Here is Allison Elizabeth Solso’s 2015 dissertation on the theme of “vernacular memorials”; the often-temporary shrines constructed by bereaved families and friends at the sites of often-violent deaths. An excerpt: My relationship to these spaces was always confused, even as I did my best to maintain respect and some modicum of decorum. The need to … Read more“Beyond Memento Mori: Understanding American Religions Through Roadside Shrines”
By Tony Wolf During late January of 2020 I returned to snowy Chicago from a three-week long vacation and family reunion in sunny New Zealand. During the trip we’d celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday with a surprise party and also received the devastating news of a death in the American branch of the family. At … Read moreThe Vanitas Shrine: Remembering Death and Seizing the Day
By Tony Wolf Several years after staging The New Danse Macabre in Wellington, New Zealand, I had become part of the regular faculty of the Stamping Ground Festival of Dance and the Action Arts in Bellingen, Australia. Stamping Ground was the brainchild of veteran dancer/ choreographer Peter Stock, who wanted to encourage greater participation in … Read moreThe New Danse Macabre at Stamping Ground (2003)
A short video from Humanists UK in which bereaved family members and a celebrant describe Humanist funeral services.
Here’s a colorful and cheerful website devoted to El Dia de (los) Muertos, perhaps the world’s most colorful and cheerful thanatocentric celebration. As a child in Wellington, New Zealand during the 1970s, I was hardly aware of Latin American culture other than via Spanish-language segments on Sesame Street. That said, I seem to recall first … Read moreThe Day of the Dead
For the past two years the non-profit Reimagine organization has been staging annual, city-wide life- and death-affirming festivals in San Francisco and NYC. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reimagine has canceled the planned NYC festival and pivoted to organizing a two-month long, international online event. Reimagine Life, Loss and Love (May 1 – July … Read more“Reimagine Life, Loss and Love” – an Online Festival Exploring Death and Celebrating Life (May 1 – July 9, 2020)
Religious scholar Reza Aslan investigates the Santa Muerte faith in his Believer documentary series for CNN. While I don’t endorse literal belief in the supernatural, I’m fascinated by the sociology, psychology and aesthetics of this new religion, which is too often sensationalized by the English-speaking media. Shorn of superstition – or at least practiced with … Read moreBeliever: Santa Muerte
In July 2020 Joanna Ebenstein will be offering an 8-hour online course in the history, mystery and art of the memento mori: Death is the great mystery of human life. Each of us – barring some medical miracle – will die. Foreknowledge of our own death is a defining characteristic of humanity; the ancient Greeks … Read moreMake Your Own Memento Mori: Befriending Death with Art, History and the Imagination with Morbid Anatomy Founder Joanna Ebenstein
This charming “docu-musical” tells the true story of the Kiwi Coffin Club, a senior social group in Rotorua, New Zealand who hand-make and decorate their own coffins.
A short 2014 documentary on the history of (and modern practice of creative memorial at) London’s once-forgotten Cross Bones Graveyard. Since the time this video was produced, there have been considerable developments in connection with Cross Bones. Check out the Friends of Cross Bones website for much, much more on this poignant and inspiring story.