The Afterlife Society and Their Rituals

INTRO:

The members of the ancient Egypt society were very spiritual, they believed each of us had many bodies. “Khat” is the term used to describe the physical body and it was considered the lowest of them all. The “Khu” was the spirit body and it was seen as immortal. For this reason, the Egyptians gave a large importance to death and the Afterlife. Unique rituals were practiced during funerary ceremonies, like the mummifications of pharaohs, kings, and nobles. The bodies were often buried in tombs, which was also another important aspect of the ancient Egypt culture. The following paper will discuss three essential features of the ancient Egypt related to death and the Afterlife. The first part will consist of the funerary rituals and other ceremonies they practiced, the following section is one of the most famous ritual in the Ancient Egypt, the mummification. Finally, the last section will discuss the tombs found across Egypt containing kings, pharaohs, and other artifacts.

The ancient Egyptians did not have a negative image of death like in our society. They gave an important value to the Afterlife, to protect the soul of the dead person, many rituals and different ceremonies were practiced like mummification and burials in tombs.

DEATH RITUALS AND RELEGIOUS CEREMONIES

To begin, the civilization of ancient Egypt goes back to about 5000 years ago. In their spiritual believes, they venerated many different gods. Their ultimate goal was to ultimately purify their soul to finally meet the gods in the Afterlife. Kings and pharaohs were considered partly gods. The priests were seen by the society as guidance in the real world to advance in the spiritual world. Ceremonies were organised where different specialities of priests were used for example magical, seer, lookers, and of course, mummification. “The Book of The Dead” was an essential book for the Egyptian for their passage in the Afterlife. Therefor, it had an important signification for them. “The Book of The Dead” was read by a priest at the funerals if it could be afforded. This manuscript touched the journey of the spirit from the tomb to the Afterlife, and the rebirth of the “Khu”. Additionally, a list of forty-two negative confessions were written and judged by Osiris. This god was seen to determine if the soul was purify enough to meet the god or sent back to earth to rebirth for another life. Throughout the years the book changed name to “The Book of Coming Into Light” or “The Wisdom of Ani” and many other varieties. The tome was used as prayers to aid and help in the Afterlife. (Notes, James, 2018)

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The Egyptian were constantly searching for immortality of an individual’s soul. They believed the ceremonies and rituals could influence the fate in the Afterlife, but also as protection by gods. The religious rites were practice in the Temples, which were considered like the center of life or “Island of Creation”. Each room and hall of the Temples served for particular customs. With the help of the high priest, the king would bring the temple “alive” to produce a magical force. Many types of rituals were practiced, but two of them were the most important. One of them was practiced three times daily in honor of the rebirth of the sun and the resurrection of Osiris. The second ceremony was a great festival celebrated certain time during the year. These religious rites were in place to protect the king, the land, and its population from famine and evil. (David, 1975)

Another believe the Egyptian had towards the dead, is that the buried body had the same needs as his life. The “Ka” was the energy or force that surrounded the body and could live internally. They offered food, jewelleries, clothes, amulets and important personal items. Each objects that was buried with the bodies had a specific signification closely related to magic. The “Ka” could return to his body and for this reason food was given and placed inside the burial chamber. The Amulets, or Wedja, was a very important item for the Egyptian. It had healing properties and protection force against darkness. Thoth or Hermes was considered the God of Magic. They believed that the entire world was created with magic. It was giving by the Gods to human to protect them against evil force. Although, many used it for bad purpose and created spells. Pharaohs and priests were in charge of fighting chaos in the society using magic and religion. (Notes, James, 2018)

 Later on, the priests realized the important implication that involved bring regularly bring food to the souls of the bodies. For this reason they created a new discipline of priest was created called the “Ka-Priesthood”. They had the duty to make the necessary offerings to the “Ka” of the buried. This custom created an economic drain which was solved with magic and art. The tombs’ wall contained various painting of food instead of real food. (David, 1975)

There was three principal lines of priest in the Egyptian society. To become a priest it was a hard parkour physically but also psychologically. A long training was required in the priesthood, it was called “The Path of Power” or “The path or Pain”. Priest would dream together and improved their spiritual skills. The first line was focused mostly on Magic. Their speciality was to fight evil and help the people through magic and healing. The second type was the seer category, they would be able to see within the different level of the soul and plane of individuals. The third variety of priest used their power with looking further in time and distance, for example to see enemies approaching. (Leca, A. P. 1982)

MUMMIES

As mention previously, mummies were buried in tombs across Egypt. The study of Egypt and mummies became popular in the Renaissance, approximately 1350-1550AD, where many wealthy man and researchers from Europe started to focus their studies and interests towards Egyptian history. In the 19th century the Egyptology became an official discipline touching mostly archeology, anthropology and history. Hundreds of mummies and other artifacts were then found and studied. Today, mummies are known around the world because of photography like the very popular King Tutankhamun or different movies. Many questions can be asked about the dates, the procedure, and reasons behind the mummification of the Ancient Egypt. (Notes, James, 2018)

Items from the ancient Egypt go back to about 5,000 years ago. The techniques of dating evolved with time. Flinders Petri was a British Egyptologist, especially known for his diverse techniques of dating. He mostly touched archelogy and history, but his way of dating was used with pottery, ruins, and texts found. He started a new method of dating called the sequence dating. Today the “Petrie” dating and the Berlin-school dating are used to put dates of ancient Egypt. Petrie started a new process called “In-situ”, which means “on-site”. This method was created afterwards of the founding of many artifacts transformed in dust after the trip from Egypt to Europe. He studied on the site instead of moving the items across the ocean. Which help with the preservation and quality of the objects discovered. Since then, the techniques have evolved a lot. Today, the Carbon Dating is very popular which consist of observing at what rate the carbon disappear on the relics which gives an approximate idea of the age. Moreover, the paleontology dating is a very interesting technique, it focuses on the ancient diseases. Also, the Computed Tomography gives detailed images through a scan of the body’s organs. It is used similarly to a “virtual dissections”, while keeping the bodies intact. (Petrella, E., Piciucchi, S., Feletti, F., Barone, D., Piraccini, A., Minghetti, C., … Traversari, M. 2016)

Two type of mummies were discovered with the years, the natural and artificial mummification. The climate of Egypt was ideal to preserve bodies after their death. The hot and dry environment with the endless sand, presented the perfect conditions for bodies to be kept forever. Then a natural phenomenon occurred, as described by R. David, “The body fluids of the newly buried corpse evaporated and were absorbed by the sand, a process that arrested decomposition and were produced desiccated, practically sterile bodies that could last indefinitely in the right environment conditions.” This funeral technique was the first introduced, but was also mostly used by the lower class of Egypt. Eventually, the artificial method of mummification, which consist of different varieties of wrapping the bodies in tissue, was introduced. This new process started to be only for the elite members, like kings, pharaohs, and priests, then later on to anyone who could afford it. (David, 2008)

Furthermore, the procedure of mummification also changed within the years, the earliest mummies had their internal organs removed, except the brain. This technique was introduced in the Old Kingdom and was called the evisceration. The body was then filled with spices and resins. The organs were preserved individually and were wrapped in a linen and placed either in a box called the Canopic Jars. The mummy was finally wrapped in fine linen and sometime included a mask. (Murray, A. Margaret. 1989)

During the Middle Kingdom, most of the mummies discovered were in poor condition. There was barely evidence of the previous technique of evisceration found in the mummies. David states that the bodies were probably conserved with injection of resinous substances into the alimentary canal per anum. Although, some of the mummies found from the middle kingdom had their brain and the organs removed and preserved with the body. This practice was generally used for nonroyal persons. (Sparks, 2013) (Petrella, E., Piciucchi, S., Feletti, F., Barone, D., Piraccini, A., Minghetti, C., … Traversari, M.,2016)

In the New Kingdom, the technique used to mummify a body had a goal to make it look like a living person. Incisions were made in the face and filled with padding and clay to push the cheeks and other parts of the face, then the face of the dead was painted. The procedure of evisceration and exacerbation, which consists of the brain removal acceded through the foramen magnum or the trepanned orbit, was well spread.  (Murray, A. Margaret. 1989)

TOMBS

To finish, the tombs varied throughout the ancient Egypt reign. The first burial chamber discovered belonged to many kings of the predynatic period. Many were found with paint decorations and hieroglyphs, others had less decoration but could measure up to twenty-two square meters. They were transformed from simple chambers, to more elaborated designs, addition of staircases or statues. In the Old Kingdom, more precisely the third Dynatic, The Step Pyramid was made for king Djoser. His majestic structure was made mostly in mud brick and rose over his royal chamber up 204 feet high. This structure was a major progress in the procedure in the making royal burials. (Dodson, 2017)

In the middle Kingdom, the eleventh Dynastic introduced a new type of structure, as described by Dodson,”the north side was the royal mortuary chapel and its burial-shafts, courtyards, and the tomb-chapels of members of the court. The face possessed massive courtyards and was sided by the tomb-chapels of members of the court. This was followed the entrance to an alternative location instead of the north side like in the Old Kingdom’s concept introduced by king Mentuhotep II.  (Dodson, 2017) The Egyptians followed a very precise and unique style for the tombs, and eventually with the years, the changes were easily observed. (Dodson, 2017)

The New kingdom’s tombs really modify the traditional way of burials. Started with the Eighteenth Dynasty founder Ahmose I, who built his pyramid at Abydos, but his burial chamber was built at the edge of the desert. After realizing the cost and the danger related to building a pyramid, a new strategy was adopted. Instead of being buried in a pyramid that could be seen from miles away, the Kings’ monuments were now secretly located deep in the desert. More precisely about 400 miles south of the Great Pyramid. It was located close to the city of Luxor, which used to be known as an important political and religious center called Thebes. The position of the valley was also influenced by the sun. Since it was in the mountains on the west side of the Nile, the sun set each evening. They linked the sun with the sun god Re and believed that the sun went into the land of the dead and would rebirth each day in the east. This sequence of removed catacombs created “the Valley of Kings” where dozens of royal tombs were found. These were the memorial temples, they were built in dedication to the king, but also two gods, Ra and Amun. The style memorial temples varied from different sizes, to bent ‘axis’ to carved reliefs and flat paint decorations. (Reeves, C. N., & Wilkinson, R. H. 2008)

As mentioned earlier, what the tombs contained were very significant. They believe the “Ka” of the individual stayed on earth near the tomb and consumed the offerings for the Afterlife. Food, beverages, clothes, jewelries, and personal belongings were buried with the body. These were valuable objects for thieves. Series of tombs thieves occurred throughout the years, where many pyramids and tombs were broken into. For this reason, kings started to create their burial tombs and pyramid against robbers. To miss lead the thieves many dead-end corridors, hidden doors, and traps were designed. The valuable items like gold, amulets, and jewels were in place for the person to carry in his next life, but were also the principle target for these robbers. These actions were immoral crimes, but also touched the archeologic aspect. Most of the pyramid and tombs were already the victims of robberies, this has an impact of the advance in knowledge of the Ancient Egypt society. (Patridge, 2009)

CONCLUSION:

To conclude, death was something that the Egyptians did not fear. They believed each one had many bodies, and the physical one was the lowest. At the end of their life on earth, the god Osiris would judge between rebirth on earth or the soul was purified and was able to meet the gods. To help the soul to find the gods, a series of rituals and ceremonies were practiced. These included the reading of “The Book of The Dead” by the priests. The Mummification was another ritual made on kings, pharaohs, and nobles. Although the first type of mummies were naturally created by the dry and hot Egyptian climate. The artificial way changed throughout the years, but the removal of some organs and the body wrapped in linen was spread in the years. The dead bodies of the kings or other important person were often buried in Tombs. These were also very important for their religious beliefs. They faced some advances with time, from simple mud-brick construction to sophisticated structures. During the New Kingdom, approximately in the eighteenth dynasty, kings were getting buried in an isolated valley of the desert. Many dozens of bodies were found in these tombs located in “The Valley of the Kings”. This paper concerned a variety of rituals and ceremonies related to death and Afterlife.

SUMMARY:

The ancient Egypt society were unique concerning their beliefs, their religion, and architecture. All these aspects made the Egyptian one of the greatest civilization of all time. They believed in the Afterlife, which developed a huge possibilities of theories towards death and ceremonies. A variety of rituals were practiced when a royal passed away. Food and other personal items were giving in the burial chamber, also priers were read by priest to help and protect the soul in the Afterlife. Another common practiced was the mummification. Natural and artificial mummies were discovered. The natural phenomena was created with the dry and hot climate. The artificial practiced varied throughout the years. It started with the evisceration, which is the removal of the internal organs except the brain. The body was then filled with spices and resins and was wrapped in a linen. With the years, mummification faced some modifications. These were then buried in royal chambers and tombs. They, just like the mummies, evolved with the years. Beginning as simple mud bricks tombs to the introduction of massive and elaborated structure. These were in place for the Afterlife of the dead, to help his “Ka” in his journey. In the new kingdom, a series of kings were buried in an isolated valley in the desert, and it created the “The Valley of the Kings”. The Ancient Egyptians was a society based on religion and gods, their ultimate goal was to purify their souls to finally meet the gods in the Afterlife.

REFERENCES

David, R.A. (1975). The Making of the Past: The Egyptian Kingdoms. New-York, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.

Dérobert, L. (1975) Le monde étrange des momies, Paris: Pygmalion

Dodson, A. (2017). The Tombs of the Kings of Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt Magazine, 17(6), 22–29. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=123751746&site=ehost-live

Leca, A. P. (1982). The cult of the immortal: Mummies and the Ancient Egyptian way of death. London: Granada.

McKnight, L. M. (2015). Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies as Votive Offerings. Ancient Egypt Magazine, 16(1), 27–33. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=109145995&site=ehost-live

Murray, M. A. (1989). The splendour that was Egypt. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.

Price, C., Forshaw, R., Chamberlain, A., Nicholson, P. T., & David, A. R. (2018). Mummies, magic, and medicine in ancient Egypt: Multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Patridge, B. (2009). Why did ancient Egyptians mummify their dead? Ancient Egypt Magazine, 10(3), 31–35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=45628849&site=ehost-live

Reeves, C. N., & Wilkinson, R. H. (2008). The complete Valley of the Kings: Tombs and treasures of Egypts greatest Pharaohs. London: Thames & Hudson.

Wallis Budge, E.A. (2008) The Egyptian Book of the Dead. London: Penguin classics

 

The History Of Hinduism Rituals Religion Essay

Hindus practice many rituals collectively known as Sansakaras. These rituals or sanskaras depict events in the life cycle of a Hindu person. According to the ancient texts in Hinduism, most significant events in the life cycle include Birth, Marriage, and Death. These Are Explained as Follows: Mix Christianity intro
1. Birth:
In Hinduism, birth of a child is considered a religious ceremony, and involves many rituals. Some of the common rituals, practiced by almost all Hindus at the time of birth of a child, and their significance are discussed below. These rituals initiate a child into Hinduism and are collectively referred to as ‘birth rituals.’
i. The first one is Garbhadhana or Impregnation rites. This ritual includes a planned sexual intercourse, between a husband and his wife, performed in a certain way, to conceive the best possible baby. The sex during Garbhadhana is not for pleasure but for developing a good or divine soul in the womb of the wife. Garbhadhana is purely spiritual, and is considered to be very essential. It is required to populate the world with good souls. This is explained by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, “Sex aimed at creating godly children is as good as God Himself.
‘balam balavatam caham
kama-raga-vivarjitam
dharmaviruddho bhutesu
kamo ‘smi bharatarsabha’
‘I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O lord of the Bharatas'” (Hindu).
ii. Jatakarma is the ritual performed to welcome the baby into this world. It is performed right before the umbilical cord is cut. In this ritual, father of the child feeds honey to the baby and chant prayers or mantras in baby’s ear. This ritual is supposed to increase the aptitude of the child and spiritually help him or her to lead a long and healthy life. In addition, it represents that the presence of the child is desired and appreciated in the family.

