“What’s With Our Obsession with Depicting People after They Die?” asks the headline for this linked article. Am I the only one who sees the answer to that one being a big ol’ “duh”? Life does not end in death. It never did. If one believes in matters spiritual, then it does not end for the deceased. Regardless of that, though, the life of the deceased does not end at death for those still living. The dead remain living in people’s memories, as real as they ever were even if no longer corporeal. Is it at all surprising that living humans would want to create things tangible to help them preserve this connection with the deceased? No, it isn’t.
They’ve discovered some crude anatomical figures from 10,000 years ago in Jordan that were created as depictions of the dead, hinting at the existence of an ancient ancestor cult. Thus we have proof, not that I think it was necessary for acceptance, that this sort of commemoration has been going on for a long, long time. A more recent example given is the Victorian practice of posing people for photographs after they’re dead. (Ain’t gonna lie, that one skeeves me. But who am I to judge?)
It’s just a short step from maintaining a mental and spiritual relationship with the dead to believing the dead can have an effect on the lives of the living, and from there it’s a really short step to fearing the dead can return to affect things physically. Like, hands-on affecting. A large part of ancestor worship typically involves keeping the deceased happy so they *don’t* return to raise some hell.