As with many other religious memorial services, Taoist funeral services differ largely according to the dialect group of the dearly departed. Since funeral traditions and rites vary amongst these dialects, it goes without saying that the logistics required would also differ. With that said, there are a few rituals that most Taoist funerals share. Before you engage with Taoist funeral services, discover what kinds of preparations you’d need to make to ensure that the deceased will have a dignified send-off.
After Death: Preparation Of The Body
Once transferred to the funeral parlours, funeral professionals will prepare the deceased for their burial or cremation by cleaning their body with a wet towel dusted with talcum powder. After which, they’d be dressed in their nicest attire, usually in the colours black, brown, white or blue. If the deceased has passed a certain age and is thought to have been blessed with longevity and an abundance of offspring, they can also wear a set of special clothes termed 寿衣. This set of clothing is made with quality materials and has 7 layers to keep the deceased warm in the afterlife.
Families may also want to look funeral packages that offer embalming and mortician make up service. Note that the deceased should not have anything red on them as it’s believed that the colour will cause the deceased’s spirit to turn into a ghost.
Taoist Funeral Procession
Like Buddhist funerals, Taoist funerals will also feature an altar where a photograph of the deceased is placed in front of the casket. Joss sticks and candles will be placed around the altar for family and friends to offer their prayers and respect. The deceased’s favourite foods will also be displayed as an offering.
The funeral ceremony starts with chanting of the Taoist scriptures and mourners are required to grieve as loudly as possible. The coffin will be nailed shut once everybody has paid their respects, but one must look away as doing so is believed to be taboo. White and yellow papers are then affixed on the coffin before being placed outside. Once it’s time for the burial, bereaved family and guests must once again look away as the deceased’s body is lowered into the ground.
Taoist Funeral Customs
Since there are several denominations of the Taoist religion, the funeral traits tend to vary across the board. However, they do share a few commonalities, with some of them being:
Summoning Of The Soul
This is a procedure done by calling out the deceased’s name in hopes that they will be resurrected.
A practice that requires the elder son to collect water from the Earth deity, symbolising the act of letting go of any earthly attachments. This allows the deceased to start their next incarnation with a clean slate. However, do note that this may not be applicable in certain dialects and sects.
Burning Of Paper Beside Coffin
Paper products are an integral part of the Taoist funeral procession. They come in the form of money, houses, mountains, electronic products and other forms of necessities deemed crucial in the afterlife.
During the service, a Taoist priest will chant and recite scriptures and sutras, asking for repentance of sins. The priest will circle a fire where 9 tiles rest, representing the levels of the underworld. He’d brandish a sword to vanquish evil spirits, breaking the tiles to free the deceased from the underworld. Another Taoist priest will pray on a seat shaped like a lotus flower, a motif that symbolises the goddess of mercy, Guan Yin.
Besides prescribed rituals, Taoism also expresses that several actions are considered taboo, especially during burial processions. For instance, guests should not wear red as it is believed to hamper the spirit’s journey to their next life, turning it into a ghost. Some hold the belief that those that see the deceased’s coffin in a mirror’s reflection will encounter death in their immediate family, and as such, mirrors are to be removed whilst the coffin is in the home.
Suppose you’re not quite sure the dos and don’ts when preparing a Taoist funeral. In that case, you’ll want to engage in a funeral parlour with an experienced Taoist funeral director who can guide you through the entire planning and execution of the funeral. Having somebody who is well versed in Taoist funeral matters will ease the whole process, and you can focus on grieving the passing of a loved one and heal with the rest of your family.