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 a mostly historical occupation practiced in Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures and many other parts of the world. Professional mourners, also called moirologists,[1] are compensated to lament or deliver a eulogy. Mentioned in the Bible, the occupation is widely invoked in literature, from the Ugaritic epics of early centuries BC to modern poetry. Held in high esteem in some cultures and times, the practice was vilified in others. Female professional mourners also, called as Rudaali, were common in many parts of India, especially in the Western Indian state of Rajasthan. These women were usually from the lower castes, and would be hired by the upper castes on the death of a family member.

In popular culture[edit]

In Honoré de Balzac's landmark 1835 novel Le Père Goriot, the title character's funeral is attended by two professional mourners rather than his daughters.[2] The 1993 Indian film Rudaali, directed by Kalpana Lajmi and set in Rajasthan, is about the life of a professional mourner, or Rudaali.[3]

The short documentary Tabaki (2001) directed by Bahman Kiarostami, follows the lives of 'mourners for hire'.[4]

See also[edit]

  • 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.
  • Claque, an organized body of professional applauders in France.


  1. ^ "A.Word.A.Day, Moirologist". Wordsmith. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  2. ^ Balzac, Honoré de. Father Goriot. (The Works of Honoré de Balzac. Vol. XIII.) Philadelphia: Avil Publishing Company, 1901.
  3. ^ "Rudaali". University of Iowa. Retrieved 2014-09-01. 
  4. ^ "Tabaki". IMDB. Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  • 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[edit]