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iii. Namakarana, meaning ‘to give a name,’ is the ritual in which the child is given a name, which is meaningful and inspiring. A good name is very important for the child because its meaning reminds him of a purpose or an objective in life and inspires him to fulfill that objective. Generally there is a get-together, in which, sweets are distributed among family and friends after a name has been given to the baby.
iv. Mundan is the ritual where, first haircut of the child is performed. In this ritual, all the hairs on child’s head are removed and poured into the nearest holy water body. The removal of these hairs signifies the removal of any deficiencies in the child, and is considered to stimulate growth of the nervous system.
Another initiation ritual, called as Upanayana, is performed for boys in Hinduism. It is carried out right before the puberty starts. This ritual marks the second birth of the child as he begins his journey of ‘religious self-construction.’ In this ceremony, the boy acknowledges his duties towards his religion and his privileges resulting from Hinduism. During Upanayana ceremony, a sacred thread is tied around the waist of the boy. This thread consists of three separate symbolic threads meaning to, “worship god, show love and respect to parents, and learn from the religious teacher” (Hindu). Although, a child is born into Hinduism by various birth rituals, a boy child is again initiated into the religion through Upanayana ritual.
Christianity on the other hand, has few significant specific rituals for birth. One common practice in Roman Catholics is where the mother goes to the church, certain days after giving birth to a child, to thank god for a successful birth. By doing this, she re-enters her religious community after pregnancy, and hence this practice is sometimes referred to as a ‘purity rite.’
The most significant ritual associated with birth is baptism of the baby. It represents the baby’s commencement into Christianity. It is generally performed from 0 to 6 months after the birth of the baby. It is generally performed by the minister of the church, when he pours the holy water and says, “I baptise you (or, ‘The servant of God (name) is baptized’) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (see Matthew 28:19). According to bible, “baptism is a requirement for salvation (Mark 16:16; Titus 3:5). Baptism pictures the death and burial of our old self and our resurrection to a new life in Jesus Christ as Romans 6 tells us:
‘Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
“For the death that He (Jesus) died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 6:3-6, 10-11, NKJV)” (biblestudy).
This verse and its description in biblestudy.org clearly demarcates that the sins of a person are forgiven and washed away by getting baptized because through baptism, the person symbolizes that he is regretful for all his sins but now he has complete faith in Jesus, and is willing to live a good life under the shadow of Jesus Christ.
Although, infant baptism is performed soon after the birth of a child, it can be compared to the Hindu initiation ritual of Upanayana because of the similar purposes of the two rituals. After baptism, a catholic child is regarded as a member of the church and a complete relationship is established between the child and the church. Therefore, it is clear that like Upanayana, Baptism marks the beginning of religious education. Confirmation to baptism occurs when “the young person can knowingly and freely choose Christian faith,” (21 cite this). This happens at an age similar to the age of Upanayana ritual in Hinduism. For both these rituals, a fundamental change takes place in the life of the person undergoing the ritual, and this change is considered a rebirth as a fresh identity with new faith, duties, and privileges. According to Christianity, a person cannot attain salvation without being baptized. Likewise, Upanayana ceremony in Hinduism is the initiation on the road to religious education that ultimately leads to salvation.
Hindus practice many rituals collectively known as Sansakaras. These rituals or sanskaras depict events in the life cycle of a Hindu person. According to the ancient texts in Hinduism, most significant events in the life cycle include Birth, Marriage, and Death. These Are Explained as Follows: Mix Christianity intro
Initiation
1. Birth:
In Hinduism, birth of a child is considered a religious ceremony, and involves many rituals. Some of the common rituals, practiced by almost all Hindus at the time of birth of a child, and their significance are discussed below. These rituals initiate a child into Hinduism and are collectively referred to as ‘birth rituals.’
i. The first one is Garbhadhana or Impregnation rites. This ritual includes a planned sexual intercourse, between a husband and his wife, performed in a certain way, to conceive the best possible baby. The sex during Garbhadhana is not for pleasure but for developing a good or divine soul in the womb of the wife. Garbhadhana is purely spiritual, and is considered to be very essential. It is required to populate the world with good souls. This is explained by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, “Sex aimed at creating godly children is as good as God Himself.
‘balam balavatam caham
kama-raga-vivarjitam
dharmaviruddho bhutesu
kamo ‘smi bharatarsabha’
‘I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O lord of the Bharatas'” (Hindu).
ii. Jatakarma is the ritual performed to welcome the baby into this world. It is performed right before the umbilical cord is cut. In this ritual, father of the child feeds honey to the baby and chant prayers or mantras in baby’s ear. This ritual is supposed to increase the aptitude of the child and spiritually help him or her to lead a long and healthy life. In addition, it represents that the presence of the child is desired and appreciated in the family.
iii. Namakarana, meaning ‘to give a name,’ is the ritual in which the child is given a name, which is meaningful and inspiring. A good name is very important for the child because its meaning reminds him of a purpose or an objective in life and inspires him to fulfill that objective. Generally there is a get-together, in which, sweets are distributed among family and friends after a name has been given to the baby.
iv. Mundan is the ritual where, first haircut of the child is performed. In this ritual, all the hairs on child’s head are removed and poured into the nearest holy water body. The removal of these hairs signifies the removal of any deficiencies in the child, and is considered to stimulate growth of the nervous system.
Another initiation ritual, called as Upanayana, is performed for boys in Hinduism. It is carried out right before the puberty starts. This ritual marks the second birth of the child as he begins his journey of ‘religious self-construction.’ In this ceremony, the boy acknowledges his duties towards his religion and his privileges resulting from Hinduism. During Upanayana ceremony, a sacred thread is tied around the waist of the boy. This thread consists of three separate symbolic threads meaning to, “worship god, show love and respect to parents, and learn from the religious teacher” (Hindu). Although, a child is born into Hinduism by various birth rituals, a boy child is again initiated into the religion through Upanayana ritual.
Christianity on the other hand, has few significant specific rituals for birth. One common practice in Roman Catholics is where the mother goes to the church, certain days after giving birth to a child, to thank god for a successful birth. By doing this, she re-enters her religious community after pregnancy, and hence this practice is sometimes referred to as a ‘purity rite.’
The most significant ritual associated with birth is baptism of the baby. It represents the baby’s commencement into Christianity. It is generally performed from 0 to 6 months after the birth of the baby. It is generally performed by the minister of the church, when he pours the holy water and says, “I baptise you (or, ‘The servant of God (name) is baptized’) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (see Matthew 28:19). According to bible, “baptism is a requirement for salvation (Mark 16:16; Titus 3:5). Baptism pictures the death and burial of our old self and our resurrection to a new life in Jesus Christ as Romans 6 tells us:
‘Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
“For the death that He (Jesus) died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 6:3-6, 10-11, NKJV)” (biblestudy).
This verse and its description in biblestudy.org clearly demarcates that the sins of a person are forgiven and washed away by getting baptized because through baptism, the person symbolizes that he is regretful for all his sins but now he has complete faith in Jesus, and is willing to live a good life under the shadow of Jesus Christ.
Although, infant baptism is performed soon after the birth of a child, it can be compared to the Hindu initiation ritual of Upanayana because of the similar purposes of the two rituals. After baptism, a catholic child is regarded as a member of the church and a complete relationship is established between the child and the church. Therefore, it is clear that like Upanayana, Baptism marks the beginning of religious education. Confirmation to baptism occurs when “the young person can knowingly and freely choose Christian faith,” (21 cite this). This happens at an age similar to the age of Upanayana ritual in Hinduism. For both these rituals, a fundamental change takes place in the life of the person undergoing the ritual, and this change is considered a rebirth as a fresh identity with new faith, duties, and privileges. According to Christianity, a person cannot attain salvation without being baptized. Likewise, Upanayana ceremony in Hinduism is the initiation on the road to religious education that ultimately leads to salvation.  

The Maori Religion And Rituals Of Various Cultures Religion Essay

This essay discusses the Maori religion and variety of culture of the indigenous Maori community. It also discusses the death rites and the rituals of various Maori cultures, for instance, the marriage, death and birth rites and rituals among others.
Starting with the rich Maori religion Russell (2006) points out, that the Maori people believe in the existence of spiritual beings and a supreme supernatural being called lo. They believed that lo is only revealed to those who have reached a particular level of class preferable the most learned in the Maoris’ society. But all of them regardless of class or age believe in the existence of eight gods whose parents are called Rangi and papa. There is gods of the forests and the forefathers called Tane. There is the god of sea called tangaroa. There is the god of agriculture and peace known as rongo. They also have god of weather and god of the uncultivated food known as Tawhitimateo and Haumia respectively (Keith, 1980). The Maoris also have god for earthquakes that is called Ruaumoko .Their belief in the existence of darkness and evil makes them to believe in the existence of the god that caused the same known as Whiro (Russell, 2006). There is also a special god for war who is also responsible for the invention of the snares and digging sticks.
On the other hand, each Maori tribe had a special god for war. The gods for war were useful when the tribes went for war. Apart from the war gods, each Maori family had family gods and spirits. The family spirits had their origin from the dead, abortions or miscarriages (Siers, 1976).
In the Maori religion there is association with the visible symbols that has a natural phenomenon. These symbols are the rainbow, the comets, trees and even stones. Living creatures such as birds, fish and lizards also have a connotation in their religion. There is also carving of gods either from sticks or stones that are worshipped. The Maori have god families.

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Another important aspect of the Maori culture is on the death and funeral rituals. The dead body that is known as tupapaku is traditionally preserved and kept in a special meeting place called marae. The body has to stay for three consecutive days in this house and the body is never to be left alone even though the coffin is usually left open till the burial day. The mourning period is occasioned by wailings from the women and speeches are made in Maori language (Keith, 1980). Orupa that is the cemetery is adjacent to the marae. According to Siers (1976) those who view the body are required to wash their hands afterwards using water or bread that is usually at the exit
In Maori culture the burial and funeral rituals of important people are carried with pomp as they believe that these people will send protective spirits afterwards. For example, the death and funeral ritual of a chief is characterized by immense decoration of the body using feathers. The skulls of the enemies are placed at the feet, while all the remains of the ancestors are put at the head. On the poles next to the body there is heads of the enemies.
During the mourning period, relatives of the dead are not allowed to touch food using their hands but they are fed by their relatives, friends or members of the tribe. They just have to open their lower jaws and food tossed into it. In showing their sorrow people cut their bodies using shells and the profound bleeding is symbolic for the immense loss incurred by the bereaved (Russell, 1996).
According to Keith (1980), on the burial day the chief have to be buried with all things that are valuable in the Maori community. He also points out that, the burial of the dead does not end with the first burial but there is the second burial known a secondary burial. In the second burial, the remains of the dead are removed from their primary burial place. These bones are then cleaned and painted with red ochre. The remains are then taken from village to village for a second mourning and later buried this time round in a sacred place (Keith, 1980).
Another important culture among the Maori is the welcoming culture that is characterized by a number of rituals. This culture was called marae by the Maori people (Siers, 1976). During this ceremony women perform oratories called karanga. According to Keith (1980), the karangas are done in Maori language and these oratories are both educative as well as entertaining. Russell (1996) says that, after the karangas there are formal speeches from the host. These speeches are known as whaikorero. A song called waiata is sung by various groups immediately after the speeches.
Gift giving is another important occasion during the welcoming culture. The gifts also known as koha are given out followed by karanga. Russell (2006) points out another symbolic ritual in the welcoming culture as the pressing of the noses, also known as hongi which is a sign of appreciation. To mark the end of the ceremony, a meal called hakari is usually shared (Siers, 1976)
According to Keith (1980) the third culture with rituals in the Maori community is the marriage and wedding ceremony. In choosing partners members of the opposite sex can either choose their partners or the partners chosen for them by the elders. But the female can turn down the advances of the opposite sex by putting a mark on their forehead called atahu. Courtship generally varied in the Maori culture in that, some tribes simply proposed by capturing the potential bride. This tactics sometimes turn violent.
In Maori marriage, adultery was heavily punishable. The punishment was in form of plundering the homes of the couple. Divorce was not ruled out. It was ritually carried out using water (Siers, 1976).
The wedding usually takes place in the marae and during this ceremony a relative of the groom challenges the father of the bride to come forward for a fight. The father of the bride approaches the relative of the groom as if he is ready for a fight but instead stretches his hand and greets the challenger (Keith, 1980).
Another culture of the Maori is the birth culture and the rituals that accompany it. Russell (1996) says that, the Maori women control the birth process but it is the midwives known as the tohunga who have control on the conception, abortion, birth and parenting. The women has to follow strict guidelines from the tohunga and during the delivery time, women deliver either in squatting or standing positions with minimal support offered on request. The Maori women either gave birth in an open place away from the main dwelling or in a temporary structure made for the same and were burnt at the end of it. This temporary structure was called whare kohanga or simply the nest place (Keith, 1980). The nest place was meant for high ranking women on their first deliveries. The placenta is usually buried.
According to Siers there is an important ritual rite called tihe that is usually performed during child birth. It is a form of baptism that resembles the modern mode of baptism in Christianity. In most cases, there is chanting and singing to welcome the newborn baby. Gifts are also given out by the family members.
Giving the Maori culture without giving the type of food, their economic activities, clothing and the traditional Maori culture will not make the discussion on the Maori culture, religion and rituals complete, therefore these aspects will be mentioned on the preceding paragraphs.
Keith (1980) points out that, the economic activities of the Maori culture vary with the location. He says that they are hunters, gatherers, and farmers. They hunt birds such as pigeons, ducks, and rat among others. Those that live along the coastal lines hunt grubs, earthworms, fish, shellfish, and sometimes whales. The Maoris use dogs for hunting purposes and the Maori are said to be cannibals thus thy also survived through eating each other (Keith, 1980).
Russell (1996) says that on art, the Maori has paintings and weavings mostly done by women. The indigenous Maori is characterized by group performance called kappa haka. There is also oratory that is authentic and has both entertaining and educative influence. The clothing is accompanied with tattooing of faces where women tattooed their lips and chins a method called ta ngutu. The tattooing was done either through piercing or pigmentation of various body parts (Keith, 1980)
Siers (1976) says that in the traditional Maori culture, society is segregated into small villages called kainga. These villages contain members of one of more members of a tribe usually called hapu. The kainga varies in sizes depending on productivity and population density of the regions. There are also villages that are fortified called pa. Each village has a store called pataka where war weapons, fishing gear and preserved foods are stored. The villages also have well decorated houses called whare whakairo which were for indoor meetings and entertainment of guests
In conclusion the rich indigenous culture of the Maori has been greatly influenced by modernity leading to some aspects being eroded. Has a result the Maori culture and religion has changed in the recent past (Keith, 1980).
 

Prayer Rituals Of Islam Religion Essay

There are many religions of the world, mostly all consisting of a ritual of prayer of some sort. Islam is the second largest religion of the world after Christianity. Like almost all religions, Islam also has rituals of prayer. These rituals consist of purifying oneself before prayers, the call for prayer, also known as the azaan, the salah or the prayer, and reciting the holy Qur’an. These prayer rituals are a part of the daily life of a Muslim.

