We Live So We Know How to Die and Die to Live: Part I

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

“We live so we know how to die, and we die to live (Hunter-Ripper).” While death is the inevitability of humanity, not all cultures view this life transition with the same reverence. It becomes quickly obvious non-Native society is most often terrified of death. The constant messaging of sanitize, shelter and protect from our own humanity is blatantly obvious in the United States, for example. Everything from the medical system to advertising says, “avoid getting old” at all costs. Dye your hair, smooth away wrinkles, forget about grandma as she ages into thin air. However, this lack of awareness around death and the denial of the inevitable is not a prevailing experience for all cultures. Revering current death and grief practices from around the world informs that the crippling fear one society experiences around death has not seeped into all. Status quo around death denial, does not need to be, and should not be, maintained.

Indigenous cultures, for millennia, have connected, realized and passed down the sacredness of death. The African and Native American Cycle of Life, for instance, of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth is taught from an early age. People of all ages, who practice their indigenous traditions, often embody the knowing that death is one aspect of the human state and is not to be ignored - and is often celebrated. According to the Tanzanian theologian Laurenti Magesa, some Traditional African funerals mourn the dead and celebrate life in all its abundance. “Funerals are a time for the community to be in solidarity and to regain its identity.”[1] In some African Traditional Religions death is frequently not viewed as a tragedy and is celebrated communally. African Religion, as with some other indigenous cultures, showcases a great deal of diversity in beliefs and practices between people, families and tribes. Indigenous perspectives are often rooted in tradition and ceremony but also encourage the individual’s experience. For some Native Peoples, death is not the end, but the beginning, or in some cases a continuation of life.

Part II posted

[1] Magesa, Laurenti. African Religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life. New York: Orbis, 1997(http://www.deathreference.com/A-Bi/African-Religions.html) #Indigenous #healers #deathperspectives #death #doula #deathdenial #ErnestBeckerFoundation #SpiritualityandAging #Grief #agingwithpurpose #CollectiveGrief #Life #celebration

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