Category:Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Culture/Old World/Mourning

Mourning in the Ancient Old World

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Culture/Old World

The ancient process of mourning in desert cultures matches what the daughters of Ishmael did in 1 Nephi 16

It was the daughters of Ishmael who mourned for him and chided Lehi for his death (1 Nephi 16:34-35). Budde has shown that the Old Hebrew mourning customs were those of the desert, in which "the young women of the nomad tribes mourn at the grave, around which they dance singing lightly." The Arabs who farm also put the body in a tent around which the women move as they mourn. "At the moment of a man's death, his wives, daughters, and female relations unite in cries of lamentation (weloulouá), which they repeat several times." 65 It is common in all the eastern deserts for the women to sit in a circle in a crouching position while the woman nearest related to the dead sits silently in the middle—in Syria the corpse itself is in the middle; while singing, the women move in a circle and whenever the song stops there is a general wailing. The singing is in unison, Indian fashion. In some parts the men also participate in the rites, but where this is so the women may never mix with the men. They have a monopoly and a mourning tradition all of their own.66 Mourning begins immediately upon death and continues among the Syrian Bedouins for seven days, a few hours a day. "All mourning is by mourning women and female relatives. No men are present."67 As is well known, no traditions are more unchanging through the centuries than funerary customs.68[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 19, references silently removed—consult original for citations.

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