Saturday, 1 May 2010

Mongolian Death Rituals

The 1st ethnographic example that we shall look at is in Mongolia. The people of Mongolia have a long and sometimes complex nature with Buddhism. At one point, the Tibetan King hired to the Mongolians to protect the outside boarders of Tibet.

Like many cultures, the rituals that are most important to the people are the death rituals. And like many other cultures that have embraced Buddhism, traditional rituals have been mixed in with Buddhist thought creating a rather unique way of performing the rituals.

The main points of a Mongolian Death Ritual:

- Mongolians have embraced the Buddhist way of viewing death, so for them death is a good thing. It is what they understand as an 'eternal' truth. In order to ready oneself for death, all material objects must be given away. You have to distance yourself from every material item you once owned. Whilst this is a very hard thing to do, it is common place for the older people to gradually give away their possessions so that when their time of death is near they only have 1 or 2 objects left.

- The reason that Mongolians place so much emphasis on the possession of objects is because a person who still has some at their time of death cannot die. This is due to the Buddhist notion of desire, they crave life even when their own is filled with pain and unhappiness they still want to live on.

- Even after death the soul is still attached to the life that it has just lost. According to the Mongolians this is shown through a 'refuge thing'. Now, before anyone says that it doesn't exactly sound technical, it is the best translation that the anthropologist could come up with. At the point of death, the soul leaves the body and hides inside a random object of the deceased, this is normally an everyday object that was always used; like a watch or glasses.
The only problem with this is that nobody knows, not even the dead person, what object the soul will choose to hide in. in order to identify the object, the family of the deceased must visit the village Astrologer who will read the skies then hint at what the object could be. It is normally from this hinting that that the family understand what the object is. Once recovered, the item is either destroyed or given away.

- If the 'refuge thing' is not removed from the body/household then their will be no rebirth for the soul. This would be very harmful for the living as the dead would then plague the living with bad luck. So by doing this small ritual, the Mongolians are protecting the living and the dead from suffering. This is a come reason throughout many cultures for performing death rituals.

Here is the artical that that I based my resaerch from:

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