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The salah starts right after the ‘Azaan’ or the call for prayer. It is recited by the ‘Mu’azzin’ who is the man who recites in Arabic, the call for prayer. This call is recited in Arabic. In English translation it means , ‘I confess there is no God but God, I confess there is no God but God. I confess Muhammad (PBUH) is the apostle of God.’ The people listening to this reply the same. The Mu’azzin says, ‘Come to prayer.’ The listeners reply ‘I have no power or strength but from God most High and Great.’ The Mu’azzin says, ‘Come to God.’ The listeners reply, ‘What God wills will be; what He wills not will not be.’ Lastly, the first two claims are recited once again to end off the call for prayer to all Muslims. The Azaan is not only a call for prayer to Muslims, it is also a reminder to all the believers that there is no God but Allah and that the Prophet (PBUH) was his messenger. This claim is also the basis of the ‘shahadah’ or the Islamic creed. ‘The azaan thus serves a double purpose; it is an announcement of the time of prayer and at the same time an announcement of the principles of Islam and the significance underlying them. It replaces the meaningless ringing of a bell or the blowing of a trumpet by the most effective propaganda of religion that can be thought of.’ (A Manual of Hadith) The azaan can be signified as the wakeup call for all believers, serving as a reminder of God.
Then comes the actual ritual of praying, the salah. This prayer consists of physical movements of the body along with holy words and phrases in Arabic. Firstly, one must be clean and pure and be standing in clean place, facing the Kaa’ba, the House of God. The prayer starts out as one stands up straight with hands by the sides, making an intention to pray. ‘I have purposed to offer up to God only, with a sincere heart, with my face towards Kaa’ba.’ Then, the hands are raised upto the ear lobes, reciting, ‘Allahu Akbar’ meaning, ‘Allah is the greatest.’ The hands are brought back down and the right hand is placed above the left hand. Both hands are placed below the navel for men and above the navel for women. The gaze is lowered towards the floor. In this position, recitations are made. ‘I seek refuge near God from cursed Satan. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.’ Following this, the first chapter of the holy Qur’an is recited. After that, the person is to recite any part of the Qur’an and as much as he/she wants to recite. Once that is said, the worshipper must once again recite ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning, ‘Allah is the greatest.’ Then, the worshipper is to bend down as to place the palms of the hands on the knees. In this position, the worshipper must recite ‘I praise the holiness of my Lord, the Great’ three times and stand back up with hands by the sides. Now he/she is to recite, ‘God hears Him who praises Him: O Lord, Thou art praised.’ After this, the worshipper goes down on the knees and places his forehead on the floor with the palms of the hands placed on the floor next to the head. The feet are to be resting upon the toes. In this position, the person is to recite ‘I praise the holiness of my Lord, the Most High.’ Then, the person sits up, placing his/her hands above the knees and recites ‘Allahu Akbar.’ In a few seconds, the person goes back down to the bow and recites the same phrase as the last prostration. This marks the end of the first ‘rakat.’ (The faith of Isl’m) Depending on the time of day and which prayer is being recited, the number of rakats varies. For example, for Fajr, the prayer before sunrise, and the third prayer, there are four rakats, for Dhurr, the afternoon prayer, there are 12 rakats. There are seven rakats for the evening prayer, Maghrib, and for the last prayer of the day, Isha, there are nine rakats. The same procedure follows for every prayer.
This form of prayer is mandatory and required by all Muslims as it is one of the pillars of Islam. There is no substitute for this prayer. It is a must-do. This ritual is the most important as it provides the person to connect with God through communication. Muslims believe that through salah, they can get a chance to communicate with God directly. ‘Among ritual worships, Salah occupies the key position for two reasons. Firstly, it is the distinctive mark of a believer. Secondly, it prevents an individual from all sorts of abominations and vices by providing him chances of direct communion with his Creator five times a day, wherein he renews his covenant with God and seeks His guidance again and again…Salah is the first practical manifestation of faith and also the foremost of the basic conditions for the success of the believers.’ (Islam In Concept) Not only does the salah keep the individual on a spiritual path and connected with God, it also keeps the body in motion and physically active, serving as a great health purpose. Being the key of all rituals of Islam, the salah serves to be the most connective and spiritual ritual of Islam.
Another type of prayer ritual is reciting the Holy Quran. The Qur’an is the holy book of Islam as compared to the Bible of the Christians and the Torah of the Jews. Just like the Hindus recite their Bhagavad Gita and the Jews recite their Torah, Muslims also recite the Qur’an. In Islam, reciting the Qur’an is a form of prayer. Muslims claim that the Qur’an is the word of God. Therefore, it is considered a holy and prayer-like task to recite it. Not only does one have to recite the words of the Qur’an, it is also important to understand the meaning of them as well as it is written in Arabic. This is a form of worship and prayer. ‘When you recite the Qur’an and contemplate its meanings, you take a positive step toward achieving happiness. Allah described the Qur’an as being guidance, light, and a cure for what is in the breasts of men. He also described it as being a Mercy.’ (Don’t be sad) Reciting the Qur’an is a form or prayer because Allah Himself claims in it that it will bring blessings and happiness in life. It is described to be like a handbook for our lives that we must follow, so reciting and understanding the Qur’an go hand in hand to establish a prayer. It is very common for Muslims to recite the Qur’an or perform salah when a difficulty arises in life, whatever it may be as Qur’an and salah have been the source of guidance towards a righteous path. ‘A righteous person once said: I felt a cloud of depression and anxiety was hanging over me. I picked up the Qur’an and I read it for a period of time. Then, by Allah, the depression and anxiety disappeared and happiness along with tranquility took their place.’ (don’t be sad) Reciting the Qur’an is a way of remembering God and keeping in mind his rules and regulations of life that are outlined in it. Along with performing salah, daily recitations keep the thought of God active in one’s mind. It is also a way of seeking refuge from Satan. The Prophet (PBUH) claims that ‘Allah has ordained that any man who engages himself in the recitation of Qur’an so oftenly that he finds no time for supplication I shall provide him more without asking than those who ask.’ (Principles of Islam) From this, we can conclude that reciting the holy Qur’an is not only a way of seeking God’s guidance, it also a reminder for all believers of God’s mercy and power.
Religions of all people provide rituals of prayer. Islam offers several rituals of prayer such as the sacred washing (wudhu), call for prayer or the azaan, performing the salah, and reciting the Qur’an. Whatever the ritual may be, they all provide ways of connecting with God.
Al-Omar, Abdur Rahman. The Religion of Truth. Saudi Arabia: Maktaba Dar-Us-Salam, 51-52. Print.
 

Cultural Differences in Death Rituals

The Culture of Death Rituals

A ritual is defined as “A behavior, often performed in repetitive and stereotyped ways, that expresses people’s anxieties by acting them out and that may be performed with the desire to influence supernatural beings or supernatural power to achieve greater control over the natural world” (Crapo, 2013, Glossary). During some point in our lives, we have all experienced a ritual whether we were aware of it or not. It could’ve been for a family member or friend’s funeral, a baptism, or even a wedding. When reflecting on these three events, you may notice one thing they all have in common: they are all rites of passages. According to Crapo (2013), rites of passages are ceremonies that are held whenever a member of society undergoes a significant change in status within the lifecycle of the group (Glossary). Death is a rite of passage we all will go through one day. It is unavoidable which can make it terrifying, but also intriguing. Throughout this essay, I will cover America’s culture on death rituals from an outsider’s perspective to see the overall importance that is or is not, placed on American death rituals. I will also discuss death rituals in Japan from an insider’s perspective to become more familiar with the meaning behind Japan’s rituals. In both countries, whatever rituals performed is considered standard for society to follow and are only questioned when said rituals are strayed away from. As the world has evolved, these death rituals have changed with it.

Part I

In this section, I will explain general American death rituals from an etic perspective. An etic perspective is defined as, “an outsider’s or observer’s alleged ‘objective’ account” (Crapo, 2013, Ch. 1.1). Think of a time when you experienced another culture either through travel or just an authentic restaurant. At one point during your experience, something may have happened that seemed odd or silly. I know I have said to myself, “wow, this is uncomfortable” as the mariachi band has sung their hearts away to my table at a Mexican restaurant. Well, that same culture, which’s actions may have been awkward or silly, has had the same thought or feeling toward American culture. It is essential to think out of the box, placing ourselves in other’s shoes.

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A great example of an outsider’s perspective on a known culture would be when Horace Miner wrote about the Nacirema culture. He describes the rituals and habits of this culture, which are quite alarming. After a thorough reading, you come to realize once finishing the article that Miner is describing the American culture. It is shocking to see how foreign our own American culture can be when taking the view of an outsider. When realizing that the American culture didn’t shock you before reading Miner’s article, it makes one thing evident: once you’ve learned about a culture that seemed odd, it may no longer seem strange.

Death is always one of two: expected or unexpected. Depending on whether the death in question was expected or not seems to determine what path the living takes when it comes to rituals, regardless of the religion involved. When an expected death has happened, every detail seems to play out without flaw. The body is transferred to a funeral home, and is either embalmed for a funeral then burial, or cremated. Some bodies are preserved, and then later cremated after a funeral service has taken place. It all happens so quickly and efficiently that once everything is complete, its as if everyone effect by the death moves on with their daily lives as if they were never disturbed. On the other side of the spectrum, when a death is unexpected, it seems to affect the living more intensely and for a little more time. Family and friends mourn for weeks, creating multiple physical memorials to remember and honor their loved one. An example of tragic and unexpected death is the Columbine Shooting in 1999. After the shooting, students started piling everything from flowers to posters in a grassy area near the school parking lot. The students also memorialized the murdered students’ cars that remained in the school parking lot. These memorials stood in remembrance for two weeks and were then removed.

In Erika Doss’ article (2006), there is a passage regarding the modern Westerns’ approach to grief being “viewed as a disruptive and debilitating emotion, and one that had to be dealt with—”worked through”—as quickly as possible, hence the emphasis on severing ties with the dead, with “letting go” and “moving on” (Doss, 2006, p.301). For some time until recently, it appears that death in America, whether expected or unexpected, was handled quickly and without post-funeral instruction. Grieving after the funeral was done in private, as public grieving was greatly frowned upon. Those affected by the death were expected by society to find closure and move on. Although there is still a lack of post-funeral instruction, the public is moving towards changing the view of public grieving that was previously frowned upon to an “increasingly permissible public emotion in America” (E. Doss, 2006, pg.306).

America is home to many ethnicities and religions. Each has their preferences on how funeral ceremonies should be done and how the deceased’s body is cared for. Take away anything related to religion or ethnicity, and there lie the basics of what the American culture influences death rituals. Because of all of the different religions Americans practice, there is a wide variety of beliefs on what happens once a person dies. Some believe nothing at all happens, that the deceased is gone and there is no afterlife. Many religions in America believe in some type of afterlives, such as limbo, reincarnation or heaven. Although there are still no instructions on how to proceed after one is gone, most Americans will make their own, unique path when dealing with loss.

Part II

In this section, I will explain the Japanese death rituals that are carried out regularly in everyday life, from an emic perspective. As Crapo (2013) defines it, “An emic description or analysis- that is, an insider’s or native’s meaningful account- may be written for outsiders but portrays a culture and its meanings as the insider understands it” (p.27). In her article, Rites of Passage to Death and Afterlife in Japan, Tsuji (2011) describe in great details Japanese traditions and how she felt lost once she moved to America and experienced the lack of direction after her husbands’ death.

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Japanese death rituals are better understood by first explaining the rites of passage leading up to one’s death. These rites start at age 60 and if one is lucky to live as long, go to age 111. Japanese culture considers these special rites that happen after Kanreki (60th birthday) to be initiations, or cultural guides, towards one’s death. Even after death, one is considered to have rites still when they are being remembered through ancestral worship. After death, the rituals begin with the Japanese Mortuary Tradition. This tradition helps guide the Japanese before and after death. Before someone dies, next of kin will wet the dying relative’s lips. This act signifies the nearness of death.

Once a person dies, a feast follows. Ritual services are carried out every seven days until the forty-ninth day after death, and another ritual takes place on the hundredth day. On the forty-ninth day, an elaborate service takes place honoring the deceased, and a feast follows. After the hundredth day, rituals will take place periodically depending on the anniversary year of death. These ritual services serve as a guide for the deceased to go from limbo to transforming into a Buddha. The dead then are on their way to ancestorhood.

The elderly are considered the caretakers of the ancestors in the home. Elderly women will perform daily rituals for the family’s ancestors and pass down stories of the deceased to the next generation. Young family members will know their long deceased relatives just as well as they would if the deceased were living. One day it will be this generation’s responsibility to continue passing down the stories of the family’s ancestors so that future generations can know them as well. For the surviving family, every morning before eating breakfast, a member of the family will offer some type of food and drink to an altar in the home that honors deceased family members. The meal provided may consist of the ancestors’ favorites or fresh foods that are considered delicacies. A priest from the temple will come on the anniversaries of the family members’ deaths to chant sutra, even long after the relatives have passed. During religious weeks families will visit the family grave to keep the spirit of the dead alive.

Today the Japanese culture has encountered hardship as these rituals are strived to be kept alive. There are a growing number of couple-only and single-person households. Japanese birth rates are declining as divorce rates increase. This has been viewed as disrespectful to the Japanese culture and has also damaged patrilineal descendant reliance. Non-traditional ways have become more popular, not by choice when caring for the dead. This is due to grave site shortages and the enormous financial burden put on the surviving families. The Japanese culture has created some possible contemporary solutions to these problems with effort to ease the financial burden. One of these options consists of single women and childless couples purchasing eternally worshiped graves. Some people have even chosen the opportunity to have a living funeral so that they can be apart of the event.

Anthony Pinn said in his article (2015), “Humans move through the world aware that life is framed by death, and death by life” (p.348). In essence, it doesn’t matter where a person is from or what they believe in, death is inevitable.

References

Crapo, R. H. (2013). Cultural anthropology [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/

Doss, E. (2006). Spontaneous Memorials and Contemporary Modes of Mourning in America. Material Religion, 2(3), 294-318

Miner, H. (1956). Body Ritual among the Nacirema. Links to an external site. American Anthropologist, 58(3), 503–507. Retrieved from https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html

Pinn, A. (2015). The End: Thoughts on Humanism and Death. Dialog: a Journal of Theology, 54(4), 347-354. Retrieved from the EBSCOhost database.

Tsuji, Y. (2011). Rites of passage to death and afterlife in Japan. Generations Journal of the American Society on Aging, 35(3), 28-33. Retrieved from the EBSCOhost database.

Death Rituals In American And Egyptian Society

The term burial refers to the practice of disposing of dead bodies or remains of the dead. Though there are other ways of disposing of dead bodies as practiced by people following different religions, the term burial particularly means the act of placing a body into the dug into the ground. Once the digging has been done, the body is placed inside, followed by the replacement grave of the soil to fill the hollow again. Though the term burial may refer to burying of any object or body, it usually refers to the burial of the body of dead person. It is sometimes also used for the placement of a body into a tomb. Burial of dead bodies prevents the release of stink as a result of gases discharged by bacterial putrefaction after a body starts to decompose (Bodiford, 1992). History tells us that burial is an old custom and the first instances in history are found during the Paleolithic period in European caves.
Research method
The approach used for data collection relied on both secondary and primary sources. Data were gathered according to two complementary techniques:
* Documentary research and
* Personal interviews
With respect to documentary research, the internet served as the primary tool for research. Relevant journals, articles and books provided the information. For more scholarly sources online libraries and research databases such as Emerald and Ebsco were used.
Personal interviews were conducted from a number of local residents from different areas selected randomly. The majority of these interviews were personally conducted at or outside their residences; a few however were interviewed on the phone. Informal, conversational interviews were taken where Death and Burial Rituals were discussed. In most of the cases no predetermined questions were asked. This strategy kept the discussions open and adaptable. Almost all the interviewees discussed how they have seen changes in these rituals with passage of time. They also shared their personal experiences.
Introduction
Many communities all over the world bury their dead in keeping with their religious beliefs and social customs. Usually the body is carefully handled and buried with respect. In some cultures it is believed that the physical remains continue to be important to the person who has passed into the next world. In other cultures, a ceremonial burning frees the spirit to go up to its new abode in the next world.
Many variations in the burial customs are found especially in early Asian communities. Though, burial usually refers to burying in ground, history tells that amongst the Vikings water burials were common. Later, they started to burn the bodies followed by scattering the ashes in water (Wahl, 1961).
In India, outdoor funeral pyres were common by the side of rivers and the ashes were frequently thrown into the holy Ganges River. Nonetheless, these customs are transitory and have changed to a great extent over time. As societies have evolved, their ways of burying their dead and grave markings evolve too only to provide an interesting area to be studied by archeologists of the future generations.

