Seeking information on how weddings are similar to funerals.
July 24, 2013 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in learning more about anthropological approaches to family structure, and especially marriages and funerals. I have heard that anthropologists think of marriages and funerals as fundamentally similar because they are about shifts in who is a member of a family. A marriage adds someone, and a funeral takes someone away. Both marriages and funerals often take place in religious settings. Extended families are invited to both. A ritualized meal follows both a wedding and a funeral. These events are announced in newspapers, etc.. Can you tell me what anthropologists have written about these structural similarities of weddings and funerals? Any leads would be most appreciated.
posted by mortaddams to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You want to search for "rites of passage".
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:12 PM on July 24, 2013

While at the University, I had an anthropology course that used this textbook on the topic.

The Wedding of the Dead

I thought it was an interesting read.
posted by LeanGreen at 2:28 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: showbiz_liz already put you on this track, but you'll probably find it worthwhile to actually get hold of Van Gennep's The Rites of Passage, which noted the structural similarities of marriages and funerals in some detail over 100 years ago. They each get a chapter. I'm on a phone and unable to look up good sources for you, but you may also find stuff under the heading of life cycle, which in an anthropological sense describes phases of a person's life that are often demarcated by marriage and (particularly in societies that recognize phases of existence after death--think purgatory or a period of time when a spirit is considered to be dangerous or that kind of thing) funerary rituals.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:17 PM on July 24, 2013

Incidentally, the structural analysis you're looking for sounds like something out of alliance theory, possibly a description of levirate/sororate marriage, ghost marriage, or Tiwi marriage. Still on a phone, but those are very googleable terms.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:19 PM on July 24, 2013

Some dream dictionaries note that in dreams, weddings and funerals represent/portend each other. If you dream of a funeral, it's supposed to represent upcoming nuptials (I had one of these dreams myself when I was engaged). If one dreams of a wedding, it's supposed to be a foreboding of a death of someone close.

I know this gets into 'woo-woo' territory a little, but the takeaway point is that the 2 ceremonies are both about gathering family and big life transitions. Getting married in waking life does mean that, however small, a part of you, your 'single you', is dead.

Weddings in dreams portending death are supposed to represent the idea of a new beginning.

FWIW I'm an agnostic who doesn't necessarily believe in afterlife, but I still found this connection fascinating. Cool question!
posted by leemleem at 8:44 AM on July 25, 2013

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