Funeral Shroud
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Basic Information

A funeral shroud, also known as a winding sheet is a cloth in which a corpse is wrapped prior to burial, cremation or other disposal. Traditionally the shroud should be large enough that the corpse is entirely enclosed but cultures which have difficulty producing large pieces of cloth may instead use multiple smaller ones as wrappings (or even bandage like wrappings). Culture - and socioeconomic status - may also effect the quality of the cloth used, with high status individuals sometimes having very ornate shrouds indeed. Less prestigious burials may simply see the decedent sewn up in their cloak or hammock whilst in emergencies carpet or sacking may be pressed into service. Other grave clothes are also culturally dependent - sometimes the dead goes into the shroud nude, other times fully clothed. Those cultures that bury the dead in coffins may neglect the shroud altogether and use the coffin as the final enclosure. Potentially a high value shroud may be wrapped over less prestigious windings for ceremonial purposes and then removed before the actual interment or cremation.

It may be presumed that the tradition of burying the dead wrapped in a sheet has something to do with the tradition of ghosts appearing as pale, indistinct figures that appear to have some kind of cloth over them…

See Also:

The Public Domain Artifact that is the Turin Shroud.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Come to think of it, in some circumstances burial in a carpet could be prestigious: many low tech communities might well find that something like a Persian rug or other high end carpet is the most impressive bit of textile around and makes a winding sheet fit for a king.
    • Visitors from a more advanced culture might be able to make an impression with a well timed contribution ("You know it's a rug, Cholmondeley, and I know it's a rug, but to them it's a shroud fit for a king").
  • Also, consider a nomadic culture that uses rugs as tent-floors. Being sown up in the carpet might be entirely congruent for such a culture - it also handily disposes of a carpet which might otherwise be contaminated by having someone die on it.
  • Being sown up in your hammock was standard funeral practice for a burial at sea until the mid C20 (when most ships stopped using hammocks as berthing space).
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