Death and the Afterlife
A Cultural Encyclopedia
by Richard P. Taylor
December 2000, 438pp, 8 1/2 x 11
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-0-87436-939-7
$91, £70, 80€, A125
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-57607-381-0
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What can we learn from the study of death and burial practices throughout world history? This essential reference draws out the underlying meaning of funeral and afterlife traditions and makes available a variety of human responses to that most fundamental reality in the cycle of life: death.

This cultural encyclopedia examines customs and beliefs relating to death and burial in clear, well written articles covering most major religious and cultural traditions from prehistoric to modern times.

Readers of Death and the Afterlife: A Cultural Encyclopedia will find that spending time with death is life-giving in most cultures today and throughout history. The Underworld, whether the Greek Hades or the Chinese Yellow Springs, is not just a repository of the dead, but the source of fertility, wealth, and hidden wisdom bestowed only upon the adventurous who cross the border between this world and the next.

This comprehensive reference work contains hundreds of entries on the sometimes obscure, complicated, and mysterious (but always fascinating) funeral customs of dozens of cultures. More than a gathering of information, this reference draws out the underlying meaning of funeral and afterlife traditions. Each entry is extensively documented and includes the insights of thoughtful native authors and commentaries directly related to the cultural topic at hand. A topic finder by culture, a bibliography, an index, and primary source references are included.


  • Includes hundreds of entries, each extensively documented and enriched with insights of native authors
  • A bibliography and primary source references are included
Richard P. Taylor teaches courses on burial and the afterlife at University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA and is an expert in religious studies.


Outstanding Academic Title 2001—CHOICE, January 1, 2002

Best of Reference 2002—The New York Public Library, January 1, 2002


"A well-written, fascinating compilation ... an excellent addition to the reference collections of colleges, seminaries, and most larger public libraries."—American Reference Books Annual, January 1, 2001

"This is not a morbid study but one that yields life-giving energy. Recommended for public and academic libraries."—Booklist, March 1, 2001

"Strongly recommended for undergraduate collections and for public libraries supporting diverse cultural communities."—Choice, June 1, 2001

"While this entertaining compendium will be a welcome addition to public libraries, its authoritative articles with numerous cross-references and scholarly bibliographies make it well-suited for use in academic libraries."—Lawrence Looks at Books, April 1, 2001
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