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This essay aims at comparing and contrasting the death and burial rituals of the contemporary American society with the ancient Egyptian society and their primitive ways of burial. The essay would talk about how the ancient Egyptians would preserve the dead bodies (mummies). It would also talk about how in modern America and in modern Egypt bodies are buried in the natural form to signify death as a rite of passage.
Egyptian rituals of burial and death:
Ancient Egyptian society believed in rebirth and this is what reflects in the burial rites that they practiced. For them, death was not the end of life but only an interval. They believed that eternal life could be ensured by leading a pious life and by preserving the bodies of those that passed away by mummifying them. For the Egyptians, every human body consisted of the ‘ka’, the ‘ba’, and the ‘akh’ (name, body and shadow) (Spencer, 1988). The name and shadow were also considered to be living things that had to be sustained and shielded from harm along with the body so as to enjoy eternal life.
Bodies that are buried in desert pits are naturally preserved by aridity. Therefore, the poor Egyptians who could not afford a ceremonial burial were usually buried in deserts. Rich people would bury their dead in stone tombs making use of non-natural mummification methods. This involved doing away with the internal organs, followed by covering the body in linen. The body was finally buried in a stone tomb in a wooden coffin.
By the New Kingdom, the ancient Egyptians had mastered the art of mummifying dead bodies. The best method took as many as 70 days and involved removal of the internal organs including the brain which was removed through the nose. The body was then dried out after the application of a mixture of salts called natron. The body was then covered in linen with protecting amulets placed in between layers and placed in an ornamented anthropoid sarcophagus.
The original preservation practices declined during the Ptolemaic and Roman eras as greater importance was now given to the outward appearance of the mummy, which was bejeweled. Rich people were buried with a lot of luxury items. Nonetheless, all burials, not considering the social status, included goods for the departed soul. After burial, the family and friends of the dead were expected to occasionally bring foodstuff to the tomb and offer prayers for the departed soul.
Egyptians assumed that preserving the body by mummifying it was the only way to have an eternal life. A special constituent of the death and burial ritual was a carved mask, put on the face of the dead. This mask was thought to make the spirit of the mummy stronger and protect the soul from evil spirits on its way to the next world. Egyptians believed in the flimsy state of transition – thinking that the dead would have to successfully surpass in their physical and spiritual flight from this world to the next.
Burial and Death rituals in American culture:
The United States has a loaded history of burial and death rituals and traditions that have merged with the incursion of Evangelical and Catholic customs to form fascinating and at times strange contemporary practices.
The present century has observed a number of remarkable changes in death customs of the United States. Some of these changes, perhaps, represent improvements in the long established rituals; others do not. Customs of burial were completely different a century ago than they are at present. Mr. Peterson, a local resident, shared his father’s early life experiences of death rituals with us. While giving details, he told us that his father grew up in a countryside area of south-central Kentucky. When an old lady in his neighborhood died, female members from his family went to her cottage, bathe the dead woman and made her wear the best dress from her wardrobe. The next day a wooden coffin was brought and was loaded in the rear of a wagon drawn by a mule and towed to a small graveyard a few miles away. The members of her family had a small gathering near her grave and stayed there for a brief service. Routine work was resumed quickly.
Another local interviewee, while talking about his own experiences, told us that his grandfather died when he was only nine year old (five decades ago). They transported the dead body to their old family home for a family gathering. He recalled that there was already a small “funeral parlor” in the close by city by that time. His grandfather’s body was placed in one of the bigger rooms. The adult of the family stayed up late talking of the past and about the good deeds of the dead man. The body was buried in the little graveyard the following day.
The death culture of the United States has changed significantly over the last few decades and even at present a variation can be seen in these practices in different localities of the country. In southern America, burials and funerals, predominantly, continue to be extremely “sanctified” events. Residents of southern America still give way to the passing burial procession and pull to the side of the streets.
Things are fundamentally different in the Western part of the country. A funeral, according to an interviewee belonging to the West, takes a completely worldly atmosphere. He, while giving details of his personal experience, recalled that he had attended many funerals where there was no insinuation of the spiritual or religious words, no talking about of God, no interpretation from the Bible, no sacrosanct signs, and no holy hymns. A number of funeral processions even took on an almost celebratory atmosphere.
Another interviewee talked about the playing of popular music in the burial and funeral processions of the Western America. Residents of the West are also seen as too busy to be attending these services. They have a very casual attitude towards these services. A few interviewees also mentioned about attending some funeral services in with even fewer than a dozen people came for the service.
The present Burial and funeral practices of the United States correspond to the emotional, economical and symbolic facets of their lives (Spencer, 1988). A few people, with respect to the economic explanations, affirms that funeral practices of America indicate the nature of materialism and capitalism. Others, however, believe that these Death customs symbolize the core beliefs of the social system; that “life is sacred”.
Almost all the funeral services in America are characterized by a relaxed and normal public show of the dead body on his last day before burial. The main rationale behind this is that people want to show an acceptance of the verity that dead bodies will decay with passing time and that no one is making an attempt to spell out that they have been nauseated with this (British Humanist Association website, 2003). Dead bodies On the other hand, are represented as simple as possible so as to display that no manipulation has been done as normally carried out by capitalist systems.
American Fascination of Egyptian Mummies and modern Egyptian burial practices
The culture of ancient Egypt and the mummification of their dead bodies have been a source of great inscrutability and attraction to the people of United States. The Egyptian belief that mummies and their spirits are capable of flying out of the burial place and come back to it is also a bit terrifying to a number of Americans.
Although the burial and funeral practices of the Egyptians and Americans were extremely different in the ancient times, Egyptian culture has drastically changed with passing time. They have given up the mummification of the dead bodies and burial of Gold and other worldly things with the dead.
The most prevailing religion in Modern Egypt is “Islam” so their current burial and funeral practices are completely in accordance with the teachings of their religion (Andrews, 1994). When a Muslim Egyptian is close to death, the family members are called upon to console, and remind him/her of God’s compassion and amnesty. Verses from the Qur’an may also be recited by some encouraging the dying soul to recite words of commemoration and prayer.
When the person is dead, the family members are encouraged to stay peaceful, pray for the deceased, and start arrangements for funeral. The eyes of the departed should be closed, and the dead body is temporarily covered with a clean sheet. Egyptian Muslims try hard to bury the dead body as early as possible.
The family members, relatives or other members of the society, in preparation for funeral, will bathe and shroud the dead body. The body is then carried to the place of the funeral prayers. These last prayers are usually held in the open air. All the people gather there, and the prayer leader (imam) stands at the front of the dead body.
After the final prayers, the dead body is transported to the graveyard for burial. Although funeral prayers are attended by all members of the community, only the male members go with the dead body to the graveyard (Faure, 1991). The dead body is peacefully laid in the grave facing the holy city of Mecca. Putting flowers or other momentos is strictly discouraged by the Islamic teachings.
Now that we have read about the modern Egyptian burial and funeral practices more closely, we can see that it is very similar to the modern American burial rituals.
Conclusion
Rituals regarding burial and funeral cremation represent the beliefs, holy cosmology and rational growth of people and their customs. Today, the average individual is likely to disregard studying or exploring about traditions of burials and funerals. The reason behind this is that the present world is more about young life and life with an entrenched apprehension of death buried in one side of the mind. Death is an inescapable part of living. Archaeologists search and investigate the history of ancient civilizations by discovering burial and funeral practices that different cultures have left behind. These findings disclose more and more about the way societies have lived and from where our current cosmology around the world has come from.
 

Indigenous Sacred Rituals and the Affects of Patented, Transgeic Maize by Multi-National Corporations

Thesis:  The impact of large corporations using patented, transgenic maize products for human consumption and the socio-cultural, economic implications such poses to indigenous populations and their sacred rituals.

I. Three conditions described, with regard to transgenic maize products

 A. Socio-cultural implications presented to indigenous populations

  1. Indigenous sacred ways and pre-Hispanic culture                                            2. Sacredness of maize                                                                                                                3. Corporations interfering with cultural rituals

 B. Impact of large corporations, using patented, transgenic maize products

  1. What are genetically modified organisms?                                             2. What is transgenic maize?                                                                                                                3. Patenting of biological products                                                                                                  4. Corporations patenting biological products

 C. Other implications

  1. Ecological                                                 2. Economic                                                                                                                                            3. Ethical

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Indigenous Sacred Rituals and the Affects of Patented, Transgenic Maize by Multi-National Corporations

 With regard to the Senior Seminar on the Sacred, and related-fields major in Biological Sciences and Latino/a Latin American Studies, I propose the topic of indigenous sacred ways, notably the sacredness of corn to Oaxacans and the Mayas. I also propose how Monsanto, a large corporation, whose only goals are to capitalize and promote the globalization of transgenic corn products, will have a detrimental impact on the lives and rituals of such indigenous populations.

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 The above topics, as they relate to my related-fields major, interest me due to the dense political, socio-cultural and economic implications they present to indigenous populations. With regard to the Biological Sciences major, the concept of transgenic organisms will be investigated further. While embarking on a journey throughout Oaxaca this past winter, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with some descendants of indigenous civilizations and explore their culture and way of life. I was able to discover and comprehend the state of poverty these people are presented with and also their urgent need to guard their sacred indigenous rituals. As it relates to corn, for example, the indigenous people plant a variety of seeds: red, black, white, etc. If one of these seeds does not yield any crops, due to weather patterns, for instance, another variety will prevail.  The agricultural techniques employed by the indigenous people have been passed down from generation to generation. If a large corporation, such as Monsanto, obtains a patent on transgenic corn, in the state of Oaxaca via globalizing their seeds, farmers will be forced to purchase the seeds from such corporations. These seeds have

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the capability to migrate and cross-fertilize via wind or insect movement as well. There also exists corn-dumping of any excess genetically modified crops from the United States into Mexico. Corn is also imported into Mexico. Given that plants breed by dispersion, and that much of the corn in the United States is produced from transgenic sources, it is evident that they will eventually come into contact with traditional seed varieties across the border. As a result, the indigenous sacred ways of saving and planting seeds will be greatly affected, disrupted if large, multi-national corporations find a way to “get” their seeds south of the border. If such occurs and the biological varieties of corn are reduced to a few species of transgenic crops, how will these people survive? As previously mentioned, there exists great poverty and these people will greatly suffer, if they must purchase genetically modified seeds from Monsanto.

 I pose the following questions, pertaining to the research topics I propose: What are transgenic organisms and why are they being synthesized? Who is Monsanto? What authority do they have over the indigenous people’s corn? What economic impact will the indigenous people of Oaxaca face, if forced to purchase transgenic seeds and how will such affect their rituals and customs? Is there anything we can learn from the indigenous people’s way of life, as it pertains to natural resource consumption, including food? To further investigate the following questions, I will commence by reflecting back on my experiences while in Oaxaca. I will obtain reading materials, with the advice of my mentor, Dr. Martivon Galindo, and explore scientific resources regarding transgenic organisms and, after the research, I will acquire a better awareness on the aforementioned issues.

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Brook Akins

Indigenous Sacred Rituals and the Affects of Patented,

Transgenic Maize by Multi-National Corporations

 Biodiversity, from a scientific perspective, accounts for all life forms on Earth. It

 is a complex, interdependent phenomenon which is necessary for the sustainability of life. Life on our planet is comprised of many different species and, while such species share common traits, not a single genome is one hundred percent entirely identical.  The uniqueness of a species’ blueprint lies in its deoxyribonucleic acid, a complex molecule which ensures diversity of every life form on Earth.  As a result, the various species, populations, communities and ecosystems are intertwined and dependent on each other, as without them, life would cease to exist and extinction would occur. (ESA.org, 1997).

 Human beings belong to the species, Homo sapiens, and have inhabited the earth for quite some time. While many theories exist amongst the various cultures, religions and science with regard to the origination of life, it is important to note that the spirituality of indigenous cultures has always remained in close contact with “Mother Earth.” Prior to the Spanish Conquest, approximately in 1521 AD, indigenous populations inhabited the Americas and followed their own set of rituals which encompassed their indigenous sacred ways, bestowed upon them via their ancestors. 

 For instance, the Mayas, whose civilization peaked around 900 AD, and according to the Popol Vuh, A Sacred Book of the Maya, suggest that the world was

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created by “the will of the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of Earth.” Such names were given by the Maya “K’iche’” to God. Furthermore, as per the Popol Vuh, the Mayas did not see creation as the “Big Bang Theory,” nor was anything comparable to Darwin’s, “Theory of Evolution,” discussed. Rather, the earth was created with the assistance of Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, the helpers of the Heart of Heaven, who to the Mayas, was God.

“Let it be like this! Let the empty sky fill up! Let the waters recede and let the earth arise! Let the dawn begin, and let the light cover the sky and the earth!” (Montejo, 7-14).

  Please allow us to further explore more of the Popol Vuh, as it relates to the sacredness of corn. It is indeed a sacred book which represents pre-Hispanic culture, not withholding that  The Sacred is the theme of our ISAC experience: “Our creation will not be complete until human beings can walk the earth,” said Tepew and Q’uk’umatz. Hence, when they called “Earth,” the earth appeared. Creation was compared to magic, and arose from a misty dust, while mountains appeared from the waters. Plants and trees took form, as did the valleys and hills. However, something was lacking: The Creators remarked stillness as silence dissipated beneath the trees and throughout the valleys. They reasoned further and said, “Will there only be silence and stillness beneath the tree branches and vines? It would be good if there were creatures in the trees and forests.” Animals of all sizes were, moreover, created. Deer, birds, jaguars, pumas, and serpents, whose duty was to guard the vines, all were brought to life. Since the animals could not speak, and, thus, were unable to respect and sing praise to their Creators, they were not satisfied and explained to them that their flesh would be consumed and eaten; this was their fate. As the sun was about to rise, they created “The Clay People,” out of hope that they would be

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respectful and sing praise unto them. The clay man’s body was “mushy” and could not walk, he also began to fall apart, so the Creators attempted again. Their second creation of humans was “The Wooden People.” They called upon their ancestors, their first grandfather and grandmother, Ixpiyakok and Ixmukane, respectively, for assistance. Ixpiyakok was the grandfather of day and Ixmukane was the grandmother of sunrise. They asked their ancestors to “use the powers of the corn kernels and tz’ite’ seeds to decide the substance for the body of man.” Once their ancestors used their divine powers, they called upon the corn kernels and the tz’ite’ seeds and received a reply from them suggesting it would be wise to make man out of wood, and he was created out of such. He could speak and multiply, however, he had no “soul” nor did he possess “the gift of reason.” The “Wooden People” were unable to recall their Creators and had no direction. They were hard and firm, lacking both flesh and blood. As a consequence, the Creators were still not satisfied and a flood was sent by the will of the Heart of Heaven, which destroyed them. The body of the first man was made of tz’ite’ wood and the body of the first woman was created from “espadana reeds.” After condemned to destruction, since they were unable to communicate with their Creators, and after the boiling rain which flooded them, Xek’otk’owach, a turkey buzzard descended and pecked their eyes out. Kamalotz, a vampire bat, descended as well and removed their heads. Lastly, Kotz’b’alam, the jaguar arrived and consumed them. This was their form of punishment for not remembering their Creator, the Heart of Heaven, who is also known as Juraqan. Everyone was upset with the wooden people, as they showed neither care nor concern. They were cruel to the animals and only thought about themselves. The wooden

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people were selfish. According to the Sacred Book of the Maya, the Popol Vuh, the monkeys of the trees are the offspring of the wooden people, and survived, hence, this is why they resemble people. (Montejo, 14-19).

 Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, the Creators,attempted once again to create humans and this third creation was known as “The Corn People.” They said, “The time for the first dawn has arrived, and we must complete our creation. Let man and all of humanity

appear on the earth’s surface. Humankind will give us our sustenance.” They gathered in the dark to contemplate and reflect and were able to decide on the correct material to employ in order to create man. They found the corn, which was used to create the first man, in Paxil and K’ayala’. Joj, the crow, Utiw, the coyote, K’el, the parrot and Yak, the wildcat, all discovered this food and enlightened their Creators and brought it back from Paxil. It was in Paxil and K’ayala’ that an abundance of white and yellow corn was discovered. Other fruits and seeds, such as beans, wild plums, anona, zapote, cacao and honey were discovered there as well. The story continues:

 The first mother and father were created and their flesh was composed of yellow and white corn. The first four men’s arms and legs were created with corn meal. The ears of both the white and yellow corn were ground by Grandmother Ixmukane and provided muscle, strength and power to the newly created men. These men were able to speak, see, hear and were tenacious. They were highly intelligent and their visual acuity spanned miles; they could see distant, way up into the sky. They were highly respectful of their Creators and thanked them gratefully. They said to their Creators, “We are truly grateful

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to you, many times over, O Creator and Maker. We’ve been created with a mouth and a face. We can speak, hear, think and walk. We can grasp objects and recognize those

things both near and far from us. We can also see the big and little things in the sky and the four corners of the earth. We give you our thanks, O Creator and Maker, for the life you have given us.” Their vision was clouded somewhat as not to possess the same powers as their Creators. Later that evening, the four men were blessed with four beautiful wives and they multiplied, giving rise to tribes of the K’iche’ nation. Many

nations were created in the East and there existed both dark and white-skinned people of all classes, who spoke different languages. They were the people of the corn. (Montejo, 61-64).

