Death Prayer

Shintoism is an ancient Japanese religion that is still practiced in modern Japan. Followers of Shintoism believe that spirits reside in everything in the natural world, including rivers, rocks, animals and the deceased. The rituals followed in the 20 steps that cover the preparation of the body through the placement of the ashes or burial of the body all focus on purification. The spirit of the deceased must be purified to join the spirit world, and the mourners and home of the deceased must be purified to remove the contamination of death.


In Shintoism, death is impure and conflicting with the purity of their memorials, which is why cemeteries are not built near Shinto shrines. Because of the previous statement, most Japanese people have their Shinto funerals or Sosai from Buddhist funeral rites. The funerals are usually conducted by lay people and not priests because the contact with death would be too polluting for them. Here are the twenty (20) stages in a Shinto funeral. 1. Starting with the eldest relative, they will wet the lips of the deceased. 2. Family members have to wash or clean the body of the deceased. This process is done to make sure that nothing dirty comes out of it. They will also have to forcedly close the eyes and mouth. Lastly, they have to insert cotton into the nose, ears, and anus. 3. The death is announced through prayers to the spirits and family shrine. 4. In the so-called “pillow decoration”, the head of the deceased will placed facing north. 5. The deceased will be placed in the coffin. 6. There will be daily offerings of food for the deceased and it will be done twice a day. 7. The spirit of the deceased has returned and it will be announced to the local shrine. 8. The ground is to be purified with prayers and water. This is usually led by a priest. 9. Purification of the priest will be done by simply washing up. 10. Wake is where the priests offer prayers, mourners gather, and the presentation of offerings. 11. Transferring the spirit of the deceased is done by the priest. It will be transferred into a wooden tablet and this will be held over the deceased while the rituals are being conducted. 12. The mourners will eat food that is cooked at another location (this is to avoid the contamination of death to the food). 13. Funeral ceremony is held by the purification of the room, offerings, and tributes from the priests. 14. Mourners will now say their farewells to the deceased. 15. The preparation for the departure of the coffin is done by placing a sword on it. There will also be banners that are set around the coffin for the deceased to know that he/she will be leaving soon. 16. Funeral procession is transporting the casket to the cemetery or crematorium. 17. After the coffin leaves, the priests and the deceased’s relatives will purify the house by setting up a new altar and removing the funeral altar. 18. There will be an assembly of the family and significant others of the deceased at the cemetery or crematorium and more offerings are placed with the coffin. 19. If the deceased is cremated, the bones are to be removed and placed in a vase. 20. If the deceased is cremated, the family will give their appreciation to the people who helped with the funeral and the ashes are to be placed in their family shrine. 

The Prayer

A life has ended, with the passing of a friend,
the memories of times, have come to an end,
their threads wove the fabric of an earlier day.

A life has ended, with the passing of a friend,
sunrises and sunsets, bright days and dark nights
circled again and again, and gave context to this life,
moment after moment, their life was lived each day.

A life has ended, with the passing of a friend,
lives have been touched by the dear one's journey,
laughter, tears, hopes, fears, a life has come to an end 
memories hold their spirit alive, in my own life.

A life has ended, with the passing of a friend,
the loss of future moments, that will not be,
grateful for moments shared, that nourished me,
moments lived, in casual belief, they would never end.

A part of me has ended, with the passing of a friend,
be they gone from the earthly plane, their spirit soars,
to renew again, in summerland, heaven or another life,
I know not where, but their love remains with me,
for in this life, we friends, did share.

I miss my friend, but they will always be near, inside
of me, inside you, and all who took time to hear,
the music of this life so dear, a life now silent,
living only in the memory, of those who survive.

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