I received Morbid Magic; Death Spirituality and Culture From Around The World by Tomás Prower and was immediately interested and excited to see what another funeral director had to say about death and its impact on humans around the globe. The book gives a wonderful overview of multi-cultural death perspectives, traditions, and-duh-magic! From hands on historical facts to real world application, Morbid Magic has a little bit for everyone.
Prower opens his book with the number one pesky question all funeral directors get asked, “Just what the heck do I do with a dead body?” I immediately appreciated seeing a kindred spirit in Prower’s openness to exploring other aspects and values for death rituals rather than stating the American traditional idea of embalming and burial as the “gold standard”. In fact he outright says that our “traditional” view of funerals isn’t really all that traditional after all. Ok, so this guy knows the way to a green mortician’s heart. After setting the tone for the book Prower sets things up in a way that is both easy to read and to reference for anyone wanting to go back to a certain section or use his book for an anthropology class (cough cough).
It would be a lengthy sentence to write all the places Prower takes you, and I think that is a good thing! The break down of each religion and/or culture is succinct and respectful, which I appreciate. Prower discusses the historical aspects of the religion or country and how that ties into the disposition methods of those he is discussing. Fun fact, disposition is how we in the “biz” refer to burial or cremation. Then he writes about any deities and legends the faith may have. It is really beautiful to compile that all in one book as what you begin to see mapped out is how we as have so much more in common than we want to believe. After, Prower takes you into the magical aspects of the culture and presents you with a person who has knowledge and experience in that religion and he weaves their stories and personal tales into the chapter to show the real world application. He even adds a challenge or activity for you at the end of some chapters which I thought was a great way to inspire you to see magic as a practical part of life.
I enjoyed my time with Prower and was happy to read his works. His writing isn’t stuffy and he feels like the kind of guy you could have lunch with, which to me, is a huge deal as I am normally trying to avoid all human contact. I think this book will satisfy many curiosities. I read it as a great source for a college class on anthropology or religion as it is well researched and has great sources. It would allow anyone to quickly skim through the world in a few days and hopefully push you to dive deeper into the cultures that spoke to you the most. In a world where we are drawing bolder and deeper lines between us, I hope that the ultimate takeaway is that death is not the enemy but the thing that has the power to unite and inspire us.
* While I did receive this book and was asked to write a review this is an unpaid and therefore unbiased opinion.