  It is important to note that during the Spanish Conquest many Mayan codices were burned and their people were brutally attacked. The Popol Vuh is a sacred book and is considered the Bible of the Maya, for which it is representative of indigenous sacred ways and is a crucial component of Mayan culture. The stories span over several thousand years and trace the lineage of Mayan lords up until their torture and imprisonment by the Spanish conquistadors. (Montejo, 7).

  Berger laments that, “religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established (34). Put differently, religion is cosmization in a sacred mode. By sacred is meant here a quality of mysterious and awesome power, other than man and yet related to him, which is believed to reside in certain objects of experience. (35).”  (Berger, 25).

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  Such mysterious and awesome power is depicted in the Popol Vuh and, as one explores the writings, one is able to comprehend the sacredness of corn to this indigenous civilization.

 While corn has been sacred for millennia to the Maya Civilization throughout Latin America and Mexico, it is also sacred to other indigenous populations in Mexico. For many Mexicans, it comprises the bulk of their diet. Native knowledge has been

passed down from generation to generation for centuries and small farmers have guarded thousands of traditional corn seed varieties. As a result, biodiversity of corn exists greatly in the country of Mexico. According to the Organic Consumers Association, Mexican officials, on September 4, 2001, stated that many genetically modified corn crops were found growing nearby traditional corn crops in the state of Oaxaca. They stipulate further

that “gene pollution” of the nations 20,000 corn varieties could be contaminated and irreversible damage may occur, if such is crossed with the genetically modified versions of seed marketed by Monsanto. (Organic Consumers Association, 2010).

 These statements pose important questions:  1.What is genetically modified corn? 2. What are genetically modified organisms and 3. Who is Monsanto? Genetically modified corn is also known as transgenic maize. It is a product of biotechnology and is genetically engineered. In order to obtain the final product, a scientific process of transfection is utilized. Transfection, therefore, is a process by which one introduces, artificially, foreign genes into an organism and, thus, such organism is said to be “genetically modified,” or, further, “transgenic.” Such genes may be inserted via recombinant DNA techniques, into the genetic material of animals, microbes and plants.

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Talaro considers these transgenic forms to be “designer organisms.” Since these “unique” organisms do not exist naturally in our habitat, hence, “designed,” they are allowed, politically speaking to be patented. (Talaro, 303).

 Recombinant DNA technology peaked in the 1970’s and scientists utilized genetic engineering in the area of biomedical research.  It has also been applied to medicine, biotechnology and agriculture and entails manipulating an organism’s genome via the

usage of recombinant DNA, and such DNA can be added or removed from an organism’s genetic blueprint. Given this technology, scientists are able to create new varieties of animals, plants and other organisms which contain specific genetic traits; it also enables one to create more effective therapeutic products at a lower cost. These manipulated organisms have, hence, been coined the term “Genetically modified organisms,” or

GMO’s.  It is a lucrative business and is rapidly growing, encompassing approximately 5000 companies in 54 countries. Currently, there are more than 350 bioengineered products on the market. To provide an idea of just how lucrative the biotechnology industry is, according to their own analysts in 2009, they have generated commercialized products valued over $45 billion dollars in the United States alone. Although the usage of recombinant DNA in biotechnology is quite modern, the science itself dates back to ancient times.  Scientists, in retrospect, were able to create breads, cheeses, alcoholic beverages and vinegar with the employment of microbes. It is suggested that the concepts of biotechnology and genetic engineering are able to resolve problems on a global scale, albeit via unnatural processes. As a result, such raises many social, economic and ethical concerns unknown to the human experience. (Klug et al., 634).

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 While it is important to further investigate the social, economic and ethical implications of bioengineered products, please allow us to focus on it at a later point in this paper; however, prior to such, it is important to understand how the processes involved within the realm of recombinant DNA in biotechnology work with respect to transgenic crops. As one is already likely aware, scientists are now able to identify, isolate and clone genes which confer specific traits. They have identified methods to

insert these genes into organisms and have developed ones that confer resistance to insects and herbicides. Others have been designed to “enhance” the nutritional value of foods via their insertion into farm plants and animals. The biological concept is simple to grasp. In order to create a cloned vector, one commences with a single cell, which may be of human, plant or mammalian in nature.  The DNA of interest is isolated and, moreover,

inserted into a vector. The vector is, furthermore, inserted into the cloning host and such becomes a recombinant cell due to the “recombining” of two different organisms’ DNA. The cell is further multiplied and the gene is amplified. The newly created cell and amplified gene is ready for application. In the case of transgenic plants, it would now be ready for insertion into the plant cell and would have to cross the plant’s cell wall. A gene gun, also referred to small “shotguns” is one process that biotechnology firms utilize for gene insertion into the embryos of plants with the usage of tiny gold bullets. We will explore other methods of vector insertion into plant cell walls shortly. The desired, newly-created genes may confer resistance to pesticides or herbicides, for example. Others may contain an increased amount of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A production, and be inserted into a golden rice plant, on the other hand. (Talaro, 298).

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 A notable species of bacteria belonging to the genus Agrobacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, is of pathogenic nature and may invade injured plant tissues. It contains a large plasmid and has the capacity to induce tumors; hence it has been given the name “Ti,” indicative of “tumor-inducing.” This particular plasmid is capable of inserting itself into the genomes of infected plant cells and can transform them. Even when the bacteria inside the tumor are dead, Ti genes remain in the nucleus of the cell and the tumor continues to proliferate. It is in essence a remarkable vector utilized for the insertion of foreign genes into plant genomes. Recalling how biotechnology uses recombinant DNA as described above, the Ti plasmid is removed, and a specific, previously-isolated gene, such as one which confers herbicide resistance, is inserted into the plasmid, and it reverts back to Agrobacterium. The bioengineered plant is then “infected” with the recombinant bacteria and such transfers the plasmid containing the foreign gene into the cells of the plant. Using a bacterium of this nature as a medium of vector transport does not require the usage of a “gene gun.” As a result, it is the most employed method in the bioengineering process of plants. Once the genetically engineered Agrobacterium is inoculated into the target plant cell, it “infects” it and fuses with the cell wall, allowing it to empty its altered genetic material, containing the herbicide-resistant gene. The herbicide-resistant gene is integrated into the plant chromosome and becomes part of its genome. When the plant multiplies, the newly-created genetic material will be transmitted to its offspring. The new offspring contain the “designed” genetic material, or transgenes, and are considered transgenic, in other words, genetically modified organisms. Another species belonging to the same genus

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utilized in the process of plant bioengineering is Agrobacterium rhizogenes, also a pathogenic soil inhabitant, which attacks the plant’s roots and causes them to grow abnormally. (Talaro, 303-305).

 An additional important species of bacteria used in the bioengineering process of transgenic plants is the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It is also one of the most controversial. This particular bacterium, when ingested by insects and larvae, produces a

protein and crystallizes in their respective gut lining, leading to their demise. It is useful for warding off pests such as the corn-borer larvae, which contribute to millions of dollars in crop damage globally. The applications of Bt onto crops were initially sprayed. However, with the advent of recombinant DNA technologies, scientists designed Bt transgenic crops, that contain “built-in insecticide protection.” The particular cry gene which encodes for the Bt crystalline protein have effectively been inserted into a variety of crops, including, but not limited to cotton, corn, tobacco and tomatoes. Controversy sparked with regard to Bt transgenic crops when populations of Monarch butterflies, who do not feed directly on the corn itself, decreased due to the possibility of inadvertent pollen ingestion. (Klug et al., 640).

 Recalling that Monarch butterflies may have inadvertently been exposed to Bt via ingesting the pollen from corn, a number of huge multi-national corporations come to mind: companies such as Dow, Du Pont, Syngenta and Monsanto have since commercialized agrobiotechnology. These companies all share something in common, moreover: they have all been involved in the chemical business! Genetically modified

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foods fall under the category of the FDA; however, they lack government regulation. These genetically modified foods are categorized as “GRAS,” which is an acronym for

“generally regarded as safe.” The public, on the other hand, has no idea if such transgenic products are safe and food labels in the supermarkets do not specify if the item is genetically modified or not. (Cummings, 1-11).

 Furthermore, Phil-Dahl Bredine, a highly intelligent individual, whom we had the pleasure to meet and learn from in Oaxaca, and Stephen Hicken suggest that, in the United States, approximatey forty-five percent of all corn is derived from genetically modified crops. This phenomenon creates problems for the farmers of the United States due to natural pollen drift. The genes contained in the genetically modified crops are patented, notably by the U.S. biotech giant Monsanto. Such patented genes, due to natural pollen drift (i.e. from wind or insect movement not only threaten the biodiversity of natural pure corn varieties, but pose a further risk for farmers: they are at risk of being sued as a result of saving and planting corn seeds containing patented genes from Monsanto, through no fault of their own. These patented genes have also been found south of the border, which corroborates the Organic Consumer Association’s claim, into Mexico and the “campesinos” that pass native knowledge from generation to generation are at great risk of such genes inadvertently crossing into their traditional seed varieties. (Dahl-Bredine et al., 13-20).

 Recalling that for millennia, corn has been sacred and continues to be for the indigenous people throughout Latin America, the Mayas and other Mesoamerican populations. These people consider themselves “people of corn.” With corn comprising

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the bulk of their diet, and vis-à-vis the creation of man as depicted in the Popol-Vuh, one can clearly visualize that corn is a sacred component of their culture. Unlike the United States, where monocropping has shaped “modern” agriculture, indigenous farmers

employ farming techniques that have been handed down from their ancestors; such “native knowledge” is passed from one generation to the next. In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the Mixteca Alta region is inhabited by the descendants of the ancient indigenous Mixteca culture. Families in this village guard the various seed varieties that were saved by their ancestors, creating a diverse bank of seeds dating back, in retrospect,

to pre-Hispanic times. Each family plants their own varieties of diverse seeds, although they are distinctly related. A traditional indigenous farmer uses a hand-carved oak plow attached to cow oxen instead of heavy machinery. They plant a mixture of crops such as squash, black beans, amaranth and corn in a small field and create a milpa, in which the crops are planted in a complementary fashion, indicative of traditional indigenous farming. In addition, they plant several different corn kernel varieties, such as red, black and white seeds consecutively. This procedure is employed to account for all possible weather patterns. If it is dry, for example, the white corn may not survive. The other two varieties, the red and black, on the other hand, will prevail in parched conditions. This method of agricultural farming protects the environment by ensuring that the seeds remain genetically diverse and provides an advantage over a homogeneous family of plants, as the genetically diverse seeds retain the possibility of breeding in resistance to any new mutations that may threaten them. The homogeneous family, on the contrary, is at risk to a threatening mutation and is susceptible to destruction, as they have been

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biologically reduced to just a few species. Their farming methods also provide for food sustainability and strengthen local economies, as any surplus of crop is sold locally. Furthermore, their cultural heritage and “native knowledge” are preserved as a result of

the practice of saving seeds, which will be replanted and eventually passed on to future generations. (Dahl-Bredine et al., 13-17).

 In the 1970’s, the United States government began allowing corporations to patent living organisms, albeit, prior to patent approval, they must be genetically modified. While it is illegal to patent one’s own genes, this phenomenon allowed multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto to synthesize genetically modified crops and to patent them. With regard to the safety of genetically modified organisms, one’s eyebrows may rise, as Edwards points out the following: “…and believe that Monsanto is ethical enough to keep these foods safe, you’ve got to take pause when Monsanto prohibits genetically modified foods from being served to its executives.” (Edwards, 2009).

 As per Monsanto’s website, www.Monsanto.com, they claim to synthesize the genetically modified crops for the following reasons: “Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainability so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.”  Monsanto currently has many different varieties of genetically modified products which it has patented and markets. One important stipulation, on the other hand, is a required signature on the consumer’s

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agreement stating that the purchaser will not save any of the seeds they obtain from Monsanto and replant them the following year. (Monsanto, 2010).

 After exploring Monsanto’s website, the discovery is clearly evident: if the indigenous farmers in Oaxaca were forced to purchase seeds directly from Monsanto, on

an annual basis, this would greatly affect their indigenous sacred ways, notably their sacred ritual of planting and saving seeds. It would pose great economic implications, as much poverty exists in Mexico and such people may be unable to afford to purchase seeds directly from Monsanto annually. From an ecological perspective, it would also destroy the biodiversity of their seed varieties and as Phil Dahl-Bredine and Stephen Hicken state: “If indeed Monsanto succeeds in reducing the existing varieties of corn in the world to the few genetically modified varieties it markets, then it is possible that one single mutant disease could threaten the very existence of corn on the planet. And if at some point teocintle and the richly diverse corns of southern Mexico are eliminated, it is possible we will have nowhere to turn for genetic material that can serve as protection for our future corn sources.” (Dahl-Bredine, et al., 17).

  Given the required consumer agreements Monsanto requires, Mexican farmers would be at risk for the many different legal implications their genetically modified seeds may create for them. After this research it appears that Monsanto’s quest remains the same, however: to continue globalization of its genetically modified seeds and products. One may also recall that Indian farmers committed suicide via drinking one of Monsanto’s pesticide, they were forced to purchase, for some of Monsanto’s genetically

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engineered crops, perhaps symbolic to the detriment the company’s products posed them economically?

 With regard to safety, please note the following scientific study on Monsanto’s genetically modified corn: A study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, with regard to the effects of genetically modified foods in animals, revealed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn products are linked to organ damage in rats. Researchers wrote: “Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these genetically modified maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity…These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long periods of time are currently unknown.” Monsanto immediately conducted a 90-day study of their GM corn and concluded it was safe for human consumption. Perhaps, a bit pre-mature, as chronic illnesses may take longer than 90 days to appear. (Emami, G., 2010).

 From an ethical perspective and to conclude:  While some genetically modified organisms may prove beneficial, it is important to note, that, with regard to transgenic plants, some ecologists and plant geneticists remain concerned: the sharing of transgenic

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genes with natural plants may lead to what are considered “superweeds,” and such may proliferate without any means of destroying them. Talaro elaborates: “Ethical choices can only be properly made from a standpoint of intellectual awareness, and in this era of advertising, polling and focus groups, people with a stake in genetic technology know that the most effective way to drum up support (both for or against) is not by carefully educating the public as to the uses and limits of our newfound powers but rather by publicizing exaggerated claims of frightening scenarios. Society has never before had the ability to do even a fraction of the things we can do today, and at some point we must decide where we should stop, or if we need to stop at all. Where do we as individuals and as a society draw the line? We live in serious times and these are serious choices requiring serious thought. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.” 

Take great care!

 

 

 

 

 

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Annotated Bibliography 1

 

Cummings C. 2008. Uncertain peril. Boston: Beacon Press. p 1-11.

Companies such as Dow, Monsanto, Du Pont, and Syngenta have commercialized agrobiotechnology; these companies all share something in common: they have all been involved in the chemical business. Genetically modified foods fall under the category of the FDA, but lack government regulation, as they are “generally regarded as safe.” The public, however, has no idea if such transgenic products are safe, and food in supermarkets does not specify if it is genetically modified or not.

Dahl-Bredine P, Hicken S. 2008.  The other game lessons from how life is played in

 mexican villages.  New York:  Orbis Books. p 13-20.

In the United States, approximately forty-five percent of all corn is derived from genetically modified crops. This phenomenon creates problems for U.S. farmers due to natural pollen drift. The genes contained in the genetically modified crops are patented, notably by the U.S. biotech giant Monsanto. Such patented genes, due to natural pollen drift,(i.e. from wind or insect movement), not only threaten the biodiversity of natural, pure corn varieties, but pose a further risk for farmers: they are at risk of being sued as a result of saving and planting corn seeds containing patented genes from Monsanto, through no fault of their own. These patented genes have also been found south of the border into Mexico and the “campesinos,” who pass native knowledge from generation to generation are at great risk from of such genes inadvertently crossing into their traditional seed varieties.

Emami, G. “Monsanto’s GMO Corn Linked to Organ Failure, Study Reveals.”

