• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

Disposing of the Dead: Minor Modes
Disposing of the dead: Minor modes

Upon death, practical decisions must be made concerning the final disposition of the physical body. These decisions are often guided by religious tradition, social custom, and personal preference. Thus disparate beliefs have yielded different ritual behavior in varying cultures and in various ages. For example, among the ancient Egyptians, religious belief in an afterlife held high priority and consequently shaped the preparations of deceased bodies for their final disposition. In this case, mummification, wooden coffins, stone sarcophagi, and tombs laden with various grave goods believed necessary for survival in the next life evolved to aid the deceased in their transition from this life to the next. Similarly, in the United States today, embalming the ...

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