Historical Perpective

Beliefs and practices concerning death have changed throughout human history.1

In modern  Western  societies, death is often ignored  or feared. Changes in lifestyles and improved medical science have depersonalized death and made it an  encroachment on life instead of part of life.  This has left many people ill­equipped to deal with  death when it touches their lives.

In 18th century France, brass pins under finger and toenails was a test for death, but the odor of decay was held more certain (a reasonable sign of postmortem change).

Uncertainty of death has been historically expressed as fear of premature burial, a likely source of the custom of wakes and attendance on the recently dead.


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