Fascination with death

Fascination with death has occurred throughout human history, characterized by obsessions with death and all things related to death and the afterlife.

In past times, people would form cults around death and figures. Famously, Anubis, Osiris, Hades, and La Santa Muerte have all had large cult followings. La Santa Muerte (Saint Death), or the personification of death, is currently worshiped by many in Mexico and other countries in Central America. Day of the Dead (2 November) is a celebration for the dead.

Seductive death EHLanglois
'Seductive death' by Eustache-Hyacinthe Langlois

History

The ancient Egyptians are most famous for their fascination of death by mummifying their dead and building exquisite tombs, like the pyramids of Giza, for their dead. Many of their deities were death-related, such as: Ammut, the devourer of unworthy souls; Anubis, the guardian of the Necropolis and the keeper of poisons, medicines, and herbs; and Osiris, the king of the dead.

The Greek underworld, Hades, was ruled by the god Hades, and had five rivers that flowed through it. The rivers were: Acheron, river of sadness; Cocytus, river of lamentation; Lethe, river of forgetfulness; Phlegethon, river of fire; Styx, river of hate. The Underworld had attendants who, though not rulers, were important gods and beings. The Furies were female spirits who exacted vengeance against people who committed specific crimes. Keres were female spirits of death and destruction. Persephone was the goddess of the underworld and the spouse of Hades. Thanatos, the god of death, was said to wear dark robes.

The Vikings believed that if a warrior died in battle, he would be taken to the Norse afterlife: the hall of Valhöll, in which the warriors would prepare for Ragnarökk, the battle at the end of the world. Rune stones were erected to commemorate particularly brave warriors. Death in one's sleep (a "straw death") was considered dishonorable.

Modern Western culture

In the early part of the 20th century, it was common to hold séances at dinner parties. A séance is an event where a group of people (3 or more) try to communicate with the dead through one person of the group, known as a psychic medium.

Today there are a number of authors who have spoken on the fascination people have with death. "If it bleeds, it leads" is a phrase related to this, meaning that in the mass media most of the material is based on death. For example: death and crime are almost always a topic in the news. The goth and metal subcultures are often associated with death and dying.

Daniel Kahneman and others have studied the psychology behind this. For example, people buy insurance and make other decisions based on what comes readily to mind—e.g., the previously recorded high-water mark for a flood, rarely considering that something worse is possible and in many cases eventually likely. This interacts with the management policies of media outlets to create availability cascades and media feeding frenzies: For example, "strokes cause almost twice as many deaths as all accidents combined, but 80% of respondents [in a survey] judged accidental death to be more likely. ... [This is because media] coverage is itself biased toward novelty and poignancy. The media do not just shape what the public is interested in, but also are shaped by it."[1]

This fascination with death and interaction with media editorial policies sometimes has problematic consequences for public policy. For example, Vincent Sacco[2][3] and others described how the mainstream commercial media in the United States changed their editorial policies in the 1970s to focus more on the police blotter. The human psychology behind "If it bleeds, it leads" meant they could retain or even increase their audience while reducing the cost of producing the news: Investigative journalism is enormously expensive, especially if it offends a major advertiser. Focusing on crimes apparently committed by people without substantive political or economic power is cheap. The resulting increase in crime stories convinced the US electorate that crime was out of control. This led to the election of politicians who would "get tough on crime." The result was a five-fold increase in the United States incarceration rate not justified by any actual increase in crime. (Needs Citation)

Necrophilia

'Necrophilia' is generally used in English to refer to the paraphilia associated with dead bodies, although the term has been used in a broader sense and in foreign language merely to refer to 'a fascination with death.'

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Kahneman, Daniel (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 978-0374275631
  2. ^ Sacco, Vincent F. (May 1995), "Media Constructions of Crime", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 539: 141–154, reprinted as chapter 2 of Potter and Kapeller (1998, pp. 37-51, esp. p. 42)
  3. ^ Sacco, Vincent F (2005). When Crime Waves. Sage. ISBN 0761927832.