 Huffington Post 14 Jan 10: Web.

A study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, with regard to the effects of genetically modified foods in animals, revealed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn products are linked to organ damage in rats. Researchers wrote: “Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted.  As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity…These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long periods of time are currently unknown.” Monsanto immediately conducted a 90-day study of their GM corn and concluded it was safe for

          Akins 22

human consumption. Perhaps, a bit pre-mature, as chronic illnesses may take longer than 90 days to appear.

Organic Consumers Association.  2010. Organic consumers association web page.

 http://www.organnicconsumers.org/corn/background.cfm. Accessed 2010 Feb 10.

For the Mayas and other indigenous people of Mexico, corn has and continues to be sacred. For many Mexicans, it comprises the bulk of their diet. Native knowledge has been passed from generation to generation for centuries and small farmers have guarded thousands of traditional corn seed varieties. As a result, biodiversity of corn exists greatly in the country of Mexico. As per the article, Mexican officials, on September 4, 2001, stated that many genetically modified corn crops were found growing nearby traditional corn crops in the state of Oaxaca.  It further stipulates, that “gene pollution” of the nations 20,000 corn varieties could be contaminated and irreversible damage may occur, if such is crossed with the genetically modified versions marketed by Monsanto.

Talaro K. 2005. Foundations in microbiology fifth edition.

 New York:  McGraw-Hill. P 298-305.

Transfection is a process by which one introduces, artificially, foreign genes into an organism and, thus, such organism is said to be “transgenic,” or, further, “genetically modified.” Such genes may be inserted, via recombinant DNA techniques, into the genetic material of animals, microbes and plants. Talaro considers these transgenic forms to be “designer organisms.” Since these “unique” organisms do not exist naturally in our habitat, hence, “designed,” they are allowed, politically speaking, to be patented. While some genetically modified organisms may prove beneficial, it is important to note, that, with regard to transgenic plants, some ecologists and plant geneticists remain concerned: the sharing of transgenic genes with natural plants may lead to what are considered “superweeds,” and such may proliferate without any means of destroying them. From an ethical perspective, Talaro states: “Ethical choices can only be properly made from a standpoint of intellectual awareness, and in this era of advertising, polling and focus groups, people with a stake in genetic technology know that the most effective way to drum up support (both for or against) is not by carefully educating the public as to the uses and limits of our newfound powers but rather by publicizing exaggerated claims of frightening scenarios.” She continues: “Society has never before had the ability to do even a fraction of the things we can do today, and at some point we must decide where we should stop, or if we need to stop at all. Where do we as individuals and as a society draw the line? We live in serious times and these are serious choices requiring serious thought. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”  These quotes simply ask us to stop and think about what it is that we are really doing as a society and the implications GMO’s may present to future generations.

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Annotated Bibliography 2

 

Berger P. 1990. The sacred canopy. New York:  Anchor Books. p 25.

“Religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established (34). Put differently, religion is cosmization in a sacred mode. By sacred is meant here a quality of mysterious and awesome power, other than man and yet related to him, which is believed to reside in certain objects of experience. (35).”

Ecological Society of America.  2010. Ecological society of america web page.

 http://www.esa.org/education_diversity/pdfDocs/biodiversity.pdf. Accessed 2010

 Aug 5.

Biodiversity, from a scientific perspective, accounts for all life forms on Earth. It is a complex, interdependent phenomenon which is necessary for the sustainability of life. Life on our planet is comprised of many different species. Various species, populations, communities and ecosystems are intertwined and dependent on each other.

Edwards S. 2009. The straight dope: monsanto: not my favorite corporation. Steve

 Edwards blogspot web page

 http://steve-edwards.blogspot.com/2009/12/monsanto-not-my-favorite- corporation.html. Accessed 2010 Feb 5.

In the 1970’s, the United States government began allowing corporations to patent living organisms, albeit, prior to patent approval, they must be genetically modified. While it is illegal to patent one’s own genes, this phenomenon allowed multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto to synthesize genetically modified crops and to patent them. With regard to the safety of genetically modified organisms, one’s eyebrows may rise, as Edwards points out the following: “…and believe that Monsanto is ethical enough to keep foods safe, you’ve got to pause when Monsanto prohibits genetically modified foods from being served to its executives.”

Klug W et al. 2009. Concepts of genetics. California:  Pearson Benjamin Cummings.                             p 634-40.

Recombinant DNA technology peaked in the 1970’s and scientists utilized genetic engineering in the area of biomedical research. It has also been applied to medicine, biotechnology and agriculture and entails manipulating an organism’s genome via usage of recombinant DNA, and such DNA can be added or removed from an organism’s genetic blueprint. Given this technology, scientists are able to create new varieties of animals, plants and other organisms which contain specific genetic traits; it also enables one to create more effective therapeutic products at a lower cost.  These manipulated organisms have, hence, been coined the term “Genetically modified organisms,” or GMO’s. It is a lucrative business and is rapidly growing, encompassing approximately

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5000 companies in 54 countries. Currently, there are more than 350 bioengineered products on the market. To provide an idea of just how lucrative the biotechnology industry is, according to their own analysts in 2009, they have generated commercialized products valued over $45 billion dollars in the United States. Although the usage of recombinant DNA in biotechnology is quite modern, the science itself dates back to ancient times. Scientists, in retrospect, were able to create breads, cheeses, alcoholic beverages and vinegar with the employment of microbes. It is suggested that the concepts of biotechnology and genetic engineering are able to resolve problems on a global scale, albeit via unnatural processes. As a result, such raises many social, economic and ethical concerns unknown to the human experience.

Monsanto. 2010. Monsanto corporation web page.

 http://www.monsanto.com. Accessed 2010 Aug 18.

As per Monsanto’s website, they claim to synthesize genetically modified crops for the following reasons: “Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainability so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” Monsanto currently has many different varieties of genetically modified products on its website which it has patented and markets.

Montejo V. 1999. Popol vuh a sacred book of the maya. Berkeley: Groundwood Books.

 p 7-64.

According to the Popol Vuh, the world was created by “the will of the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of Earth.” Such names were given by the Maya K’iche’ to God. Furthermore, the earth was created with the assistance of Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, the helpers of the Heart of Heaven, who to the Mayas, was God. “Let it be like this” Let the empty sky fill up” Let the waters recede and let the earth arise! Let the dawn begin, and let the light cover the sky and the earth! Our creation will not be complete until human beings can walk the earth,” said Tepew and Q’uk’umatz. Hence, when they called “earth,” the earth appeared. Creation was compared to magic, arose from a misty dust, while mountains appeared from the waters. Plants and trees took form, as did the valleys and the hills. However, something was lacking: The Creators remarked stillness as silence dissipated beneath the trees and throughout the valleys. They reasoned further and said, “Will there only be silence and stillness beneath the tree branches and vines? It would be good if there were creatures in the trees and forests.”
 

Comparing Religious Rituals: Hinduism and Christianity

INTRODUCTION
The comparative analysis presented in this term paper is really focused on two religions namely Hinduism and Christianity, because they play a major role in defining today’s world spirituality and thinking. Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion while Christianity is the world’s largest religion so comparison between those two religions is really critical in serving our purpose in a perfect manner. In each religion, there are several rituals that a person has to conduct during his lifetime. Here we are going to discuss the three main rituals and a method of worship for both the religions. The three most important rituals, that we are discussing, are initiation ceremony, marriage ceremony and the death ceremony. In Hinduism there are quite a few initiation ceremonies however Upanyana the ritual that gives permission to any Hindu to study the Vedas and Upanishads provides the most important transition in his or her life. Similarly the marriage ceremony and death cremation ritual are very important in any religions, especially in Hinduism since it believes in souls and reincarnation.
Initiation Ritual in Hinduism
In Hinduism, the rituals can be summarized to sixteen stages and each of them is dedicated to God by a ritual called “Samskara”. The Samskaras starts with birth ceremony and ends with the death ceremony cremation.
The most important Samskara in a Hindu religious life is the ‘sacred thread’ known as “Upanyana” ceremony. This ceremony takes place between the ages of eight and twelve years. The importance of this ceremony lies in the belief that when a boy is initiated with the sacred thread, it means he is ready to accept the religious teachings.
Upanyana goes back to 3000 BCE before the birth of Lord Krishna. It was only performed for the young boys of the three casts known as Brahmins, Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas. These three classes are said to be ‘twice born’ because the sacred thread ceremony is basically a spiritual second birth, but the Shudras or servant class are not permitted this ceremony. The boy’s head is shaved prior to the initiation in order to symbolize the second birth. In Upanyana, the young boy is given the sacred thread and hence obtains the religious right to study Vedas and Upanishads.

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In this ritual, worship of Lord Ganesh is performed and then the holy waters of the pot. With the holy water the sanctification of the place and the assembly is done. The priest declares the purpose of the ritual and asks the permission of the assembly to conduct the ceremony. Then the ceremony of wearing the sacred thread is performed by tying the holy wrist band. The grains are sprout in pots by the ladies symbolizing the environmental care. The young boy receives the last meal from her mother before entering the school with relatives and friends. He needs to get his head shaved in order to enter into the austere life detaching himself from his previous life. Then the bathing ceremony is conducted with holy water. The holy fire is prepared and the boy is dressed in the attire of Brahmchari. Initiation then starts with 11 mantras of 11 different deities for protection again all kinds of troubles in studies. The boy gives 11 sacrifices in the fire. Then after the initiation to Gayatri Mantra prayers are offered to Sun-god. Then the holy ashes are smeared at specific spots in the body chanting mantras. The boy assures the Guru to perform Brahmacharya duties regularly with devotion. He then goes around for alms starting with the mother and also receives blessings from the gathering and honoring guru. Ladies wave the vermillion and sacred grain containing water.
In this ritual three different materials are used for the thread. It is believed that these three threads stand for different classes: a special grass for the Brahmin, a bow string for the Kshatriya and wool and hemp for the Vaishya. These three threads are also supposed to remind the Hindu that he must control mind, speech and body and also they stand for the three major Hindu deities – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The knot used to tie these three strands together is called “Bhrama granthi”.
The ceremony finally ends with a ritual bath after which he is entitled as “Snatak”. This ritual bath symbolizes the boy’s new role in life.
Initiation Ritual in Christianity
In Christianity, churches insists that each person following the religion understands the meaning of the all the beliefs and follows them with complete agreement. Christians are supposed to make their own commitment. So Christians have the initiation rite called ‘Confirmation’ – it is the act that confirms and strengthens the beliefs and commitments which were initially made by the parents on their child’s behalf. Confirmation is generally conducted before adult baptism and hence can be considered as an initiation rite. Initiation generally starts around the age of six or seven. For a Roman Catholic, the child is prepared for First Confession and First Communion during that time and then confirms his or her beliefs between the ages of 11 and 14. While in the Anglican Church, confirmation is conducted between the ages of 11 and 16 and only after this ceremony he or she receives Holy Communion. Often the ceremony of confirmation includes the First Communion.
In any way, in both the churches the Bishop, on behalf of the church, asks the person to affirm his or her faith in the teachings of the Church. Then after naming, the Bishop confirming his or her affirmations welcomes them into the full fellowship of the Church. He does this by laying his hands on them indicating two significances. Firstly it bestows the power of the Holy Spirit upon the person to empower him or her to be and to live as a Christian. Secondly, it links the person to the very roots of Christianity through the bishop who was also empowered by the previous bishops and hence creating a link which goes back to the earliest Christians. After this ceremony their families usually held a party to celebrate the person to become “one of them”. Family members and family friends bring gifts. Gifts might include a bank account in his/her name or some fixed deposit and also stuff like briefcase, an expensive pen.
Marriage in Hinduism
The most important ceremony after the initiation ceremony is the wedding ceremony. There are different variations in these ceremonies and rituals. A prospective match is looked for the children from their own community or caste. In this process of looking for a match, the parents take a help of a holy priest who compares the jathakam or janampatri of the bride and groom. Janampatri is basically a booklet in which the characters and future of a person are written down depending upon the positions of the nine planets when the person was born. However modern day couples usually approve each other before their ‘arranged’ marriage is approved by their parents. In fact the approval of the elders is slowly becoming a formality and the marriages among different communities and castes are becoming common.
Engagement
This is an important pre-wedding ceremony. In this ceremony the two families agrees with the wedding and also decides the date of the wedding. The couples exchange the engagement rings.
Barni Bandwana
This is held fifteen days prior to the marriage at groom’s place. The pundit (priest) performs a puja of Lord Ganesh so that the wedding ceremony can happen without any kind of mishaps. During a Puja, a Mauli (thread) is tied to the hands of parents and the groom to save them from evil eyes.
Mayara
This ceremony is common to both the bride and groom. The maternal uncle of the bride or groom is supposed to bring gifts to her sister and the bride or groom. In fact in some parts, the maternal uncle is supposed to give gifts to all the close relatives of the bride or groom.
Sangeet Sandhya
This is an evening of musical entertainment which takes place about two to three days prior to a wedding either in a Banquet hall or at home. It is arranged by the bride’s family for bride and groom.
Similarly they have Tilak Lagwana and Mehendi Lagwana before the wedding ceremony in which the bride’s family draws a Tilak on the forehead of the groom while the bride has her hands and feet being applied with Henna.
During Marriage festivities
Hindus have several rituals during the marriage but the most important ones are as follows.
Aarti
The groom’s party is received at the entrance of the wedding venue with a ‘diya’ placed on a platter and the bride’s mother takes the Aarti of the groom with it. It symbolizes that they try to purify the soul of groom before the marriage since marriage is the bonding of two souls and not just the bonding of two people and two families.
Kanya Daan
In this ritual, the bride’s father gives away the daughter by the libation of the sacred water symbolizing that he is giving away the bride to the groom. The groom recites the Vedic Hymns to Kama the god of Love for pure love and blessings (with his shoes off) and in the meanwhile the bride’s sisters steal the groom’s shoes and ask for money in return.
Saptapadi
The Saptapadi literally means seven steps but it is referred to as the seven rotations taken by the bride and groom around the holy fire which is considered as the most important component of Vedic Hindu weddings. The holy fire is seen as the witness when the couple makes vows to each other. Also bride and groom are tied by a knot denoting a lifelong bond between them. Each circuit of the consecrated fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by community and region. Usually, the bride leads the groom in the first circuit. The bride leads the first four circuits while the groom leads the last three of total seven circuits. With each circuit, the couple makes a vow to promise to make full effort to give a happy relationship and household for each other. The seven vows taken are as follows.
“To provide for food always (Hindu)”.
“To give you excellent health and energy (Hindu)”.
“To ordained in Vedas, during your life time (Hindu)”.
“To give you happiness in life (Hindu)”.
“To make your cows and good animals grow in strength and in numbers (Hindu)”.
“To make all the seasons be beneficial to you (Hindu)”.
“To make the homams (sacrifices to be done in Holy Fire) to be performed by you in your life as ordained in Vedas, successful and free from hindrances (Hindu)”.
Marriage in Christianity
In Christianity, the union between man and woman is predestined by God. Since Christianity believes in souls it can also be seen as a bond between two souls. As per Jesus’s message that wedding is a relationship, a union so real and intimate that ‘the two become one flesh’. So in a Christian marriage, husband and wife are treated as one. The weddings are conducted in church with all friends and family members. There are different views on holding marriages and have diverse ways of conducting it.
Pre Wedding Rituals
Before wedding, an engagement ceremony is kept. After this, there is a hen party known as the Bridal shower in which all the females gather at the bride’s place and rejoice by singing and dancing. The gifts are showered on the bride and then the bride offers them a pink cake with a hidden thimble. The woman who gets the thimble is supposed to get married next. Similarly the groom celebrates the Bachelor’s party with his male friends.
This is considered a wild party bash, wherein he celebrates his last night as a bachelor. Raising a toast is a must here. At some places, just like the Hindu wedding, the bride and the groom are applied turmeric and sandalwood paste. It is known as Haldaat ceremony. However, in Goa it is known as Ross, wherein the couple is applied coconut paste in place of turmeric. After all these rituals, finally the wedding day arrives.
Wedding Rituals
On a wedding day, a car is sent from the groom to pick up the bride and the groom waits for it outside the church. Then they enter the church together, after the Best man of the groom welcomes her with a bouquet of flowers. Then the couple walks down the corridor with arm in arm. The priest who is been awaiting them bless them with the best wishes. The priest then reads psalms from the Holy Bible and then the sermon known as Homily on the holiness of the wedding. After that, he asks question to the groom and the bride referring to their consent for the marriage. After they take each other as their lawfully wedded wife and husband, priest declares them as ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’. The couple then makes vows to stay with each other through thick and thin and promise to give all the happiness they can. The couple then exchanges rings which are blessed by the priest first, to instill love and faith between the two. The family, friends and the gathered people blesses the couple. Finally the wedding concludes after the marriage registration and the couple walking down the aisle, arm in arm. The church then sends off a copy of the signed paper to the Registrar of Marriages.
Post Wedding Rituals
Generally a Reception follows the wedding which is basically a celebration party. It is considered a grand affair, that’s when the couple is welcomed by the guest. After that, the couple cuts the wedding cake and the Toastmaster offers a toast in the honor of the newly-wed couple. Then the party goes on and people celebrate it with dance and dinner party. Nowadays people keep a live band present for the people to swing on.
Death and Cremation in Hinduism
Death is considered the last Samskara in Hinduism. When a Hindu person dies, his or her dead body is bathed and wrapped in clean, mostly white khadi cloth. The white color also signifies the purity of the soul after it left the body. Similarly at the ceremony of cremation, all mourners are supposed to wear only white clothes since white is considered to be the color of the mourning. A priest conducting the ceremony purifies the body and pyre by sprinkling holy water and in the meanwhile keeps singing or chanting religious hymns or songs. The ritual of the body to be set alight is only done by the eldest male child of the deceased, or the closest male relative. Hindus in India are cremated upon open grounds upon wooden pyres, but because of scarcity of wood more and more people have started using the cremation chambers. The ashes of the person’s remains are gathered and placed in a pot. This gathered ashes must be immersed in one of the holy rivers. However, if one is not able to immerse it into the holy river, any river or body of water that meets the ocean can work. Generally the holy water from Ganga is poured in the mouth of the deceased or mixed with the ashes following cremation. The cremation ceremony should be performed within three and a half days of the death and the ashes of the deceased must be immersed within three days (Death and Afterlife in Hinduism). If it is not done within that time frame, additional rituals are needed to be carried out. However the practice of cremation is not universal among all the Hindus. People of various regions and castes may also bury their dead as well. However, most of the Hindus prefer cremation in comparison to burial, even if burial is the common practice of the family.
Beliefs
“This is based on the belief that a Jiva is made up of five elements of prakriti (nature) which need to be returned to their source upon its death. Of them fire, earth, water and air belong to the body and come from this world, whereas the fifth element the ether (fine matter) belongs to the domain of the subtle body and comes from the higher worlds. By cremating the body, the elements are rightfully returned to their respective spheres, while the subtle body along with soul returns to the worlds beyond for the continuation of its afterlife (Death and Afterlife in Hinduism)”.
Hindu funeral rites actually have two purposes. They are conducted in order to make sure a soul’s happy migration to the other world and also save its family members from the after effects of pollution consequent upon the death of a kin.
“According to Hindu beliefs, when a person dies, irrespective of whether he is far or near, his family members are polluted by the very process of his death and remain so for some time till the soul completes its journey to the other world and till they are purified through rituals(Death and Afterlife in Hinduism)”.
Funeral Rites in Christianity
Conveyance to the Church
Unlike in Hinduism, the burial of the dead body is preferred in Christianity. In the funeral rites the first stage is the conveyance of the body to the church. At a particular time, the clergy men are assembled in church and a signal is given by the tolling of the bell. The parish priest goes to the house of the deceased with the rest of the company; one cleric carries the cross and another holy water. The coffin is sprayed with holy water before it can be taken out of the house. The priest with his assistants speaks the psalm “De Profundis” with the antiphon “Si iniquitates”. The procession then leaves for the church with the cleric carrying cross goes first, followed by the members of the clergy carrying lighted candles. The priest walks immediately before the coffin and the friends and family of the deceased while others walk behind the coffin. When the procession reaches the church the antiphon Exsultabunt is chanted, and as the body is borne to its place the responsory “Subvenite” is recited. According to the present rubric if the corpse is of a priest the head is supposed to be facing toward the altar while if the corpse is of a layman then the feet are to be turned towards the altar.
Ceremony in the church
The second stage involves series of prayers, funeral Mass and absolution. The prayers offered are the “Office of the dead”. Candles are distributed in the congregation during the Mass. The candles are highly associated with the Christian funeral. These are to be lit during the Gospel, and during the absolution. This is due to a symbolical reference to baptism whereby Christians are considered the “Children of Light”
Absolution
The absolution is a series of prayers for pardon that are spoken over the body of a deceased Catholic right before the burial. The absolution of the dead does not forgive sins instead it asks God for the person’s soul does not have to suffer from the punishment due to the sins which were forgiven during the person’s life. The “Libera me, Domine” is sung while the priests incenses the coffin and sprays the holy water on it. Then the priest says the prayer and then In Paradisum is sung when the body is carried from the church to the gravesite.
Ceremony by the graveside
The corpse is taken to the grave after the absolution. Then the priest blesses the burial plot. A newly dug grave is considered blessed while land never used for cemetery needs to be blessed by sprinkling holy water. The priest then speaks the antiphon “I am the Resurrection and the Life”, after which the coffin is lowered into the grave. Then the Lord’s Prayer is said silently, and the coffin is again sprinkled with holy water.
Finally, after one or two brief responses, the following ancient prayer is said:
“Grant this mercy, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to Thy servant departed, that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds who in desire did keep Thy will, and as the true faith here united him to the company of the faithful, so may Thy mercy unite him above to the choirs of angels. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” (Catholic).
Then the priest speaks the final appeal to the God
“May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace” (Catholic).
That’s how the graveside ceremony and the burial ceremony are conducted.
In Summary, death rituals from both the religions make an effort to comfort the souls and try to relieve the souls from the pain. However in Hinduism, the deceased is not forgotten in any occasions and also the generations coming on make sacrifices to comfort their ancestor’s soul. Nonetheless, both the religions believe in soul leaving the body during death and reincarnation. However Christianity does not openly admit the belief in reincarnation, in fact it states it in a different way by saying that eventually all the souls will find their way back to their corresponding bodies and will relieve themselves from the pain.
Conclusion
The comparison between the two religions showed us how being similar in many respects their rituals differ from each other in a high manner. We found that there are pointing similarities between the motives behind performing the rituals. As in Christianity, only with Confirmation one becomes a Christian similarly in Hinduism one has to undergo the ritual of Upanyana in order to be able to study Vedas which makes him/her a real Hindu. Also in Hinduism we saw that Upanyana was only performed for males and during cremation also only males were allowed to enter the cremation site because females are thought as emotionally weak to be able to see their loved ones getting burned. However in Christianity males and females are given equal opportunity to perform the rituals. Even though having the same ideas behind conducting these rituals the style of performing these rituals is totally different.
 

