Alternative Funeral Extraordinaire, Ellie Farrell reflects on the recent loss of two timeless icons, Lemmy & Bowie. The music world is in mourning but their influence remains strong. Gone but never forgotten. It cannot be denied these two legends are still trend setting in death.
Death & the Maiden’s co-founder Lucy Talbot sees Harold & Maude as the ultimate death positive film. Originally released in 1971, the film was a box office flop. Only in the 1980s did it begin to profit and build a cult following. The lessons that Countess Mathilda Chardin has for young Harold Chasen will change hisContinue reading ““I think I’d like to change into a sunflower most of all””
Whether you believe the Fox sisters possessed supernatural powers or were masters of deception, one thing is for sure. What began as a rapping on the wall quickly became fame & fortune. Spiritualism was at its height & provided a platform for women to speak out. Death & the Maiden’s Sarah Chavez explains that women becameContinue reading “Death and the Birth of Feminism “
Women and death, particularly the role women are currently playing in the death positive movement and as death professionals made frequent headlines this year. Here’s a recap of what 2015 had to offer from our co-founder Sarah Troop.
Contrary to many death rituals I’ve read about previously, the widow bore the burden of “exaggerated observance of mourning customs” not out of respect for her deceased husband, but so that she did not become “infected” by the dead and his ghost, for it was the widow who was “especially liable to death infections.” One of these mourning customs,Continue reading “Widows and Virgins: The Curse of Being a Single Woman”
Death is the kind of thing that sneaks up on you, even when you think you are prepared, and renders you speechless and lost—not knowing what to do next or how to act. In that situation, having a caring, knowledgeable person to sit with your loved one when you are exhausted, to help you learnContinue reading “Death brought us together”
The colors are a deep burnt umber and it becomes increasingly brown as it spreads from the center to the tawny crispy crust that holds it all together. And when I close my eyes, I can hear my mom, beaming aloud about how proud she is that she made it, telling me the story aboutContinue reading “Life Of Pie”
It’s the eve of December and the countdown is officially on. It’s time to start thinking about Christmas gifts to avoid the last minute dash we all know and loath. If you want to shop independent then you need to start getting those orders in. Here at Death & the Maiden we have decided to helpContinue reading “Dead Good Gifts 2015”
Historian, Verity Holloway’s first novella Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs is about magic, makeup, crypts, and clownfish. But mostly, it’s about our obsession with keeping the dead around. Here Verity shares how this book began as a few notes and takes us back to her first encounter with the incorrupt body of Saint Spyridon in Corfu.Continue reading “Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs”
“Be home when the street lights come on!” Was a common directive during many of our childhoods, as we anxiously ran out into the world to play. However, in my neighborhood and for many of us who lived out our childhoods on the East Side of Los Angeles that directive also came with a sinisterContinue reading “Monsters”
Film maker Wesley Chambers shares his top five “Death and the Maiden” films with us. These are not only must see movies but also the masterpieces that influenced his latest film Ligatures. You can watch Wesley’s short film by following the link and find yourself on a seductively surreal journey with two deathly maidens.
It was sudden, unexpected. The naked bleakness of a dead woman – my mother – in her bathtub still haunts me; well it surely would. It is a memory that has the quality and starkness that gets etched into one. There are good memories of her death too – that she was picked up byContinue reading “Living Out Questions of Death”
I get called a lot of things by taxidermy enthusiasts, animal-rights activists, and the media. I’m apparently an instructor, an expert, a hipster, an animal hater, a sicko, a stuffer…but one of the most puzzling things I have been called recently is a “woman taxidermist” and I get asked the same question time and timeContinue reading “Is Taxidermy a “Girl Thing”?”
We are doulas of death. A birth doula provides support and guidance to the birthday mother and the brand new life. End of life doulas have forged an innovative approach to the care of the dying by putting emphasis on the importance of relationship and accompaniment. What we do is support. Practical and emotional supportContinue reading “Doulas: Doing Death Differently”
When the Empress died at the age of 64—still beautiful—her last will and testament was opened, and shocked the entire royal family. Instead of a state funeral and proper internment, the Empress requested that her body be garbed in the simplest cloth, then flung onto the streets. When people saw her delicate flesh rot away,Continue reading “Katabira no Tsuji – The Crossroad of Corpses”
Alternative funerals are unique to the deceased person and a tribute to the individual person rather than to a mass followed religion. Themed funerals, green and natural funerals, Gothic and Steampunk funerals, Rock ‘n’ Roll funerals, biker funerals and any other kinds of funerals which centre on the life of the person, and break withContinue reading “Saying Goodbye the Alternative Way”
Even today, Death and the Maiden, depicted together, have lost nothing of their morbid and unsettling charm. And they still speak to the most hidden part of our souls; on one hand reminding us of the fleeting nature of the body, but suggesting on the other hand that there’s a secret complicity between beauty andContinue reading “Skeletons & Young Girls”
How much space is left? Why don’t we bury keen golfers in the rough or under the fairway, followers of the turf on the edge of race courses, football fans under the pitch? How much new woodland do we need? The more rural and stunning the landscape, the more local people do not want it altered.Continue reading “Natural Burial Grounds & Beyond”
In 1912 an American “Lady Undertaker” addresses the question of why women are especially suited to work with the dead.
