Australian Aboriginal Funeral Traditions

In Australia, Aboriginal funerals are a unique celebration of a loved one's life and soul. In this article, we briefly cover:

  • The Soul

  • Funeral ceremonies

  • The Body

The Soul
Aboriginal people believe in two human souls: one is associated with a person’s autonomy and identity, and the other comes from “the dreaming,” or God. Upon death, the two souls separate. The identity soul becomes a dangerous ghost that stays with the deceased’s body and belongings, while the dreaming soul returns to the environment.

Funeral Ceremonies
Funerals are held in Aboriginal camps, houses or Christian churches. Funeral ceremonies often include smoking (in which smoke is wafted over the deceased’s property), wailing, and self-inflicted violence.

The Body
Traditional methods of dealing with corpses include burial, cremation, exposure on tree platforms, interment inside a log or hollow tree, and mummification. The commonly held belief that Aborigines used cannibalism as a form of body disposal is highly disputed.