Native American Death Rituals and Funeral Costumes

Introduction:

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, native Americans, native Americans and other terms refer to people who first settled in the United States and their descendants. The first group of native Americans landed North America at least 15,000 years ago via the Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and the Americas during the ice age. (O’Rourke) The inhabitants of the Americas have been the subject of extensive genetic, archaeological and linguistic research. (Cavalli)

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Wellesley’s research was published in the November 20 issue of the journal Nature explained that the study now depicts native Americans as a group of two distinct ethnic groups, one descended from east Asians and the other from Europeans and Asians. (Bryan) There are studies have analyzed the genetic diversity of most native Americans, specifically mitochondrial DNA or the y chromosome. (Tamm) To analyze most of the genetic diversity of native American studies have shown that some interpretation of the data model is that the United States is a single wave immigrant from Asia. (Fagundes) Subsequently developed a variety of tribal, society and culture.

There are more than 500 federally recognized tribes in the United States, about half of which are Indian reservations. The data included only tribes living in the continental United States, excluding Hawaii and Alaska. Regardless of the nature of the gene, the native American culture has a number of similarities to Asian cultures as to the culture of death and burial. Funerals are part of our lives. A funeral can make death a reality, normalize the grieving process, and introduce the possibilities for hope, imagination, and new life for survivors (Giblin). 

Every culture in the world has its own culture dealing with the deaths of family and friends (Johnson). The Indians were no different. Every culture rituals and ceremonies, although all is for the same reason, but different from each other (Johnson). Native Americans sound like a whole, historically the Native Americans never thought of themselves as a unified group. Natives’ death rituals are widely varied according to different tribal traditions with sharing some common beliefs. 

There is no central set of rules or beliefs and historically spiritual teachings were never written down, only passed on from generation to generation. Native American beliefs are deeply rooted in their cultures and histories, and in the past spirituality would have been an integral part of daily life. As previously mentioned, each tribe has its own specific traditions regarding death rituals and funerals. There is no concept of hell or paradise in aboriginal culture. Most native American tribes believed that the spirit of the dead had entered the spiritual world, so the family of the dead was focused on providing the soul with what it needed to reach its destination safely or it might return to the land of the living or wander off until it dissipated. This article will introduce the funeral rituals and the clothing of the dead of the three Native American tribes, Sioux, Navajo and Chippewa.

Sioux/Dakota

The Sioux are groups of Native American tribes and First Nations peoples in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or to any of the nation’s many language dialects. The Sioux comprise three major divisions based on language divisions: the Dakota, Lakota and Nekota. The religion and beliefs of the Sioux tribe was based on Animism that encompassed the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all-natural objects animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains rocks etc. have souls or spirits.

In general, the Sioux thought that the soul of the deceased did not leave immediately. Perhaps because of the nostalgia of all that was alive, it takes four days for the soul to leave for the next resting place. They believe that death is not the end of life, but the beginning of another spiritual journey.

Traditionally, Sue people will put the bodies of the dead in a tree, or in about eight feet high from the ground of the scaffold platform. The body will be there for a year, and the body will be treated as if it still alive. On the guillotine, the dead placed with the property and fresh food for the soul. The man was dressed in the best clothes sewed with animal fur.

In the Sioux nation, most of the clothes are made of deerskin and buffalo leather. The costumes of Sioux men and women are usually painted, porcupine quills or beads and ornaments decorated with geometric patterns, especially necklaces and armbands. Usually, women dress in buckskin and decorate them with rabbit fur, while men wear leggings and buckskin shirts. When the weather is cold, they wear warm cloaks made of bison skins. Like most Indians, they wear moccasins, called moccasins

Today, many Sioux practice both traditional and modern Christian death rituals. Modern Sioux burials last four days until the dead are buried. The coffin was rolled up onto a small ramp and placed on a scaffold platform eight inches above the ground in the middle of the room. All the flowers are arranged around.

People who take care of funerals around cemeteries, most of them are family. They lined up near the coffin. Mourners walk up to them to greet them, and gifts for the holy spirit, such as knives and shawls, are placed in coffins before burial. The moderator reads the obituary, talks about the life experience of the deceased, and invites the person participating in the funeral to talk about the friendship with the deceased. Then prayers start praying, and all the people were praying and singing an honor song with the traditional Sioux language. The participants walked counterclockwise in the hall, everyone follows.

That night, on top of the opening of the coffin, there was a thin layer of purple lace. It’s a common practice among The Santee Sioux because bad moods are most active at night, which prevents them from taking the spirits of the dead (Johnson). The Santee Dakota, known as the Eastern Dakota, was established in 1863 and reside in the extreme east of the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Iowa. The last watch was held at midnight, and everyone stayed overnight. Next to the coffin, at least one family member has to stay with the deceased every night until the burial.

The next three days will be the same as the first day, with the obituary, praying and songs of honor. After each ceremony, friends and family would take turns paying their respects to the deceased, giving him a “spiritual food” called wakan or pemmican to help the spirit move along the journey. ‘Wakan Tanka’ is the Sioux name for the Great Spirit, which translates as the Great Mystery. The Sioux people believe that every object was spirit, or “wakan.”

On the fourth day after the prayers, stood on either side of the coffin with three people. Then everyone lined up to come over to shake their hand, and finally look at the dead. When the family finally finished, the coffin was closed. It would then be raise to that place where it was ready to be buried. When the coffin was sent down to the grave, the people who carried the coffin each took a shovel of earth, standing next to the grave, making the people willing to take a piece of the earth and sprinkle it on the coffin (Johnson). When the work was done, the man carrying the coffin had the job of filling the grave. The burial will be accompanied by more prayers and songs. Finally, all the people leave and enjoy the last meal together.

Navajo

This section focuses on the death customs and rituals of the Navajo people. The Navajo tribe, also referred to as the Diné tribe, were a semi-nomadic people who lived in the southwest desert regions in the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. The Navajo are the second largest American Indians. The Navajo nation extends to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, covering more than 27,000 square miles. The tribe is divided into more than 50 families whose lineage can be traced back to female families (Clements). The religion and beliefs of the Navajo tribe, like Sioux’s, are based on animism. The Navajo see the Yei spirit as an intermediary between humanity and the great spirit. Through symbols and symbols such as the Yei symbol (Yei), Native American Indians spread their history, thoughts, thoughts and dreams from generation to generation.

The Navajo have strict standards for the traditional custom of death. They consider that traditional burial and condolence procedures must be carefully followed to ensure that the deceased completes his or her journey to the next world. Any actions that deviate from the established practice is believed to affect the happiness of the living relatives and the soul of the deceased (Clements). Relatives and friends of the deceased spent four days after the death dealing with all the problems of the deceased, including the cleansing and preparation of the body, burial, and mourning. The property of the deceased is usually disposed of by burning and not leaving any of it at home.

Purification is the first step in preparing a journey for the dead. The body was cleaned, and the face coated with chei (i.e., a war paint made of soft red rock, crushed and mixed with sheep oil) and white corn protection of the deceased during the journey (Clements). The deceased wears his or her best clothes and can bless the maize pollen and his or her hair was tied with eagle feathers symbolizing the return to his homeland (Clements).

The traditional headdress the Navajo wore was a leather hat, replaced by a simple cloth or leather headband. Before starting to herd sheep, the Navajo wore clothing woven from Silang or deerskin. Men’s clothing includes a hip cloth, which is worn between the legs and tucked into a belt. In cold weather, a coat with a conch belt around the waist is also worn with a cloak or a poncho. They wore moccasins like high boots. The women of this tribe wear clothing made up of skirts and tops, as well as blankets that serve as cloaks in cold weather. In later years, when they started raising sheep, they switched to wool. Men and women wore brightly colored velvet shirts or jackets, and lots of silver and turquoise jewelry for special occasions.

The Navajo asked three family members to put the body with blanket on the back of a horse after it was washed and transported to the cemetery. At the burial place, the dead were placed on Hogan along with saddles and all personal belongings. Hogan means a holy home in that Navajo culture. After the body buried, Hogan was abandoned. After that, horses need to be slaughtered and buried. They believe that the dead will set off on a journey to the afterlife with the horse.

On the morning of fourth day, on the east side of the house, relatives and friends of the deceased purge themselves as a symbol of purging their own events and funerals (Clements). Purification means that the souls of the dead are allowed to enter his or her start to the north next life journey. So, there is also the custom of burying the dead as far north as possible, to help the soul move on to the next journey more quickly.

Navajo people think it is best to leave home and go to, just like in the hospital. In this way, the spirits would not linger in their houses. At present, the Navajo people still view the body as a blessed container. Therefore, when a person died, the body will be left alone. The body should not be corrosion-resistant, and the funeral must be held as soon as possible after the funeral ceremony. If a person died in the home, the house itself needs to be destroyed. As a result, the house would be burned by surviving family members. The relatives of the deceased will stand in the fire room to purify themselves.

Chippewa/Ojibwe

The Chippewa are also known in Canada as Ojibwe, Ojibway or Ojibwa. Palin tile (Ojibwe) tribal initially in Lake Huron, lake and south Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota occupy large areas of land, at that time, their way of life belongs to the northeast woodland cultural groups. In the United States, their population in the United States ranked fifth in the indigenous tribes, second only to the Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw and Lakota-Dakota-Nekota people. They are hunters, fishermen and farmers and they are one of the most feared tribes of the horde, with the reputation of the ferocity, of the fighting, and the sheer number of people. They expanded their territory, crossed a vast desert, and many people took the lifestyle of buffalo hunters in the great plains.

