It is commonly believed that through dreams, our subconscious mind processes everything we experience in our waking state. Mixed into surreal adventures that often lack a sense of logic, our dreams can vary between euphoric astral adventures in which we are able to levitate or travel through time, and the darkest of nightmares that include such horrific things, we hardly understand upon awakening how we could even come up with that. As Freud called it “the royal road to the unconscious,” dreams about death and dying can suggest a phase of transition or transformation. But when death actually takes place in our reality, we tend to dream about this specific death a lot. Let me share my death dreams with you, and explore how the process of grief continues on while we are sound asleep.
Browsing category Funerary Evolution
During the past year that I’ve been working on this blog, a lot of people have asked me – aside from the general inquisitions about my seemingly morbid interest in anything dead and dying: “Claudia, what is this death awareness thing exactly? What does it mean?!” As the concept of death awareness is popping up out of obscurity a lot recently, let me explain it to you.
Dutch artist Janno Hahn (1980) is a “typo-graphic-designer” who combines his own distinct style of typography with graphic design in his numerous projects, varying from printed typefaces to art installations. As he also creates tombstone designs and his work has a certain air of existentialism, I thought it was a good idea to ask Janno about his thoughts on death and the process of creating a custom made hand carved tombstone.
Dutch author Arnon Grunberg was born in Amsterdam in 1971, made his debut at the early age of 23 with his autobiographical novel ‘Blue Mondays’ and soon became known as the enfant terrible of the Dutch literary world. His latest novel ‘Moedervlekken’ (Birthmarks) was inspired by the events surrounding the death of his mother, who was a survivor of Auschwitz. He lives in New York and writes for several newspapers, including the The New York Times. I got the chance to ask Mr. Grunberg a few things about his perspective on death, how he deals with the loss of his loved ones and his wishes for his own funeral.
Throughout human history, we have invented rituals to remember and reconnect with the dead. Studying the social evolution of these rituals can help to make sense of what we are doing today. But not all our rituals can be so easily explained. In this piece I want to reflect on the ways we attempt to make sense of bereavement: meaning-making through death rituals.
Back in August I took a summer school thanatology course at the Radboud University in Nijmegen: Death and Meaning Making in Europe. As part of the program we went on an excursion to a nearby crematorium to learn how the process of cremation actually works. I imagine you guys are just as curious as I was to see what goes on behind the curtains, so I will share my findings with you in this report.
LA-based art historian and demonic cat expert extraordinaire Paul Koudounaris is best known as the photographer and author of a collection of stunningly beautiful books including Memento Mori, Heavenly Bodies and The Empire of Death. Through his work he has exposed an entire world of long forgotten macabre glory to the public, making many morbid enthusiast’s hearts beat faster. I picked Paul’s brain about his definition of death, his love for cats and the paranormal experiences he’s had with the inanimate subjects of his research.
The Boogeyman, Dracula, mutated monsters, zombies and man-eating werewolves. These are just a few of the mythical creatures man has created to project his fears onto. We tell each other scary stories about these horrifying beings to channel our own shadow side. Our fear of death is ultimately at the core of all our other fears. But what death exactly is or looks like, we do not know. To put a face and voice to this counterforce of life, we have created numerous images to give death an identity throughout history. Here are a few of the most impressive embodiments of the Big Unknown.
Way back in Ireland, around 1600 BC, when someone of importance passed away, they did not just hold a simple funeral ceremony. Instead, a huge party was thrown in their honor, one that might have even sparked the beginning of the Olympics. I did some research and explored this subject, as it is linked to this very day.
To celebrate Lughnasadh with you guys, I am doing a special giveaway! Tell me your favorite cemetery and win a bunch of goodies.
Ever wondered what a 250 pound tumor or a full face transplant looks liked? Annie, a 38 year old mortician living in Washington State, will help you visualize these extraordinary physical manifestations. She shares these rare and oftentimes quite morbid images on her instagram account @sanguinary13. But be warned: what has been seen, cannot be unseen… Fascinated by these images and the woman behind them, I contacted Annie to ask her about her job.
We all know it: Sooner or later, each of us is going to die. In Buddhist traditions, meditating on death awareness is one of the oldest practices. But here in the West, we don’t want to be confronted with the subject. We don’t like to think the seemingly unthinkable. Some of us are even convinced that mere thoughts of death will trigger the actual event. What happens when we do face our biggest fear? What happens when we confront ourselves with our own death? Here are some steps to help you figure out the answers for yourself.
Caitlin Doughty is an LA-based mortician, author, and founder of The Order of The Good Death, a group of professionals in the funeral industry who are committed to making a difference in our death phobic culture. She also has one of the most addictive YouTube channels in which she discusses delightfully morbid topics, from the secrets of embalming to the miracle of coffin birth. I got a chance to ask Caitlin about her current projects, her experience with OCD and what she envisions for her own funeral.