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Funeral rituals and cremation in contemporary times

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Assumption Catholic Cemetery and Crematory in Mississauga, Canada (The Assumption Catholic Cemetery and Crematory in Mississauga, Canada, with chimney visible, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Americancrematorium.jpg)

Funeral rituals undergoing profound changes today. It is essential to emphasize that they are part of a very different context characterized by increased life expectancy, the decline in infant mortality, as does generally dying alone and in hospital, and the decline of religion.

During the years 1970-1980, many sociologists have denounced the “symbolic failure” which would suffer contemporary societies. In Western societies, death would be “a window that looks not on anything.” Further, “the funeral grammar is lost, the mortuary language we became foreign”. Patrick Baudry establishes the same analysis against secular ceremonies: “professionals may want to produce rites, but to the way of processes, as if the ritual which falls culture and maneuver its founding principles could only be a useful and profitable implementation stage. ” Louis-Vincent Thomas holds roughly the same speech on the ceremonies: “it must be admitted that in the case of secular funeral, cremation offers little in the Western imagination – perhaps because we did not yet invented a ritual that would offset the dryness of technical operations.”

However, new developments are emerging since the late 1990s. New ceremonies appear, both in the religious sphere in the “secular” sphere of crematorium. In the early 1970s, cremation was limited to a technical gesture, without contemplation. The family was waiting during cremation, then recovered the ashes. In 1986, for the crematorium of Père Lachaise is sketched an early form of ceremony consisting of a time of contemplation and speeches. Finally, meditation time organized in phases (entrance music, contemplation, gesture of homage, departure of the coffin) was established in 1998 with a real redefinition of the role of master of ceremonies.

This is more than ceremonial rituals strictly because they channel the disappearance of a loved one without carry a message about human destiny. As Jean-Hugues Discalced remark, the rite is not the only solution to face death. Admitting willingly deritualisation of funeral, he considers that we can socialize and acculturate death by other processes. Subjectification and personalization of contemporary funerals, as well as all new players, new professionals (embalmers, emcee) that accompanies it, can neutralize death. According to Jean-Hugues Carmelites, no culture can tame death, at best it neutralized. This neutralization is achieved by the introduction of new modes of ceremonies that are not provided as rituals, normative frameworks. The evolution of contemporary funeral comes in part from the privatization process, the family friendly group becoming the new reference group during the ceremony; and secondly, the process of secularization marking the decline of certain beliefs.

In 2009, the question “Do you find that you lack to be unable to recollect on a physical place where the deceased rests (falls, columbarium for ashes)?” 72% of respondents claimed that it did not lack them at all.

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