In the Chippewa culture, they also believed that it would take four days to achieve a happy death in the spirit of the dead. The Chippewa tradition traditionally believed that this spirit would have left the body after it was buried, rather than dead, so they preferred to bury it immediately. This belief drives their ritual, as family members consider it their duty to help the spirit move forward as soon as possible. If someone died in the morning, people will bury the dead on the same day to help them reach the happiness (Hilger). If the body had to be kept overnight, people would go to the victim’s house, not only to spend time with the grieving relatives of the deceased, but to be with the person who was lying there (Hilger).

In the evening, a sorcerer will sing several songs at intervals, and each song will have its own unique meaning. At the time of third or fourth section intervals, the deceased’s family will hold a hide that is placed on the bottom of the coffin and will hold it in a living way, which will put the eye to the sky and gently and quietly dance around the coffin (Hilger). A bowl and a pipe were placed next to the coffin. The bowl contained the kinnikinic, smoking kinnikinic with a special pipe was a part of all ceremonials (Hilger).  Between the songs and all the quiet, the people at the ceremony soothe their grieving loved ones with appropriate words.

When a funeral is held, it is usually conducted by an older person and given a final short speech before filling the soil. A guard team of honor fired a salute in honor of the dead. In the evening after the funeral, a prayer ceremony is held at the deceased’s home. Before dark, a man lights a fire in front of the grave, and the fire continues to ignite for four nights. Chippewa believes that the flames of the bonfire will help the soul and direct it to its destination. At the end of the fourth day, when the spirits of the dead arrive at the happy place, a feast begins.

Final feast was also shall be the responsibility of the medicine man, the man will donate all property of the dead to the participants. Each person who receives a thing must exchange a new one for return. All of the new clothes are wrapped in a bunlde, along with a plate to nearest relatives, usually is husband and wife. Then that person will hand out each piece of new clothes to the people he or she thinks is worth.

The loved one of the deceased keeps this bag with plates and carries it with him or her for a year at every meal he or she attends. The time of the year takes the year of mourning. In each meal, in other places, the person carrying the dish, the food provided for each provision in this meal is brought together with the dish, thus, as if it were carried (Hilger). The plates are full of food in memory of the dead. At the end of the mourning for years, this person can be free to do anything she or he want to do in the future, such as the remarriage (Hilger).

Religious influence

Although modern Indian American death ceremony is very different from a few hundred years ago, but their practice still contains the elements of some traditional beliefs. In a ceremony of actual practice, often mixed with elements of Christianity or the effects of other religions, for example, the way that Chippewa treats death culture is similar to the Hindu thought.

When European settlers in the 15th and 16th century began to colonial America, they brought the Christianity. They marked the arrival of the great changes in native American culture and eventually lead to hundreds of tribes and the destruction of the ancient traditions.

The Christian missionaries tried to change the tribe, and they achieved all kinds of success. In 1882, the federal government of the United States attempted to ban the religious ceremony of Indians and called “against public decency and morality”. Some tribes continue to practice their ancient beliefs, but many lost their way on the way. Since the 19th century, some native Americans have begun to agree with Christianity, but it has brought this new religion together with tradition

The culture of each Native tribes reflects the influences of assimilation and acculturation, the results of relocation of education by boarding schools, and rival missionary efforts (Clements). Many native American children grow up without the tradition of their ancestors. In addition, many native Americans currently believe in several forms of Christianity, such as Catholic, Presbyterian and Jehovah’s witness (Shaefer).

For American Indians who believe in Christianity, that means honoring a Christian god and respecting their non-Christian tradition. Indigenous people did not forget what happened at the boarding school, but they accepted a new part of their spirit (Nikki). The spirit is the spirit, in whoever name and in whatever form, and above all, the most important is helping healing people (Nikki). As Charmaine bird says, “The deeper you go into any spiritual practice, how can you not see that it’s related to all deeper spiritual practices?” Tribes who converted to Catholicism celebrated All Souls’ Day on 1st November, commemorating the dead. Related to the Mexican festival of Dia de los Muertos, on this day Native Americans would leave food offerings and decorate their homes with ears of corn.

Conclusion:

Because native Americans believe that these ceremonies are sacred and passed on by word of mouth, these ceremonies and beliefs are not well documented, so when Indians remember their dead, these rituals and beliefs remain mysterious to outsiders.

References:

O’Rourke DH, Raff JA. The human genetic history of the Americas: the final frontier. Curr. Biol. 2010;20: R202–R207.

Cavalli-Sforza LL, Menozzi P, Piazza A. The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton, UP: 1994.

Tamm E, et al. Beringian standstill and spread of Native American founders. PLos ONE. 2007:1–6.

Fagundes NJ, et al. Mitochondrial population genomics supports a single pre-Clovis origin with a coastal route for the peopling of the Americas. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 2008; 82:583–592.

Giblin, Paul, and Andrea Hug. “The psychology of funeral rituals.” Liturgy 21.1 (2006): 11-19.

Johnson, Jim. “A funeral in Indian country.” Whispering Wind43.2 (2014): 28.

Hilger, M. Inez. “Chippewa Burial and Mourning Customs.” American Anthropologist 46.4 (1944): 564-568.

Clements, Paul T., et al. “Cultural perspectives of death, grief, and bereavement.” Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 41.7 (2003): 18-26.

Shaefer, J. (1999). When an infant dies: Cross-cultural expression of grief and loss. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service.

Clements, Paul T, PhD, APRN,B.C., D.F.-I.A.F.N., et al. “Cultural Perspectives of Death, Grief, and Bereavement.” Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, vol. 41, no. 7, 2003, pp. 18-26.

Nikki Tundel. “American Indians balance native customs with Christianity”. MPR news. Arts & Culture. November 13, 2013.

 

Methodology set of rituals

Unfortunately method is sometimes reduced to incantations or a set of rituals which are applied to data. Because the research object is complex due to its multi-dimensional characteristics it is not susceptible to exhaustive coverage. Therefore, method itself should investigate at a conceptual level and not simply applied in a mechanistic way. The methodology applied in this project is therefore not a recipe for research practice. The research requires a qualitative methodology rather than a quantitative and it will draw upon non-positivist insights like phenomenology and post-structuralist. Again the analysis is not based on statistics but employs semiotics and analysis of discourse. Through data collection and the development and elaboration on the theoretical embedding the findings will gain reliability, validity, as well as the ability to generalise. To distinguish this approach from statistical sampling Glaser and Strauss (1967) have termed this ‘theoretical sampling’.
Grounding theory on the basis of observation and recounting experiences either social experiences or work practices requires a:
“… process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyses his data and decides what data to collect next and where to find them, in order to develop his theory as it emerges. The emerging theory, whether substantive or formal controls this process of data collection. The initial decisions for theoretical collection of data are based only on a general sociological perspective and on a general subject or problem area …” (Glaser and Strauss: 45).

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This requirement has impacted the decision for a qualitative methodology that leans towards institutional ethnography, associated with Dorothy E. Smith a social theorist from Canada. However, researching this project through institutional ethnography is primarily motivated by my views that objective knowledge used in the management of organisations does not pay tribute to the actual diverse circumstances of the lives of organisation’s members and is thus not open to the causes and consequences of the social problems perpetuated by these circumstances. By using institutional ethnography I envision, implicitly, a more just world where knowledge is distributed more equally, and where it can be used a challenging force of the existing power relations in an organisation (De Vault, 2008). This method contributes to a distributive justice agenda by turning people’s everyday lives into knowledge which seek to understand the existing power relations, and pointing to possible interventions in these relations.
In answering the questions “how does this happen as it does? How are these relations organised” (Campbell & Gregor, 2002, p. 7), institutional ethnography relies on the influence of social organisation literature the language theory of Bakhtin and critical theorists such as Marx and Foucault. The combination of the terms institutional and ethnography implies the need to move beyond local practices (Travers, 1996). It is an approach to empirical inquiry grounded by a materialist ontology – the daily world of people’s actual activities – drawing from ethnomethodology that examines how everyday life experience or professional practice, or policy making is socially organised (Devault and McCoy, 2001 p. 751), and its consequences in contemporary societies. Social organisation is understood as local practices tied into activities occurring across time and space to form extended sequences of action or what are called “trans-local” relations (McCoy, 1998).
Institutions organise themselves formally by establish discourses of power and control which are disseminated through. These policies form the basis for further organisational documentation like contracts, accounting records, time sheets, job descriptions etc. Institutions develop conceptual practices:. These discursive, managerial, and professional forms of governance can be seen as the textual venues (such as legislation, management, administration etc.) where power is generated and perpetuated in society across multiple sites and are defined in institutional ethnography as ruling relations. Attempting to understand how the coordination of work processes, activities, and relations organised across space and time form part of the ruling apparatus in society (Grahame & Grahame, 2000) institutional ethnography examines how textual sequences coordinate consciousness, actions, and ruling relations what Smith calls “textually-mediated social organisation”. Ruling relations are embedded in these textually-mediated social organisations, which make power less obvious to those being controlled. This notion of ruling relations draws on Marx and his conception of political economy arising from the activities of people (Smith, 1990: 94), but also on ethnomethodology, because it starts from the common-sense knowledge of people and how they talk about daily activities. It should be clear that institutional ethnography is not simply a methodology. Institutional ethnography is not a tool one can readily use at will without adopting the theoretical framework. Theory and orientation toward research are intricately entwined in institutional ethnography and cannot be divorced from one another.
In summary the aim of institutional ethnography is not the discovery of ‘meaning’ or the description of social worlds as in traditional ethnography; the goal is to discover the forms of coordination and control that shape people’s everyday lives and thus to look at the concrete actions of individuals as they function in relation to an institution using an ethnographic method, but more interested in the political contexts than other qualitative approaches. The method takes into account the texts and discourses that make up social life, but is actually more grounded in fieldwork study of texts that are actually used than most forms of discourse analysis (Eastwood & Devault 2001). So the research begins from the embodied experience of particular Citi staff and then set about systematically investigating the social and institutional determinants of that experience. In this way, the research produces knowledge for people, rather than about them, a kind of map of the work processes, discourses and social practices that generate specific forms of inequality, marginalisation and subordination.
The object of study in this research is not individual people or social groups but, rather, the social relations, especially institutional work processes and related modes of knowledge, that form the ground of Citi staff’s lived experience, hence the almost perfect fit to apply institutional ethnography as the research approach, because one of the main purposes of institutional ethnography is to describe the coordination of the day to day activities in the organisation. The challenge is then to discover how ideology can be used to relate those activities to Citi’s institutional imperatives. This method enables the exploration of power and politics within Citi, producing insights unavailable using other research methods. The co-ordinating Citi staff’s activities is being investigated through the use of institutional texts, with the aim to clarify how these are “hooked up” – as Smith expresses it – hierarchically and horizontally beyond Citi’s world. Using institutional ethnography my study identifies the language of meritocracy as an area of experience or everyday practice, and explicates the institutional processes shaping that experience (Campbell & Gregor 2002, p.59; DeVault & McCoy 2001, p.755).
Text
Approaching text through institutional ethnography means deviating from the post-modern stance. It is not the discourse of the text that is the starting point nor is the focus on the subject who makes use of it. Contrary to post-modern approaches to social analysis that often treat texts as metaphors, the ‘body as text’ or ‘society as text’; institutional ethnography investigates texts as active constituents of social relations. The idea of texts as constituents of organisations has been around in institutional theory for a long time:

DiMaggio and Powell (1983) argued that texts allow organisations to standardise by modelling themselves after similar organisations, which are perceived as legitimate or efficient.
For Taylor et al. (Taylor et al., 1996; Taylor and Van Every, 1993), actions in bureaucratic organisations are always text generating.
Hasslebladh and Kallinikos (2000: 703) assert that “no organisation could support its status as a formal system without the arsenal of verbal and numerical techniques through which its goals and operations are described, organised and controlled”.
More recently, Phillips et al. (2004: 635) have offered what they call a “discursive model of institutionalisation,” where “it is not action per se that provides the basis for institutionalisation but, rather, the texts that describe and communicate those actions. It is primarily through texts that information about actions is widely distributed and comes to influence the actions of others”.
The same authors (ibid.: 641) write that “discourses provide the socially constituted, self-regulating mechanisms that enact institutions and shape the actions that lead to the production of more texts. Thus, the discursive realm acts as the background against which current actions occur—enabling some actions and constraining others”.

Texts, in both their “material” and “symbolic aspect” form the “bridge between the everyday/every night local actualities of our living and the ruling relations” (Smith, 1999:7). The relations into whom the text and its discourses enter are investigated to discover the social activities that are generated. Symbolically, it is how text influences everyday life to co-ordinate social activities, how text constitutes social organisation. This will show the power of texts in everyday life (Smith, 1992: 93), and the importance of the physical texts to institutional organisation (Smith, 1984). Texts transport power in ideologies and practices across sites and among people. Since texts do not know boundaries, they are powerful tools in organising people’s activities, across organisations. (Smith, 1999: 80), standardising people’s activities into bureaucracies. The power of a text can be viewed similar to Foucault’s (1967) explanation:
“Power must be analysed as something, which circulates, or rather as something which only functions in the form of a chain. It is never localised here or there, never in anybody’s hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece of wealth. Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organisation. And not only do individuals circulate between its threads; they are always in the position of simultaneously undergoing and exercising power. They are not only its inert or consenting target; they are always the elements of articulation [italics added]. In other words, individuals are the vehicles of power, not its point of application.” (p. 234)
Ruling relations
The entry point of my inquiry is “the standpoint of actual individuals located in the everyday world” (Smith, 1987:159). Standpoint refers then to the location of an “embodied subject” in a specific local, historical setting. Although experience is the ground zero of my analysis it cannot be confined to the direct experience of the everyday world for it is “organised by social relations not fully apparent in it nor contained in it” (1987:92). According to a social organisation framework, social relations are systematic processes that control people’s lives through ruling relations “more or less mysteriously and outside a person’s knowledge” (Campbell & Gregor, 2002, p. 18; 2004, p. 18). Within this framework, social life is not chaotic but is purposefully organised to happen as it does. Power becomes critically important to evidence how ruling relations are transported through knowledge, experience, discourse, and institutions. Power of these ruling relations is investigated on an institutional level where Citi transposes what really happens to its staff into abstract categories. Conceptualising “what happens in a form that makes it administrable…these categories are embedded, for example in case reports, report cards, application forms, tickets, etc.” (Darville, 2002, p. 61).
Smith conceives of “institution” as a “complex of relations” organised around a specific function such as law, health care, or education. This complex of relations forms part of the ruling apparatus in contemporary society. Rather than referring to a specific form of social organisation, “institution” refers to the coordination and intersection of an array of activities into a “functional complex.” The concept “institution” does not refer to entities in themselves but rather to the way in which they are interwoven around a particular function.
To obtain data for this analysis, this project proceeds through three main phases of data collection:

investigation of local experience through the Citi staff’s individual standpoint,
analysis of processes and social relations extending beyond Citi staff’s experiential accounts, and
establishing the interconnection between the local experience and the extended experience (Griffith & Smith, 1990; Smith, 1987).

Phase one examines the work activities (broadly defined) of Citi staff engaged in the progress of their daily lives with a view to analysing how that world is shaped by and maintains the institutional process. Bearing in mind that experiences or situations are not free-standing phase one data collection tries to discover the “material connections between what actually happens to participants in a research setting and what triggers those particular events” (Campbell & Gregor, 2004, p. 70).
While phase one brings the problem into view, phase two is an analysis of ideological procedures that are used to make the institutional work processes accountable. It is a way to “explicate how the local setting, including local understandings and explanations, are brought into being- so that informants can talk about their experiences as they do”((Campbell & Gregor, 2004, p. 90). Important to this phase of data collection and analysis is the earlier mentioned notion that power is carried through the ideological constructs of texts. Analysis is about deriving particular meaning from the data as to their social construction across multiple settings.
Bringing the other phases together phase three analyses how these work processes in a particular context are connected across time and place and as such operate as part of an extended set of social relations (Smith, 1987:160-161).