What I would like to achieve is recreate a ceremony for atheists.
New rites found during my visit at the British Museum
These are some Egyptian funeral rituals I discovered at the British museum.

21st of January

Something that I should keep in mind for that project :
Il n’y a pas culturellement “d’attitudes devant la mort », comme s’il devait s’agir de modèles, de réponses types. Mais des bribes de parole qui se risquent devant la bouche béante de la mort.
There is no cultural «behaviour in front of death », as models or perfect answer. There are only some snatches of speech which venture in the gaping mouth of the death.

Here is another quotation from Patrick Baudry from his book La place des morts (the place of dead persons) that I find interesting ( I translate only the beginning since I do not succeed to understand the rest of the sentence. This sociologist has got the particularity to write incomprehensible things….):
Ce qu’énonce toute culture avec sa propre organisation fictionnelle, c’est que la vie n’est vivante qu’à la condition de composer avec une dimension de la mort qui rend à la mort elle-même son double marquage dans l’existence : à la fois visible et presque palpable dans la fragilité de la vie et invisible, radicalement inconnue, mais se tenant comme l’ombre dans la lumière.
What is expounded by any culture and its ritual organisation is that the life is alive only if it compromises with a dimension of the death….

The different phases in mourning by Geoffrey Gorer:

1) A short period of shock, usually lasting between the occurrence of death and the disposal of the body.
2) A period of intense mourning accompanied by the withdrawal of much attention
and affect from the external world and by such physiological changes as disturbed and restless
sleep, often with vivd dreams, failure of appetite and loss of weight.
3) A final period of re-established physical homeostasis-sleep and weight again
stabilized and interest again directed outward.

GORER Geoffrey, Death, grief and mourning in contemporary Britain, The Cresset Press, London, 1965, p.112.

Monday 26th of January

Randomly, I find some interesting projects about mourning and keeping life after death on the blog "We make money no art". Here are the links of the article and the links of other projects quoted in the article:


Thursday 29th of January

I want to shape some objects out of paper. The idea, at this point, is to make them fly. What I would like is to create a ritual of separation through the separation of the belongings of the deceased.
For that, I got inspired by two rituals (see above), the one from Afrika in which people destroy the belongings of the deceased (the arrow and the bow are broken), and the one from Asia in which objects are made out of paper in order to accompany the deceased in his journey. These objects are burnt after the cremation of the deceased.

I make my first trials with some Plastic/ Paper such as Polyart and Tyvek. I first try to shape my object by heating the sheets of paper directly onto the objects. It doesn't work but the effects obtained are very nice.

Then, I try to vacuum form them. Polyart (right side) works much better than Tyvek.

Therefore, I carry on my trials with the Polyart paper.