Austin's Blog

 

Funerals in Ancient Rome

November 6th, 2017    Author:

From professional mourners to elaborate processions, we look at how wealthy Romans said goodbye to their deceased…

Back in the days of Ancient Rome, it was believed that a person’s soul left their body through the mouth – so the nearest relation would be at their loved one’s deathbed ready to inhale their last breath. Afterwards, the deceased would be lovingly bathed, perfumed and dressed in fine robes then coins would be placed over their eyes or under their tongue.

For the funeral procession, wealthy Romans would have an elaborate affair organised by professional undertakers called libitinarii. At the head of the procession there were dancers, musicians and actors wearing masks signifying the deceased’s ancestors. Also taking part were paid female mourners who wailed loudly while pulling their hair and scratching their faces. Following behind the main procession, friends and relatives transported the deceased in an open cloth-covered bier, or bed-like tray.

The deceased would either be buried or cremated and their ashes placed in an urn within a columbarium, or dovecote. This was an important part of the funeral ritual, as the Romans believed that until a body was interred it couldn’t cross the River Styx – the mythical river that took the deceased from Earth to the Underworld. Nine days later, there would be a feast, during which a libation was poured over the grave or ashes.

After a person’s death, families regularly commemorated their loved ones by gathering around their tomb and making offerings to the spirits. The Roman state also set aside special commemoration days during the year so that people could honour their ancestors.

While we may not follow the same traditions as the Ancient Romans, like them we do all we can to give our loved ones a memorable a send-off and to keep their memory alive in our hearts.

* For help and support planning a funeral or cremation, please contact us on 01438 316623

Saying Goodbye with Cremation Ashes

May 30th, 2017    Author:

With cremation a popular choice, we look at some unique and special ways to celebrate with your loved one’s ashes

Going out with a bang

Some people are giving their loved ones a spectacular exit with an organized fireworks display. Cremation ashes – cremains – are added to fireworks, which are then fired off into the sky in a beautiful display. One UK company, Heavens Above Fireworks, can arrange a dramatic display synchronized with music or something a bit quieter using reduced-noise fireworks. They also provide self-fired rockets if you want to have your own fireworks ceremony at home.

Memorial jewellery

If you want to keep your loved one close to you after they’ve passed, you can have their ashes made into memorial jewellery. Cremains can be added to colourful glass beads as a charm bracelet, included in a locket or set into silver for pendants and necklaces.

Up, up and away

When space fan Chester Mojay-Sinclare lost his grandmother he came up with a special way of seeing her off. He placed her ashes in a biodegradable urn and sent them up into the air attached to an environmentally-friendly meteorological balloon. Once it reached 100,000ft, a special mechanism opened the urn, releasing his beloved gran’s ashes into the stratosphere. Chester has since set up Stardust Ashes, which offers this service nationwide.

Diamonds are forever

An expensive but unique way to hold on to a deceased ashes is to have them made into a diamond. Created in a laboratory, a hi-tech process extracts the carbon from the ashes and compresses it at a high temperature, after which the molten material reforms into its natural state. It’s then cut and polished into a genuine diamond.

Space odyssey

If your loved one always had a hankering to travel into space, you can make their dream come true even after death. Cremains are put into a capsule and launched into space, where they float in the zero gravity environment before returning to Earth. The capsule is then mounted in a plaque with a launch photo and flight message, leaving the family with a novel keepsake. Other space options include launching the cremains into Earth orbit, where they could remain for up to 240 years before vaporizing like a blazing shooting star, or sending them to the Moon!

A memorable skydive

If sending your loved one’s ashes into orbit seems like a galaxy too far, you could have them scattered into the atmosphere as part of a skydive instead. British company Your Wings offers filmed skydives where they’ll take the ashes and release them into the air, letting the wind carry them far and away.  If you’re feeling brave, the company also arranges tandem skydives so you can be there to witness the amazing moment the ashes are released.

* We’re here to help. If you’d like to talk to us about a cremation or burial, please contact us on 01438 316623.

Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

April 26th, 2017    Author:

Death and dying are not something most people naturally want to talk about. In fact, one research study found that people would rather discuss money or politics with family and friends. So it’s often not until a loved one dies that our thoughts turn to their wishes concerning their funeral.

Unfortunately, according to the study, only 30% of people had let someone know their funeral wishes. It also found that because of people’s reticence to talk about death, only 25% of respondents had asked a family member about their end of life wishes and just 7% had written down their wishes about the care they’d like if they were unable to make decisions.

With Dying Matters Week  taking place next month, it’s hoped that people will be encouraged to think about and discuss death and dying. During the week there will be nationwide events on this important subject, including coffee mornings, healing woodland walks, spiritual ceremonies, talks and film screenings.

It may be a good time to open up the conversation with loved ones and ask them questions such as how they would like to be looked after in later life, whether they’ve made a will and what kind of funeral they’d like. Perhaps they have a particular song they’d like or they have a favourite colour they’d like incorporated into the ceremony.

Talking about death doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing. Chatting about it is a great opportunity to think about what you’d like and to let friends and family know your wishes. When the time comes, it will help them to know that they are doing the right thing and that everything is as you wanted it.

* For help and support planning a funeral, please contact us on 01438 815555.

The fashion for Victorian mourning

February 14th, 2017    Author:

After her beloved Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria dressed in black for the rest of her 40-year reign. It sparked a mourning fashion for women, many of whom would refer to journals or household manuals such as The Queen and Cassell’s for advice on what to wear.

The dress code was dictated by different mourning stages, which for a widow would last at least two years. In the first stage – full mourning – a widow would wear head-to-toe black, including a scratchy crape veil. Depending on the household income, her dress might be made of paramatta silk, cashmere or a cheaper fabric like bombazine.

After a year and one day, the widow moved into ‘second mourning’. At this stage – which lasted nine months – she could wear her veil lifted back over her head and also allow herself a little ornamentation, perhaps some fabric trim added to her dress or a piece of mourning jewellery.

The last stage was three to six months of ‘half mourning’ during which time widows could gradually move to a less sombre way of dressing. They could dispense with their black mourning dresses – known as ‘widow’s weeds’ – and wear their normal clothes, albeit in respectful colours such as grey, purple, violet and mauve. For this final mourning stage, the fashion became less formal and stiff, with the introduction of fabrics like velvet and silk along with lace, fringe and ribbons.

In the Victorian era, men didn’t apply such a strict fashion code. While a widower would mourn for two years, he’d simply wear his usual dark suit with black gloves, a cravat and hatband.

Wearing mourning clothes became less fashionable in the Edwardian era and its popularity dwindled further after the first and second wars. Today, many people reserve dressing in black just for the deceased’s funeral, though there’s no formal dress code for wearing black or a dark colour to a service. In fact, any colour goes so long as it’s in keeping with the wishes of the deceased or their family.

If you’re arranging a funeral, it’s useful to let attendees know any special clothes requirements. Your loved one might have talked about wanting their funeral to be a sea of bright colours or there may be a favourite colour the deceased always wore. They could perhaps have been known for their spotty scarves or mismatching socks, which you could ask people to wear at the service. These personal touches can help to reflect your loved one’s personality and strengthen people’s memories of them.

* If you need help planning a funeral, please call us on 01438 316623