professional mourners

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  • ojyram

    Senior Member
    USA English (Learning Spanish)
    In my 60+ years I have been to my share of funerals, and I've never heard of anyone being paid to be a mourner.

    Funerals here are attended by friends, relatives, business associates, and others who knew the deceased. Also attending are those who wish to offer support to his family or friends. Sometimes people who admired or respected his contributions to society will attend the funeral even though they may never have personally met the deceased.
     

    Vanda

    Moderesa de Beagá
    Português/ Brasil
    Hello everyone,

    Thank you very much for your kind reply! It was very helpful.

    I'd like to tell Ojyram that this habit of hiring weepers/ keeners probably
    is very specific to some cultures. Here in Brazil , for example, we had
    the "carpideiras", women hired to mourne in funerals not a very long time ago,
    and as I've heard , according to my students, still are.

    Well, again, thank you all.

    Vanda
     

    ojyram

    Senior Member
    USA English (Learning Spanish)
    How much there is to know! Such interesting customs as give people comfort. I would never have imagined such a custom as hiring wailers, keeners, or carpideiras. I imagine this is about honor and respect... that having so many weepers shows the world that the world has lost a beloved and valuable person. Is there an element of status involved? Here in the USA, seeing many flowers at a funeral is a sign of the same thing, so we have the custom of sending large and expensive flower arrangements to the funeral home.
     

    Citrus

    Senior Member
    Español / México
    ojyram said:
    How much there is to know! Such interesting customs as give people comfort. I would never have imagined such a custom as hiring wailers, keeners, or carpideiras. I imagine this is about honor and respect... that having so many weepers shows the world that the world has lost a beloved and valuable person. Is there an element of status involved? Here in the USA, seeing many flowers at a funeral is a sign of the same thing, so we have the custom of sending large and expensive flower arrangements to the funeral home.
    Actually in some cultures of latina america there was the belief that you "paid" for your sins in tears. So, if you had commited a lot of sins and haven't weeped enough you didn't have the right to go to heaven or even (if your amount of sins deserved it) to move on from this earth, and so your spirit would wonder about untill someone took pity on it and cryed for you.

    People began to hire "mourners" to "buy" their way to heaven or the way of the dead. . . . . and this is how this costume came to beeing (or so I've heard ;) )

    Regards :D
    Citrus

    P.D. I'm sure I've commited some mistakes . . . please correct them. THANKS!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Curious.
    There are cultural variations in the form and quantity of flowers.
    I make no judgement here, but at some funerals the flowers will be very understated, often a few family flowers, donations in lieu to an appropriate, sensitively-chosen charity.

    At others, the hearse will be decked out like a float in the Mayday parade, with "Grandpa Rocks" picked out in floral letters along one side of the coffin, "Grandpa's Rolls" on the other side; and a succession of gaudy hysterical-pink and lime-green musical notes cascading from the roof.

    Sorry, got carried away there.
    The keener would have been a local specialist. There would have been only the one. There would have been no social status statement across a very wide range of social class. You die, you get a funeral, you get the keener. Rather like the midwife. Things were different at the top of "society". They buried their dead without emotion.
     

    Amityville

    Senior Member
    English UK
    What time and place are you describing, Panjandrum ?
    Wherever it may be, it is interesting to hear of the ritualisation of what is presumed to be a genuine feeling of loss. Professional mourners - in some ways it is repellent, a prostitution of tears but I know ritual can be comforting. Nowadays, anything goes funeral-wise, with the emphasis tending towards celebration of the person's life or do they usually have a separate performance for that ? Things are more person-centred than keeping-up-appearances-centred.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Amityville said:
    What time and place are you describing, Panjandrum ?
    Good question, Amityville. The comments on flowers, etc, are here and now - here being Northern Ireland.
    Comments on keeners are here and then - decades back, how many depending on how far you are from city life. The keener was not at all a prostitution of tears, but an integral part of the funeral - rather, I was suggesting, as a good midwife was an integral, and welcome, part of the birth.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    You asked for corrections so here they are...

    Citrus said:
    Actually in some Latin American cultures there was the belief that you "paid" for your sins with tears. So, if you had commited a lot of sins and hadn't wept enough you didn't have the right to go to heaven or even (if the amount of sins you had committed warranted it) to move on from this earth. In that case your spirit would wander about until someone took pity on it and cried for you.

    People began to hire "mourners" to "buy" their way into heaven or the way of the dead. . . . . and this is how this costum came into being (or so I've heard ;) )

    Regards :D
    Citrus

    P.D. I'm sure I've commited some mistakes . . . please correct them. THANKS!
     

    te gato

    Senior Member
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Wow...This stuff I did not know about...

    Where have I been??..
    mmmm..maybe I have been in the corner Keening and Wailing too long...

