Approaching Religion <p><em>Approaching Religion</em> is an academic open access journal published by the Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History in Åbo, Finland.</p> en-US <p>The license of the published metadata is Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)</p> (Donner Institute) (Maria Vasenkari) Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 OJS 60 Funerals in the north of Europe <p>Editorial of <em>Approaching Religion</em>, Vol. 13 Issue 1</p> Martha Middlemiss Lé Mon, Magdalena Nordin, Måns Broo, Ruth Illman Copyright (c) 2023 Martha Middlemiss Lé Mon, Magdalena Nordin, Måns Broo, Ruth Illman Mon, 22 May 2023 00:00:00 +0300 Death and beyond <p class="p1">Based on extensive ethnography, this article investigates how contemporary Finnish hospice patients talk – or remain silent – about their own approaching death, and the imageries relating to death and the possible afterlife. I explore how the thought of an afterlife may have informed patients’ orientations at the end of life, and how it touched on actual funeral arrangements.</p> <p class="p2">Since death was a very difficult topic to speak about, the dying created other kinds of material or entirely fantastic imageries which helped them to explore and express their feelings about death and the beyond. Drawing on the theoretical concepts of ‘metaphysical imagination’ (Hepburn 1996) and ‘virtuality’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2016; Kapferer 2004, 2006, 2010), this article shows how the virtual space of the metaphysical imageries by the research participants at times became a vital element empowering the dying, not only to encounter their situation but also to achieve resolution of some sort.</p> Maija Butters Copyright (c) 2023 Maija Butters Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 Deathscapes in Finnish funerals during Covid-19 <p class="p1">The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and reshaped experiences of bodily disposal and memorialization around the world. One key characteristic of almost all religious practices and traditions is the centrality of face-to-face gatherings (Baker <em>et al.</em> 2020). The spatial turn shows the need to study space and place in research on religion (Knott 2010). Avril Maddrell has utilized a spatial lens for death studies with her concept of the deathscape, by which she means both the places associated with death and the dead and how these are infused with meaning (Maddrell and Sidaway 2010). The aim of my article is to uncover which spaces were used in Finnish funerals and what they reveal about deathscapes during Covid-19. The forty-five pieces of correspondence that form the qualitative data of the research were received between October 2020 and February 2021; they offer some important, real-time insights into how funeral spaces and burial places were experienced during the two first waves of the pandemic. The findings reveal that participation in the ritual was more important than the actual site of the funeral, burial or memorial. The findings indicate that deathscapes in Finnish <span class="s1">funerals during Covid-19 typically dealt with how </span>ritual space was created during restrictions. The physical site was important as long as it created ritual space and was aligned with the personality of the deceased. Central to these actively created spaces was that they followed the deceased body either physically, virtually or spiritually. The latter was a conceptual finding from the data and a means by which the writers pointed to spatialities of belief and virtual attendance that were not digitally mediated.</p> Auli Vähäkangas Copyright (c) 2023 Auli Vähäkangas Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 Pandemic funerals in Norway <p class="p1">During the Covid-19 pandemic, funerals have been conducted consistently in Norway, but, of course, the ceremonies were subject to rules and regulations, while digitization was on the increase. Against the background of already ongoing discussions, both in contexts related to the Church of Norway and in practical-theological discourses, this article analyses scenes and excerpts from interviews conducted in 2021 and asks: What does the sociologist Hartmut Rosa’s concept of resonance convey in the pandemic situation? – This concept aims at a mode of relating that empowers fulfilling, resonant relationships between subjects and between subject and world; the aim here is to bring it into play as a sensitizing concept, in a situation of supposedly increased distance and unaffectedness between people. The article discusses where the concept conveys the need for stable frameworks, and where it conveys the need for ongoing work with an ecclesiastical-theological self-understanding in the field of church funerals.</p> Carsten Schuerhoff Copyright (c) 2023 Carsten Schuerhoff Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 Accommodation of ash scattering in contemporary Norwegian governance of death and religion/worldview <p class="p1">With the analysis of the scattering ashes in a Norwegian context as its point of departure, the article sets out to explore ash scattering and how it relates to the governance of deathscape and religion/worldview in the public space. Referring to ethnographic study, the focus is on the bereaved and the deceased in the governance process for ash scattering and on critically rethinking the governance of ash scattering from the private actors’ experiences. I argue that ash scattering is in the process of establishing a spatial ritual institution, deregulated <em>vis-à-vis </em>organized religion/worldview, which, on the one hand, opens up the possibility for the privatization of death and provides ideals of individuality, privacy and discretion, and, on the other hand, this takes place paradoxically not in private but rather within public space.</p> Ida Marie Høeg Copyright (c) 2023 Ida Marie Høeg Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 Forest burials in Denmark <p class="p1">Burial in the forest is a recent, non-confessional alternative to the established cemeteries owned and run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. Danish forest burials fulfil common criteria for non-religion and they are an example of institutionalized non-religion. Their non-confessional character is emphasized in the information material directed towards potential buyers of forest burial plots.