Religious Ritual

Religious belief frequently provides traditional guidelines for clothing the dead, using specific garments with their own significance. Shrouding the body (kafan) plays a cen-

Dressing Dead For Funeral

Funeral effigy of John Donne. This effigy of John Donne shows the famous poet and priest wrapped in a funeral shroud. The word "shroud" refers to material used to dress a dead body prior to its final disposal. © Angelo Hornak/Corbis. Reproduced by permisison.

Funeral effigy of John Donne. This effigy of John Donne shows the famous poet and priest wrapped in a funeral shroud. The word "shroud" refers to material used to dress a dead body prior to its final disposal. © Angelo Hornak/Corbis. Reproduced by permisison.

tral part in Islamic burial ritual, using plain white lengths of cotton for everyone, regardless of social status or wealth, although variations may occur. After washing the body, it is systematically wrapped in several unstitched pieces of cloth, three for men and five for women. One piece has a hole cut out for the head, resembling a long basic shirt, which covers the whole body.

Shrouds form a similarly crucial part in Jewish burial ritual. Simple white burial garments (tachrichim) are used to clothe the body regardless of gender, avoiding ostentation and emphasizing equality after death. Garments include a head covering, shirt, pants, belt, and finally a linen sheet. Fabrics generally used for the garments are white linen, cotton, or muslin and traditionally hand-sewn, although machine-made sets are now available.

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