Birth and Death: Studying Ritual, Embodied Practices and Spirituality at the Start and End of Life (2022)

Joanna Wojtkowiak & Brenda Mathijssen
Publisher: Religions (open access)

Birth and death are fundamental human experiences. Both life transitions are not only meaningful and profound but can also lead to ambiguous feelings, negotiated in embodied, cultural, spiritual, and ritual practices. The liminality and ambiguity of birth and death evoke the need for rituals. Across cultures, rituals accompany birth and death as major life transitions, for instance, by welcoming the child or mother-to-be/parent-to-be through name-giving ceremonies or symbolically transitioning the deceased into the world of the dead. In this edited volume in Religions, we explore new theoretical and empirical research on birth and death rituals from multidisciplinary perspectives, such as anthropology, psychology, and religious studies, in order to offer novel insights with respect to lived spirituality and religiosity.

Funerary Practices in the Netherlands (2019)

Brenda Mathijssen & Claudia Venhorst
Publisher: Emerald

In contextualizing the Dutch funerary practice in its wider legal, national and local governance framework, this book describes the historical context for current practices, provides data on trends in burial and cremation, and examines recent developments including natural burial, increasing religious diversity and changing national legislation. 

Chapters provide an overview of funerary history and contemporary practice, alongside photographs, charts and tables of key information. Topics explored include: the death care industry; the Corpse Disposal Act; a typical funeral including funeral costs and insurance; cemetery and crematorium provision; and, the practices, technicalities and legalities of burial and cremation. The book also analyses and illustrates the commemorative practice of public mourning events related to World War II, the Holocaust and the MH17 plane crash.  

This book provides a broad frame of reference on funeral practices, making it a useful resource for academics, policy makers and practitioners interested in the historic, legal, technical and professional aspects of the funerary industry.

Making Sense of Death. Ritual Practices and Situational Beliefs of the Recently Bereaved in the Netherlands (2017)

Brenda Mathijssen
Publisher: Lit Verlag

This book on death rites and situational beliefs in the Netherlands offers valuable insight into the ways in which the recently bereaved make sense of a death. It shows how people seek and create meaning by reinventing ritual repertoires and by re-imagining afterlife beliefs. Attention is given to the changing role of religion, the co-creation of personalized funerals, and to innovation in cremation and remembrance practices. By demonstrating how people transform their relationship with the deceased through material practices, this study emphasizes the widely-overlooked dynamics of continuing bonds. 

***”In her analysis, the author displays a commanding grasp of the bereavement literature…. Serious scholars should find much of value in this work…. Recommended.” — Choice, Vol. 55, No. 7, March 2018.

Dood. Wegwijs in de Nederlandse Uitvaartcultuur (2017)

Claudia Venhorst & Brenda Mathijssen
Publisher: Parthenon

De omgang met de dood is in Nederland gekleurd door hoe wij ons dagelijkse leven leiden. Niets is zo universeel als de dood, maar onze ideeën en uitvaartpraktijken zijn dat allerminst.

Britten prijzen de uitstekende horecavoorzieningen van onze crematoria, Duitsers en Denen kijken vol verwondering naar onze persoonlijke uitvaarten en creatieve vormen van asbestemming. Nergens ter wereld hebben zoveel mensen een uitvaartverzekering en krijgt euthanasie zo’n aandacht in de media. De uitvaartcultuur in Nederland is veelkleurig en bijzonder.

Hoe ziet de dood van tegenwoordig eruit? Dit rijk geïllustreerde boek vertelt aan de hand van actuele thema’s over de menselijke ervaring en omgang met de dood, en brengt in beeld welke ontwikkelingen zich juist in Nederland voordoen.

Changing European Death Ways (2013)

Eric Venbrux, Thomas Quartier, Claudia Venhorst, Brenda Mathijssen (eds.)
Publisher: Lit Verlag 2013

In this volume scholars in the broad, interdisciplinary field of thanatology afford valuable insights in changing European death ways. The first part presents studies on a conceptual level for various aspects of death studies. In a second segment different European societies are compared on a national level, while in the final part religious beliefs, attitudes, practices and other worldview-related issues are covered. In this book countries, disciplines and worldviews meet, providing a framework and starting a profound comparative dialogue on challenges the field is confronted with. A framework, we also hope that will be expanded by many scholars and be useful for practitioners.