References

  • "Death: A User's Guide" by Tom Hickman
  • "Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife" by Mary Roach
  • "Letters from the Afterlife: A Guide to the Other Side" by Katherine Hart, Elsa Barker
  • "Life After Death : A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion" by Alan F. Segal
  • "The Ghost Next Door" by Mark Alan Morris
  • "Ghosts, Spirits and Hauntings" by Patricia Telesco
  • "The Beginner's Guide for the Recently Deceased" by David Staume
  • "Walt Disney's Curious Fascination With Death" by Sean Braswell

External links

Dead on arrival

Dead on arrival (DOA), also dead in the field and brought in dead (BID), indicates that a patient was found to be already clinically dead upon the arrival of professional medical assistance, often in the form of first responders such as emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or police.

In some jurisdictions, first responders must consult verbally with a physician before officially pronouncing a patient deceased, but once cardiopulmonary resuscitation is initiated, it must be continued until a physician can pronounce the patient dead.

Death and culture

This article is about death in the different cultures around the world as well as ethical issues relating to death, such as martyrdom, suicide and euthanasia. Death refers to the permanent termination of life-sustaining processes in an organism, i.e. when all biological systems of a human being cease to operate. Death and its spiritual ramifications are debated in every manner all over the world. Most civilizations dispose of their dead with rituals developed through spiritual traditions.

Death messenger

Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.

Death rattle

Terminal respiratory secretions (or simply terminal secretions), known colloquially as a death rattle, are sounds often produced by someone who is near death as a result of fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulating in the throat and upper chest. Those who are dying may lose their ability to swallow and may have increased production of bronchial secretions, resulting in such an accumulation. Usually, two or three days earlier, the symptoms of approaching death can be observed as saliva accumulates in the throat, making it very difficult to take even a spoonful of water. Related symptoms can include shortness of breath and rapid chest movement. While death rattle is a strong indication that someone is near death, it can also be produced by other problems that cause interference with the swallowing reflex, such as brain injuries.It is sometimes misinterpreted as the sound of the person choking to death, or alternatively, that they are gargling.

Deranged (1974 film)

Deranged (also known as Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile) is a 1974 Canadian-American horror film directed by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen, and starring Roberts Blossom. Its plot, loosely based on the crimes of Ed Gein, follows Ezra Cobb, a middle-aged man in a rural Midwestern community who begins a string of serial murders and grave robberies after the death of his mother, a religious fanatic who raised him to be a misogynist. Though based on Gein, the film's title is misleading since Gein never experimented with necrophilia; although a necrophile is also defined as "an obsessive fascination with death and corpses."

Funded by an American concert promoter on a small budget, the production took place in Oshawa, Ontario in the winter of 1973, with a largely Canadian cast and crew. The film premiered in Los Angeles on March 20, 1974.

Dignified death

Dignified death is a somewhat elusive concept often related to suicide. One factor that has been cited as a core component of dignified death is maintaining a sense of control. Another view is that a truly dignified death is an extension of a dignified life. There is some concern that assisted suicide does not guarantee a dignified death, since some patients may experience complications such as nausea and vomiting. There is some concern that age discrimination denies the elderly a dignified death.

Dysthanasia

In medicine, dysthanasia means "bad death" and is considered a common fault of modern medicine.Dysthanasia occurs when a person who is dying has their biological life extended through technological means without regard to the person's quality of life. Technologies such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, artificial ventilation, ventricular assist devices, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation can extend the dying process.

Dysthanasia is a term generally used when a person is seen to be kept alive artificially in a condition where, otherwise, they cannot survive; sometimes for some sort of ulterior motive. The term was used frequently in the investigation into the death of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna in 1994.

Fan death

Fan death is a well-known superstition in Korean culture, where it is thought that running an electric fan in a closed room with unopened or no windows will prove fatal. Despite no concrete evidence to support the concept, belief in fan death persists to this day in Korea, and also to a lesser extent in Japan.

Ginger Snaps (film)

Ginger Snaps is a 2000 Canadian horror film directed by John Fawcett. The film focuses on two teenage sisters who have a fascination with death. It is the first installment in the Ginger Snaps series, followed by Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning.

