Rites of passage are special rituals societies employ to assist their members at key times of biographical change. These life transitions follow a recognizable pattern of behavior in many cultures; for example, babies are given a name and social identity, youths enter adulthood or marry, others retire, gain particular qualifications such as degrees or enter particular professions, or pass from the world of the living to the world of the deceased.
Such understandings of ritual permit insight into the significance of funerary ritual, a rite of passage observed in a great majority of human societies. Numerous changes of identity are associated with funeral rites, affecting the statuses of the deceased, surviving relatives, and members of the broader community.
Death separates the deceased from their statuses of living parent, spouse, or coworker. The period of preparing the dead for burial or cremation moves them into a transitional phase when they are neither what they have been nor yet what they will become. Such moments of transition often involve uncertainty. The ritual impurity of the corpse derives from its inability to respond to others, yet is still “present” in their everyday routines. Accordingly, people pay their respects to the dead, marking their former identity with them, express sorrow for the bereaved and, by so doing, reaffirm their continuing relationship with them. Stories recounting the achievement or character of the dead and supernatural powers may be invoked to forgive any evil the deceased may have perpetrated and to guide them into the afterlife. Gifts and goods may be provided to assist the individual to depart from this world to the next.
Just as initiates in their liminal period may be taught mysteries of their culture so the dead may be given their own form of education in the form of guidance provided in sacred texts, chants and prayers to assist their journey, as in texts like the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Very often there are special priests or ritual experts to attend to this task. Sometimes additional rites are performed to assist the departed, often referred to as soul or life forces, to settle in their new world. A major part all this has for us left behind that of death rites is to ensure that the individual who has died leaves the realm of the living for the realm of the afterlife.
It is of such importance that we choose the right service to reflect the deceased own beliefs and customs and therefore ensure their own rites of passage.
If we are members of the Church of England or we are Roman Catholic then we will know that we would like to have a funeral service or a requiem mass and we will generally know our local clergy, you may have attended a local church or the deceased may have, and it will be your wish to ask the local minister to take the service for us, we may even feel it most important to have the funeral service in our local church first, in the Roman Catholic church it is custom for the deceased to be received into the church to lay at rest the eve before mass.
But if you are not religious we must still have a rite of passage, or a service of some description, whether we believe or not that we go on to another existence or are re born, we still look to having a service to celebrate the life of, and to be able to let others attend a service of remembrance.
Our civil celebrant is Mrs Kim Finlayson
In June 2010 when my mother was dying I approached a local funeral director for some advice about what I should do when the inevitable happened. He gave me practical advice and emotional support, – very reassuring at a time when I was struggling to think straight about anything. My experience of working in partnership with the funeral director to arrange Mum’s funeral ceremony was so empowering and therapeutic. I was treated with great respect by the funeral director and the celebrant who presided at the service. Most importantly of all I was given a range of choices. In essence I was able to be the director of the ceremony, while the funeral director provided me with the resources I needed to make that day so memorable and heart-warming. It was the last thing I could do for my Mum in this world as we know it.
Reflecting on my own life and previous work, I made a decision that I wanted to try to help others to deal with death differently. With encouragement from a friend and fellow celebrant I completed a Diploma in Funeral Celebrancy in November 2012. My previous work in nursing and social work has equipped me with some transferable skills that are now proving invaluable in my work as a celebrant.
I am a member of the Institute of Civil Funerals and am bound by the Code of Conduct, standards and regulations of the organisation. I am also a member of The Natural Death Centre, and Dying Matters, These organisations can provide extensive advice and information about death and dying.