By Ian Morris
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Extra resources for Attitudes Toward Death in Archaic Greece
Food is provided on many graves, fires lit to keep the souls warm, and occasionally huts built to provide the dead with some shelter while they wait out their time to be reborn. One can only imagine the starving, cold, defenceless souls without shelter who are not provided with such comforts and the possible physical consequences to the living for those who do not provide them. Hence, grave goods – at least in many recent hunter-gatherer societies – are not simply provisions for the journey of people dying away from their former communities but also ways the living constructively employ to appease them.
And the inheritance of goods tended to be in favour of the dying, not the survivors, because the dying needed to make an often hazardous journey without the direct social supports of their family, friends or tribe. This is because dying is not really a here-and-now experience but rather a there-and-later otherworld journey. This also made the act of farewell ambivalent. These features form the foundation of all human understandings of dying and are the basis for all its subsequent cultural and historical derivations and iterations.
He must be tattooed lest he not eat good food when he dies. He must plant pandanus trees lest he have nothing to climb when fleeing from the feral pig. Parents might build little houses to place bow and arrows for their sons’ future spirit or they might plant pandanus trees for a girl’s spirit. In Fiji (Frazer 1913a: 462–7) the journey and its ordeals are similarly numerous. After death a soul comes upon a certain pandanus tree at which he must throw a whale’s tooth. If he misses it means that his wives are not being strangled to join him.
Attitudes Toward Death in Archaic Greece by Ian Morris