Patricia Lundy explores the relationship between women and death by reflecting on two books. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty’s memoir on her experience (past and current) in the death industry and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with specific focus on Lady Pole. In this post Patricia entertains theContinue reading “Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole”
Founder of The Parlor, Emerita Colon is all about launching mortality awareness is Chicago. Her own positive experience of a funeral “gotten right” in 2005 begged the question, why aren’t all funerals like this? Working in the world of death midwifery allows Emerita to contribute to a more community-direct, spiritual, hands and heart-oriented model ofContinue reading “Death Dialogue in the City”
Lucy Coleman Talbot shares the horrifying tale of her home town. Mrs Blunden, who was not buried alive once… but twice
I find myself wondering what this line of work is like for all of the other women who choose to walk this path? How do I take the complexities and subtle communication skills that I have honed, and use and embody as a funeral celebrant, and express them to others in such a way thatContinue reading “The Ascent of Female Funeral Celebrants”
I have been asking archaeologists how they go about their work as professionals and people as part of my PhD research in which I am exploring what impact emotion has on the practice of UK mortuary archaeology. I have interviewed and worked alongside field, forensic, academic, student and museum archaeologists, as well as osteologists andContinue reading “Excavation & Emotion”
Anni Skilton chose to pursue a career photographing the medically curious, the diseased and the deceased. Here she shares her experiences in various hospital departments, up close and personal capturing the incredible. An inevitable part of Anni’s job involves working with those at end-of-life as well as taking photographs postmortem.
It’s a strangely sweet and innocent romance that is portrayed between them. Is the woman kneeling at the skeleton’s feet pleading with him, or in loving adoration? Are those boney arms of death tightly wrapped around the nude maiden’s flesh done so in a passionate embrace of lust and longing, or aggressive entrapment? Who isContinue reading “Bringing Franz Fieldler Back to Life”
Grief and loss are a natural part of life, but we can never estimate the impact it will have on our day to day lives, it walks with us every day. When people truly disrupt our lives in both positive and negative ways they are never forgotten, they grow with us and shape us. IContinue reading “Fears, Hopes & Dreams”
My Death and the Maiden pieces are little love poems about what might happen to the non-physical “us” after we die. I like to think of the best parts of us – LOVE – persisting when our meat and bones are no more.
Miss Katie Smith, daughter of the late Gran W. Smith, the only lady embalmer in the South, has made a long and successful study of the subject of embalming, and today she is recognized as one of the most proficient practicing that art. There has been a growing demand for her services recently, her reputationContinue reading “Female Professional Embalmer, 1900”
Jelena Bekvalac is a Curator of Human Osteology at the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London. As a life course becoming a museum curator and working with human skeletal remains was not one that she carefully planned. From exciting opportunities in London to excavations in Jordan and Prague Jelena takes us on a journey down her fascinatingContinue reading “Skeletons in My Life’s Closet”
In examining the reasons why pregnant women and young infants have traditionally been seen as particularly vulnerable to demonic influences, it may be necessary to look at popular views concerning soul belief and young infants. In many cases, very young children are seen as occupying a liminal status between the world of the living andContinue reading “Proboscis Tongues and Demonic Queefing”
Death & the Maidens’ own Lucy Talbot talks with Dr Monica Williams-Murphy about her role as Emergency Medicine Physician, the experiences that led her to write the wonderful It’s OK to Die and travel across America educating and advocating for a better approach to death and dying. Explaining why we all need to prepare for theContinue reading “The Winter of Our Lives”
With a tearful embrace and our sobs of grief echoing throughout the arrival terminal, I fully realized the profound nature of our visit. Thirty minutes later we were at my mothers bedside.. her frail body illuminated by a single bulb above her head. The room was so quiet, the air still in anticipation of someContinue reading “The Passing Diaries”
How exactly did Yuli Somme go from making colourful hand-made felt tea cosies, felted seamless jackets and hats, and the occasional wall hanging to soft coffins? In this beautiful account of how creative direction can change rather unexpectedly we learn that the physical act of creation can release emotion, that from sorrow something truly life affirming canContinue reading “Transformative Powers through Making”
This week features one of Death & the Maiden’s favourite shops. Samantha Lyn owner of Funereal Ephemera collects postmortem photographs, memorial cards, funeral photographs and cemetery photographs. They’re forgotten, only to be revealed generations later, to modern eyes with a modern sense of death and mourning. A piece of history lost and found again. Samantha sees thoseContinue reading “Lost Souls”
