Professional mourning

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Mourner, suspected to represent Isis mourning Osiris. 18th dynasty, 1550 - 1295 BC. Terra cotta

Professional mourning or paid mourning is an occupation that originates in Egyptian, Chinese, Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures. Professional mourners, also called moirologists, are compensated to lament or deliver a eulogy and help comfort and entertain the grieving family. Mentioned in the Bible[1] and other religious texts, the occupation is widely invoked and explored in literature, from the Ugaritic epics of early centuries BC to modern poetry.[citation needed] Held in high esteem in some cultures and times, the practice was vilified in others, such as the Chinese Cultural Revolution.[2] . Female professional mourners also, called Rudaali, were common in many parts of India, especially in the Western Indian state of Rajasthan.

Professional mourning is still practiced in China and other Asian countries. In fact, some cultures even think that the use of professional mourners brings a certain religious and historical application to funeral processions. [3]

In popular culture


  • The Indian film Rudaali (1993), directed by Kalpana Lajmi and set in Rajasthan, is about the life of a professional mourner, or Rudaali.[4]
  • The short documentary Tabaki (2001), directed by Bahman Kiarostami, follows the lives of "mourners for hire".[5]
  • The Philippine film Crying Ladies (2003), directed by Mark Meily, follows the lives of three women who work as professional mourners, set in the Philippines.[6]
  • The Japanese film Miewoharu (2016), directed by Akiyo Fujumura. It is centered around Eriko, a woman that comes back to her home town to mourn her sister. After spending 10 years in Tokyo pursuing an acting career she then discovers her vocation as professional mourner.[7]


  • In E. M. Forster's novel Howards End (1910), for his wife's funeral, Charles Wilcox retains women to serve as mourners "from the dead woman's district, to whom black garments had been served out."[9]
  • In Zakes Mda's novel Ways of Dying (1995), Toloki is a self-employed professional mourner.[10]
  • In his 2014 novel Ghost Month, author Ed Lin states that professional mourners are available for hire in contemporary Taiwan.


  • In the episode "Grave Danger" of The Cleveland Show, the title character Cleveland Brown, along with his friends Lester, Holt, Tim the Bear, and Dr. Fist, temporarily become professional mourners and sit in on several funerals while spending time at Stoolbend Cemetery.
  • In the episode "Death" in the travel documentary The Moaning of Life, host Karl Pilkington travels to Taiwan to train with a professional mourner and attends a memorial service.
  • In the episode "The Princess" of Rita, Uffe suggest that Rita may need a professional mourner to help her grieve after the death of her mother.

See also

  • Claque, an organized body of professional applauders in France
  • Grief
  • Keening, a form of vocal lament associated with mourning that is traditional in Ireland, Scotland, and other cultures.
  • Placebo (at funeral), someone who came to a funeral, claiming (often falsely) a connection with the deceased to try to get a share of any food and/or drink being handed out


  1. ^ "Mourning: Hired Mourners". Bible Hub. 
  2. ^ Yiwu, Liao Yiwu (2009). The Corpse Walker. Anchor. ISBN 978-0307388377. 
  3. ^ Lim, Louisa Lim (2013-06-23). "Belly Dancing For The Dead: A Day With China's Top Mourner". WNYC. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Rudaali". University of Iowa. Archived from the original on 2013-10-19. Retrieved 2014-09-01. 
  5. ^ "Tabaki". IMDB. Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  6. ^ "Crying Ladies". IMDB. Retrieved 2017-09-16. 
  7. ^ "Miewoharu". IMDB. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  8. ^ Balzac, Honoré de. Father Goriot. (The Works of Honoré de Balzac. Vol. XIII.) Philadelphia: Avil Publishing Company, 1901.
  9. ^ Forster, E. M. Howards End. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1910.
  10. ^ Zakes., Mda, (2002). Ways of dying : a novel (1st Picador USA ed ed.). New York: Picador USA. ISBN 9780312420918. OCLC 49550849. 
  • Footnote 1 in Sabar, Y. (1976). "Lel-Huza: Story and History in a Cycle of Lamentations for the Ninth of Ab in the Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan." Journal of Semitic Studies (21) 138-162.

External links

  • Professional
  • “Rudaali” Culture of Moirologists in Rajasthan
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