Death and Afterlife

Death and Afterlife

Cultures all around the world have beliefs about death and the afterlife. Peoples started to create sculptures that are intended to honour the dead or keep the memory of their ancestors alive. Some have beliefs about an afterlife, so they produce objects that might be useful in the next world or help in the journey afterlife. Death and the afterlife are very important. It also affects the way a body is treated after death and how it is buried now. People created tombs to protect the body of the dead that might also contain objects to demonstrate the power and wealth. In complex rituals many things linked to beliefs about death and afterlife that might also have some part in the afterlife. Here we try to explore different cultures and objects relating to beliefs and practices about death and afterlife.

Ancient Egyptians believe that death is not just the end of life, but much more than a transition to a new one. They believe that after death when the deceased reaches to the land of the dead where they are judged by the God and if they found lucky, they will be rewarded by rebirth and sent back to this world again. To ensure immortality, those who are rich do some very complex rituals which help them in the afterlife. Mummification started at this stage. They keep intact the body so the soul would have a place to live after death. It was therefore mummified and placed inside coffins for protection. There was a time when gilded cedar wood outer coffin contained the body of Henutmehyt, an aristocratic Egyptian woman. Typically the coffin is in the shape of a standing figure and shows an image of the dead woman in her early life. Many of the symbolic decorations are intended to ensure the deceased’s rebirth and wellbeing in the afterlife. Beneath the collar two wedjat eyes ward of the evil eye and the sky-goddess Nut spreads her wings protectively over the body showing a good care of that dead body.

In many cultures honouring the ancestors, dead are not simply buried and forgotten. Rather they are considered powerful forces and rituals are held to honour their memory. The Asmat people of New Guinea have a ceremony which is called the jipae say farewell to the departed ancestors. During the ceremony, performers wear woven masks with strings and sago palms leave.

The masks cover the body and the performers impersonate the person who has died since the last ceremony. Afterwards, the performer takes on the dead person’s responsibilities, not only they bring up their children but take good care of them. They believe that the dead person is still seeing them. They can now leave this world and take peace and take their good place in the world of the dead.

It was believed in the European Middle Ages that a saint’s soul went to heaven on after death. There he or she could intercede on behalf of the faithful. Physical body parts of the dead and relics were carefully preserved. It was believed to be holy and have magical healing powers. They put their body in precious containers.

Grave gifts for the afterlife- as per saying of the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Chinese believed that the world they passed into after death was similar to the living world. They were therefore buried with those models and objects they had used in their earthly lives. They use a glazed ceramic bowl depicts a pond with a large tree in the middle. The pond contains frogs and fishes, ducks and a tortoise sit on the rim and there is a man catching fish in an imaginary net. And two men are shooting birds. They enjoyed the pleasures of hunting and fishing and wanted to continue enjoying in the world beyond. They believe that the bowl probably came from the tomb of an ordinary working person, like as a farmer but not like a wealthy person. Such tombs contained models such as replicas of buildings, carts or farmyards of animals, more like a farmers things. The wealthy and powerful were buried as per their status and lifestyle in the next world. Tomb figures of soldiers, shows military power, were buried as per their rank. So they could continue to enjoy the banquets and festivities of their mortal lives.

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