    I agree..It sounds like buying your way into the 'great beyond'..
    mmm...I wonder..If you are a jerk in 'Life'..are you still a jerk in 'Death'?
    Therefore..no amount of keening and wailing is going to grant you absolution..

    Here it depends on the 'Family'..and..'Deceased'..as to what their wishes are (or were)...for their Funeral..Many people now have stipulated the 'In Leu Of Flowers'...and the money spent on flowers is then donated to a charity that the deceased picked...

    My family members are not the keening nor wailing type..we celebrate the 'deceased' and the life that they had..and how much we loved them..with food..drink..and song...

    tg
     

    Amityville

    Senior Member
    English UK
    panjandrum said:
    The keener was not at all a prostitution of tears, but an integral part of the funeral - rather, I was suggesting, as a good midwife was an integral, and welcome, part of the birth.
    I really don't mean to be irreverent, but do you mean in the style of a cheerleader ? We need to mourn, wail and keen and having someone lead the way it is easier, we just join in. I can understand that, I think. No man is an island, after all and what never fails to produce tears in me at a funeral is the phrase they use "we are here to give thanks for the life of..."
    A midwife isn't really the same, she(he ?) has a practical job to do. The layer-out would be the death equivalent I think or do professional mourners do this too ?


    te gato said:
    I wonder..If you are a jerk in 'Life'..are you still a jerk in 'Death'?
    Therefore..no amount of keening and wailing is going to grant you absolution..
    Yes, you are still a jerk, but you can do less damage, and can be charitably remembered for your other qualities. that's the modern view, but there are times and cultures and religions where these things become mere accountancy.

    The funerals and memorials reported in the press do seem to have a certain cachet. Many ordinary people's deaths are not expected, many others haven't given their funeral plans much thought, their relatives were 'in denial', taken by surprise, too drawn into the struggle for life to think of it, or the person officiating never knew them, read the poem they loved insensitively, or the stately conveyer belt to the oven failed to operate or moved jerkily (not only for jerks - an oversight by the powers above), things go wrong in death as in birth and life, and in the end the funeral can be woefully inadequate as a send-off, and not the memorial we would like to have for keeps. However, having professionals take over leaves the people left behind free to remember the person and come to terms if they can in their own way.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    te gato said:
    we celebrate the 'deceased' and the life that they had..and how much we loved them..with food..drink..and song...
    Clearly there is a Celt in there somewhere:thumbsup:

    "...no amount of keening or wailing is going to grant you absolution..." - I don't think that was the point at all. The value of the keener is to the mourners, not the deceased.

    Amityville suggested the keener may have been a kind of cheerleader. I am speaking from race memory now, not from direct personal experience, but I think you are right. The keener would have expressed, or led others in expressing, a very public, and very cathartic grieving.

    When I used the midwife analogy, which I failed to explain clearly, I meant that the keener, although paid (like the midwife) would have been a person of some standing in the community (like the midwife) and would have come to the funeral (the birth) as a matter of course. Each was the community specialist who was welcome at the event and rewarded for their contribution.
    The layer-out was probably the midwife:)

    I am going back to a world where each community would have had one of these. There wasn't a competitive market for keening, or maternity services:D
     

    Vanda

    Moderesa de Beagá
    Português/ Brasil
    Wow!
    I'm amazed with all information I have had through you all, people.
    I'd like to thank (also) Citrus who told us about this habit in America
    latina . I was (and still am) looking for info how it arrived here in
    Brazil . Comments are that , even in big centers this habit persist,
    although noone can tell it for observing people at funerals. But
    in places far from big cities where there's still midwives, there
    are also carpideiras known by their community.
     

    Vanda

    Moderesa de Beagá
    Português/ Brasil
    Hello again,

    I've found about Brazilian habit of "carpideiras" as below:
    Although our native Indians and the African slaves had this practice, we have received the spontaneous weepers from the Portuguese conquerors , either these weepers mourned the dead for free and by vocation, or they received "souvenir" in form of food, money, clothes as a reward from their loud and collaborative moan.

    Nowadays, this practice is done by old women connected to the dead's family by bonding of friendship, relationship, or tragic seduction , they entice the family tears with excited words and dramatic gesticulation.

    They have special prayers and chants that they perform until the funeral procession begins. These chants are called "Incelências (from Excellences)" that are kind of creeping to hear. The absence of all this ritual and weeping would mean supreme indifference and total abondonment of the decesead.

    In Brazil northeast region , in the little town of "Pesqueira", Maria Isabel dos Santos, 73, is the most demanded "carpideira". She does this work she learned from her mother since she was a child. She says (quoting): It is a very beautiful work . I myself get too emotional. Sometimes, all present people are in silence, when I begin to sing, everybody cries.

    She replaced the "Incelências" to religious hymns. She says " the Incelências" made everybody sadder. They were very grievous. The hymns comfort those remaining.."

     
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