The Taoist funeral ceremony has its own distinctiveness that those of other beliefs may not understand. For this reason, it is better to be knowledgeable about the beliefs and ceremonies of Taoists so you can pay respect to their departed.
A Taoist funeral service includes rituals for appeasing malignant spirits so that the soul of the departed loved one will be protected. In Taoism, death is just a normal part of a person’s endless existence. It’s just a phase that we must all accept. So let’s take a closer look on their beliefs and how their funeral ceremony differs from that of the others.
A Unique Coffin
For one, the coffins of Taoists are different in some aspects as compared to a regular coffin. Although theirs are rectangular too, there are three humps in it. It is also believed that the coffin should be covered with papers right after the body of the deceased is transferred inside. The closing of the coffin is done by the eldest son, and others are forbidden to watch it.
The Dress of the Deceased
Unlike the other religions, Taoists dress the body of their departed with the best clothing he or she has. The dress must have a neutral tone of either white, black, or brown. The departed must never be dressed in red because his or her soul might come back to earth and become a ghost.
The Presence of Mourners
Mourners are also indispensable in a taoist funeral ceremony. They are the ones in sackcloth or white cotton shirts who cry loudly during the funeral. These mourners cry the loudest when the coffin is about to be closed.
The loud crying symbolizes that the deceased was loved dearly. Some families would even hire actors to cry during the funeral because the absence of wailing is a disgrace to the family. These mourners are dressed in humble clothing to show reverence to the dead. They perform some other rituals together with the priest, but they are to turn away while coffin is being closed. Aside from hiring mourners, even Taoists get services that would make their families more prepared for such an occurence, such as advanced funeral planning.
The room where a Taoist funeral is held has no mirrors. They believe that seeing the coffin in a mirror brings death to the one who sees it. During the ceremony, men and women wear white clothing. As an addition to their white clothing, guys have to wear headbands while girls wear hood.
The ceremony proper includes the chanting of Taoist Scriptures by the priest. The chanting is often drowned by the sound of flute and other instruments. The priest will then light a circle of fire with nine tiles inside to ward off evil spirits. Another priest would pray in the middle of a lotus-shaped seat beside the deceased’s photo in order to pray for the forgiveness of the sins of the departed. He would also pray for the sins of other deceased.
The Taoist funeral ceremony also includes a burning ceremony where a kind of paper is made to look like houses, garments, and servants. These paper figures are burnt in order to serve as the living place and clothing of the soul of the deceased. The servant figures, on the other hand, will assist the soul in the underworld.
All those who attended the funeral will be given a dollar with a candy sealed inside red packets to show the family’s thankfulness.
The procession takes place while the coffin is transferred to the place of the burial. The eldest son and the family will be behind the hearse. The other mourners marching behind the family are arranged according to their social status. This is one of the unique features of a Taoist funeral. It is also believed that those who carry the coffin to the hearse will be blessed.
One of the immediate rituals after the deceased is buried is the burning of the clothes worn during the funeral. Both the family and the mourners should do this. Then there will be 49 days of mourning, with prayers every seven days. During this period, no descendant should cut his or her hair.
A feast will then be held after the departed is buried in order to express gratitude to those who mourned with the family. During the feast, the soul of the deceased will be welcome back. He is believed to join them during the feast as a last supper with them. There would even be a designated seat for him or her where VIP food will be served.
It’s also in their culture to make regular sustenance offerings to the departed until long after the ceremony.