When we think of funerals in Australia, we probably think of common westernised practices. Mourners dress in black and sit solemnly in church pews or chairs as they listen to eulogies for the deceased and weep. The body is buried according to tradition and commemorated with a tasteful headstone.
Australia is known for being one of the most multicultural societies in the world. As funeral directors in Perth, Hetherington Funerals sees many types of funerals based on different cultures. Our funeral planning service also reflects this multiculturalism, being accommodated and adapted for different processes.
Below we explore different funeral traditions as practised by cultures around the world, and even here in Perth.
Tana Toraja is a regency in eastern Indonesia and they share quite a unique approach to memorialising the dead. Their practice is to throw a rowdy and rambunctious affair that everyone in the village is invited to. These parties last from days to weeks and they take a long time to save up for. Sometimes, families will save up for long periods in order to raise the funds necessary for a lavish send-off.
The funeral may not take place until years after the physical death, so up until that point, the dead relative is referred to as someone who is sick or who is asleep. They are laid down in special rooms in the family home where they are fed, cared for and taken out – all symbolically – because they are still a part of their family’s life until the funeral. The climax of the funeral is a sacrificial water buffalo carrying the deceased’s soul to the afterlife.
Australian Aboriginal Mortuary Rites
Aboriginal societies in NT call for elaborate death rituals when a loved one dies. They begin by holding a smoking ceremony in the deceased’s living area in order to drive away their spirit. They then hold a feast where mourners are painted ochre as they enjoy food and dance. The body is then placed on a platform that is covered in leaves and left to decompose.
Traditional Buddhist Funeral Ceremonies
Buddhists believe that death is a natural and inevitable part of the lifecycle and they encourage the dying person to accept this reality. When a person is dying, friends and family might crowd around to help the person reflect on their good deeds in life in the hope that they will have sway over his or her incarnation.
According to the Last Rites of Amitabha, the body can’t be moved, touched or disturbed because they believe the soul doesn’t leave the body right after the breathing stops. The body has to be completely cold before it can be washed and prepared for burial or cremation. The deceased is not put in fancy clothes, but rather, everyday attire.
Cremation is popular among Buddhists and may require monks to be present to chant during the cremation. Family members may also lead the chanting and they can collect the ashes and do with them what they feel is best. At a Buddhist funeral, mourners wear white instead of black.
No matter what your culture, we can assist in giving you or your loved one a meaningful funeral. Contact Hetherington Funerals in Perth today.