S. Elizabeth discusses the scent of death. Perfumes, oils, and other fragrances played a key role in the process of mummifying a body for burial, as well as denoting what status the person held in life. Scents of loss, grief, passage, and remembrance -perfumers and artistic noses have certainly attempted to create fragrances based around these timelessContinue reading “Perfume of the Dead”
Dolly Stolze introduces Frances Glessner Lee, a pop culture inspiration who many believe was the inspiration for Jessica Fletcher, the crime-solving mystery novel author in Murder She Wrote. Lee’s Nutshell Studies also inspired an episode of CSI where miniature crime scenes were left behind by a serial killer as clues. Lee is known as theContinue reading “Murder She Crafted”
In some places, the ability to sing or recite ritual laments became part of a feminine portfolio of skills, along with cooking, spinning, mending and cleaning. Here, author Sarah Murray shares an adaptation from her wonderful book Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify the Dead to give us insightContinue reading “Tears Become Ideas”
Chris Woodyard has always been interested in what the well-dressed corpse is wearing: a netted beadwork shroud, as worn by an Egyptian mummy; the beautiful brocades found in the royal tombs at Las Huelgas; a plain wool shroud tied at the head and foot, as modeled by John Donne in his funerary monument; or the frilled-frontContinue reading “Sewing Shrouds: 19th-century Burial Clothing”
Social Historian, Sarah Hayes is the Collections and Exhibitions Manager at Newman Brothers Coffin Works in Birmingham. Discovering she had an ancestor working in the funeral trade in Birmingham over 150 years ago, and then of her daughter living on Fleet Street, just ten doors down from what was to become Newman Brothers Coffin Works is almostContinue reading “A Family Connection”
Death & the Maiden’s own Sarah Chavez presents the rebozo. For centuries, broken-hearted mothers have wrapped their lifeless infants in them for burial and covered their faces with it to signify mourning. The use of the rebozo as a shroud was once so common in Mexico, many artisans created them solely for this purpose, whereas today,Continue reading “The Rebozo: Fashion, Feminism and Death”
“No Cockney ritual is more distinctive—or so redolent with elegy, loss and change, themes of a dying culture.” (Economist)
The last girl standing has been debated by horror fans and academics alike. We can track her evolution through the main stream of horror but her story existed long before the 1970s. For every final girl we find a fallen woman. Looking back at Victorian fiction we find that sex equaled death long before masked serial killers stalked and brutally murdered teenagers.
Inspired Goodbyes was created by Sophia Lucop-Leech and Helen Lawson. After experiencing their own bereavements they created a positive business making sympathy cards and gifts more personal.
If death is most often anthropomorphised into a foreboding, grinning male does it not make sense that his companion is female? The current ‘trend’ for women in the death industry is not a trend, then, but merely an influx of women taking their rightful place back at death’s side and, once again, becoming the guardians of the dead.
The presence of a microscope in the morgue or the office of a forensic scientist seems to be a symbol to impress upon audiences the seriousness of the science being performed in that episode. But viewers are never shown “the pathologist’s view of the world”, so to speak – exactly what does the doctor see in that eyepiece and what does it mean for the case? One of the most intriguing aspects of forensic histology is the fundamental tension between the lovely images created from post-mortem specimens and the shock resulting from the realization of their source. However, the beauty of human tissue is undeniable, creating a complex interplay of light and cellular morphology in brilliant Technicolor.
Dr Christina Welch explains that Europe has had a long history with Sex and Death, one intimately tied to religion. This post explores a genre of art produced during this time period that melds these themes. It examines ‘Death and the Maiden’ artworks by Germanic proto-and early-Reformist artists who highlighted the folly, futility and transience of earthly vanities, through the use of erotic death imagery that juxtaposed an eroticized woman, who stood as a symbol of life and fecundity, with a male/masculine representation of death.
Author of The Undertaker’s Daughter, Kate Mayfield is here to take us back in time. A time when women were not public figures in the funeral industry but played important roles ‘behind the scenes’ at her father’s funeral home, Kate’s childhood home.
S Elizabeth has created this beautiful playlist of women who have constructed and composed aural memento mori exclusively for Death & the Maiden. As humans, we occupy a unique place in the saga of mortality, and these women in particular offer illuminating perspectives on the subject as it relates to the afterlife, funerals & wakes, ancestral memories, etc.
We are delighted to announce our first post this coming Monday will be from the wonderful Kate Mayfield, author of The Undertaker’s Daughter!