Prayers for the Dead

I may have found another common theme between my medieval life and my WWI life, and it’s a big one.

I actually saw this a couple of days ago but was slow to update:

Basically, between 1850 and 1918 there was a resurgence of medieval tastes in religion.  WWI also ushered in the revival of the practice of prayers for the dead.

Prayers for the dead are not an uncommon thing across many cultures, and there are many different reasons stated for doing this (from negotiating a favorable reincarnation to reducing one’s time in purgatory).  But what they all have in common is the thought behind them and the fact that you are speaking the person’s name.  The practice was largely abandoned in many Protestant countries because it was considered a superstitious act, a Pagan accretion or an inclusion of some unchristian ideas about the afterlife because it isn’t really supported anywhere in the Nicene canon (which Calvinists mistakenly thought was the only text of value for the care of souls).  Like so many things, it got forgotten for most of the modern era but perhaps we forgot something important after all.

I don’t know for sure if there is any connection between the practice of praying for the souls of the dead and the fact that I remembered lives in ages when it was common.  I don’t know if the medieval revivals in the Victorian age had anything to do with a bunch of us from the 13th century coming back at the same time and I don’t know if or how prayers for the dead actually work.

Still, for what it’s worth, give it a try.  Pray for the souls of those who have died.  Pray however you are comfortable.  Light a candle, speak their name, maybe read from the Bardo Thodol or some book of the dead, especially in the first few days after their death.  If my memory serves, they may be confused and uncertain about what has happened, or even frightened.  It might be of more help to them than you know just to say something on their behalf as they make their way to whatever comes next.  Even if they can’t hear you, it might change their outcome for the better.


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