</p> <p class="p2">Forest burials appeal to both non-members and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; in fact, nearly two-thirds of those who had a forest burial by the end of 2021 were members of the church. I have participated in <span class="s1">seven tours conducted at different forest burial </span>sites, and I have interviewed nearly fifty participants about their motives for considering buying a forest burial plot. In my analyses, I structure the interviews along the three dimensions, <em>knowing</em>, <em>doing,</em> and <em>being</em>. I found that the motives for people to choose a forest burial <span class="s1">reflected both non-religious and religious/spirit</span>ual considerations. Forest burials exemplify a religious complexity where nature, non-religion, religion, and spirituality intersect. In this complexity, I see the institution of forest burial as a non-religious vessel, which the buyers fill with their individual thoughts and acts.</p> Margit Warburg Copyright (c) 2023 Margit Warburg Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 The role of flowers in the personalization of Christian funerals in Denmark <p class="p1">Flowers are a common element in Danish funerals. Drawing on fieldnotes, interviews and survey data on funeral practices in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark as well as theories of ritualization, meaning-making and practices, this article shows that flowers are not only a <em>sine qua non</em> in the funerals but are also used to make them more personal and to produce and reproduce social relations. Additionally, flowers are material objects and acquire their social meaning in the right ceremonial context. Outside this context they have no inherent meaning and might even obstruct the ceremony because, as physical objects, they have to be put somewhere in ceremonial space. Paradoxically, flowers are ubiquitous yet invisible.</p> Henrik Reintoft Christensen Copyright (c) 2023 Henrik Reintoft Christensen Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 ‘It is the greenness, the nature, it looks as if someone has taken care of the place very well’ <p class="p1">This article is about experiences of a cemetery landscape: a physical space that was chosen as a depository for human remains, and where different memorial and disposal practices have developed behavioural patterns that together form a cemetery culture. Through qualitative research at St Eskil’s, Eskilstuna, Sweden, encompassing field observations and interviews (N=14) with stakeholders and people from the general public, we aim to describe and discuss the cemetery as a place and environment experienced from a perspective of people of diverse backgrounds. The study reveals important characteristics that facilitate designing, caretaking, developing and using cemeteries more generally. Findings show that most interviewees, independent for example of cultural or religious adherence, describe the cemetery as a beautiful natural or garden-like place. The well-maintained landscape is emphasized as a self-evident or impressive quality. The cemetery is experienced as ‘typically Swedish’ and described in terms of order and sense of care. Diversity in both design and multi-cultural and individual expressions are observed, acknowledged and welcomed. We conclude that <em>nature </em>(including a garden approach), <em>care</em> and <em>diversity</em> are key concepts that should be considered in design and development of future cemeteries.</p> Helena Nordh, Carola Wingren Copyright (c) 2023 Helena Nordh, Carola Wingren Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 Until death do us part? <p class="p1">In life, identity is based on many things. In death, people tend to be identified more on the basis of religion: separate cemeteries for Jews, Buddhists and the Plymouth Brethren, separate quarters for Muslims, Yezidis, Bahá’í and Orthodox Christians. However, it is not true that cemeteries are only a place for religious division. They are also public spaces and, as such, places where people from all walks of life go. Cemeteries are places where religious preferences and customs are negotiated in a very special way.</p> <p class="p2">In this article, practical and theological aspects of cemeteries are discussed from an inter-religious point of view. What areas of conflict are there? How do people of different faiths reflect on each other and the option of cohabiting in death? To what extent are the preferences of different religious groups met in Swedish cemeteries? To some extent, these practical and theological questions pertaining to cemeteries may serve as a lens that sharpens our eyes to challenges of religious freedom and our chance to live (and die) together.</p> Jakob Wirén Copyright (c) 2023 Jakob Wirén Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200 Critical-feminist studies of funerals <p class="p1">This article aims to show how critical-feminist studies can improve research on funerals by contributing to a more complex understanding of ritualization and how it can be explored. The article discusses central issues within critical-feminist theory in relation to previous studies of funerals in Sweden and presents theoretical approaches that may improve the field of funeral studies.</p> <p class="p2">Intersectionality, queer phenomenology and ritual practice theory are introduced as examples of approaches that might help the researcher deal with questions of representation in research, rejection of othering and application of non-essentialism – central issues in critical-feminist theory. Critical-feminist studies may, for example, uncover intersections of power relations in the ritual field, reveal experiences of inclusion/exclusion and contribute to a relational and dynamic understanding of ritual practice. Thereby, they provide complex knowledge of funerals, essential for understanding their functions for individuals and societies in times of ritual change.</p> Karin Jarnkvist Copyright (c) 2023 Karin Jarnkvist Wed, 08 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0200