Grace Jantzen

Grace Marion Jantzen (May 24, 1948 – May 2, 2006) was a Canadian feminist philosopher and theologian. She was professor of religion, culture and gender at Manchester University from 1996 until her death from cancer at the age of 57.In Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion, Jantzen proposed a new philosophy of religion from a feminist perspective. She also authored works on Christian mysticism and the foundations of modernity. Her approach was influenced by Continental scholarship, particularly that of Foucault.In her final publication, Foundations of Violence, Jantzen, sketches the fascination with death and violence -- what she calls a 'necrophilia' -- that she believes has characterized much of Western culture from classical antiquity through Christianity to present paradigms. In Jantzen's view, this emphasis on violence and death comes at the expense of the physical body in the present (a denigration of the senses, sexuality and sensuality), and thus, establishes a yearning for mystical worlds beyond the here and now.

Lazarus sign

The Lazarus sign or Lazarus reflex is a reflex movement in brain-dead or brainstem failure patients, which causes them to briefly raise their arms and drop them crossed on their chests (in a position similar to some Egyptian mummies). The phenomenon is named after the Biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus raised from the dead in the Gospel of John.

Medardo Ángel Silva

Medardo Ángel Silva Deleg (June 8, 1898 at Guayaquil – June 10, 1919 at Guayaquil) was an Ecuadorian poet and a member of the Generación decapitada. The "Decapitated Generation" was a group of four young Ecuadorian poets in the first decades of the 20th century. Two men from Guayaquil, Medardo Ángel Silva and Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño, and two men from Quito, Arturo Borja and Humberto Fierro, were the precursors of modernismo in Ecuador. These four writers were greatly influenced by the modernist movement of Rubén Darío and by 19th-century French romantic poetry. Though they knew each other and dedicated poems to each other, they never met together to create a true literary group. The term "generación decapitada" originated in the middle of the 20th century, when Ecuadorian journalists and historians decided to name them, noting similarities in the authors' poetry.

Silva was the lowest class of the four poets, troubled by his dark skin and economic status. He did however attend a prestigious high school and work as a journalist at El Telégrafo, a major newspaper in the city. His poems reflect fantasy and a fascination with death. The cause of his own death is not certain; he died at 21 while visiting a young girlfriend. He is believed to have committed suicide, but may have been murdered as the result of a love triangle.Silva's poem "El alma en los labios" was made into a song and made famous by the Ecuadorian singer Julio Jaramillo.

He used the pen names "Jean d'Agreve" and"Oscar René" for his literary work, much of which was published posthumously.

Megadeath

Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.

Necronym

A necronym (from the Greek words νεκρός, nekros, "dead" and ὄνομα ónoma, "name") is a reference to, or name of, a person who has died. Many cultures have taboos and traditions associated with referring to such a person. These vary from the extreme of never again speaking the person's real name, often using some circumlocution instead, to the opposite extreme of commemorating it incessantly by naming other things or people after the deceased.

For instance, in some cultures it is common for a newborn child to receive the name (a necronym) of a relative who has recently died, while in others to reuse such a name would be considered extremely inappropriate or even forbidden. While this varies from culture to culture, the use of necronyms is quite common.

Obituary

An obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant. In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.

Two types of paid advertisements are related to obituaries. One, known as a death notice, omits most biographical details and may be a legally required public notice under some circumstances. The other type, a paid memorial advertisement, is usually written by family members or friends, perhaps with assistance from a funeral home. Both types of paid advertisements are usually run as classified advertisements.

Of Dolls and Murder

Of Dolls and Murder is a documentary film about a collection of dollhouse crime scenes and society's collective fascination with death. It was released in April 2012.

Pallor mortis

Pallor mortis (Latin: pallor "paleness", mortis "of death"), the first stage of death, is an after-death paleness that occurs in those with light/white skin.

Rigor mortis

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death"), or postmortem rigidity, is the third stage of death. It is one of the recognizable signs of death, characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem. In humans, rigor mortis can occur as soon as four hours after death.

Thanatology

Thanatology or deathlore is the scientific study of death and the losses brought about as a result. It investigates the mechanisms and forensic aspects of death, such as bodily changes that accompany death and the post-mortem period, as well as wider psychological and social aspects related to death. It is primarily an interdisciplinary study offered as a course of study at numerous colleges and universities.

The word is derived from the Greek language. In Greek mythology, Thanatos (θάνατος: "death") is the personification of death. The English suffix -ology derives from the Greek suffix -logia (-λογια: "speaking").

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