Last Updated: 31st January 2022
The community comes together when a person dies in Cyprus.
Rituals are performed as the community around the bereaved help to support those that have been left.
The Islamic faith is followed and whatever anyone does to contribute (bringing flowers, waiting at the house before the funeral or even digging the grave) is valued because it helps the bereaved to cope in an emotional and physical way. The spirit shown by the community is well received.
The speed in which the funeral takes place after someone dies is fast. Provided the deceased has died of natural causes, the funeral can take place on the same day and, if not, as soon as possible thereafter. If a relative has to travel from further away to attend the funeral, it might take place the day after.
Funeral homes do not exist and the preparation of the body (a ritual washing) is carried out by paid particular men (or women).
Regardless of wealth or age, every person who dies is wrapped in cotton calico and laid to rest in a communal bier or tomb called a ‘tabut‘.
The colour black at funerals is not worn by Turkish Cypriots and although they don’t wear bright coloured clothes, they opt for less stark ‘head-to-toe-black’ attire.
Before the funeral procession takes place, everyone congregates outside the house of the deceased, where the coffin is balanced on two chairs, the ‘hoca’ (or master) asks all those present what they thought of the deceased. Positive responses are provided and the question is asked a couple more times. Those attending are asked to forgive the person of any sins committed before they died and ‘helal olsun’ is a unified phrase that absolves them of their wrongdoing.
The procession of a funeral is important and it is deemed respectful to walk behind the deceased as he or she are carried to their burial place. The men help to shoulder the coffin as the procession takes place and women follow.
As the casket is placed on a stone table at the cemetery’s gate, the men face Mecca in a line whilst prayers are led by the cleric; with the women not participating in these prayers.
The men of in the funeral party help to fill the grave with dirt, using a shovel and leaving it on the ground for another man to pick up for him to continue the process. Whilst it is unusual for women to take part in this ritual, if they do, they will not use the shovel but throw a handful of dirt on the mound instead.
Holy water is poured on the grave as incense is lit and flowers added.
The Cypriots are superstitious about death. Dying on a Friday or during the holy months, between the Muslim festivals is considered ‘good’ because the deceased will pass straight into heaven.
Other superstitions include pregnant women and babies not seeing a funeral pass by and an open pair of scissors being placed on the body of the deceased to indicate they have cut ties with the earth and their existence.
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