Reading 1: A Contribution to the Study of the Collective
Representation of Death
- Burial of the body – not like an animal carcass – needs a correct
burial not only for hygienic reasons but for moral obligation as well.
- With death brings moral responsibilities for the living person.
- Modifying the natural patterns of their life.
- Death has a special meaning for the collective consciousness.
- ^Object of a collective representation.
- Death occurs in one instant.
- Commemorative ceremonies are held in honor of the deceased.
- In primitive societies the bodies are only stored in the tomb where
they are first placed. After a while they are moved to their final resting
place where the people will perform funeral rites. – Lafitau
- ^This shows how death is not only represented like it is in our
1. The Intermediary Period
- The practices occasioned by the death can be classified under three
1) The Body: provisional burial
- Malay – It is not customary to take a body to its final resting place
once the person has died.
- Customary to keep the bodies of the rich or the priests in their
homes for a certain amount of time.
- For people who don’t need such heavy sacrifices the people construct
a mini-house and put the body (which is in a coffin and this is after it
has been exhumed for a couple of days) in it. This symbolizes the fact
that it doesn’t have a place in the house among the living but it has its
- This is a popular custom for Malay people but not the only one
present in their culture.
- But the final burial site is always isolated and the person is always
put in a temporary burial site to begin with.
- In the time before the final burial the body is at risk of evil spirits.
- It must first be exorcised against demons before the final burial.
- People must stay with the body and beat gongs to keep away evil
2) The Soul: its temporary stay on earth
- Same with the body the soul doesn’t get to its final resting place
immediately after death.
- After the second funeral it is allowed into the land of the dead.
- The soul is stuck between two worlds and is seen as a malicious
- It remembers all the wrongs that have happened to it.