The practice of using burial shrouds, or "burial sheets" is one that is rich in history across many cultures; however, for many, this can be a new concept, especially when planning for a funeral. Today, burial shrouds refer to any form of cloth that covers the deceased before cremation or burial. Typically, these sheets are made out of cotton or linen and are widely available from many specialty providers in various styles that fit the nature of the service itself.
The History of the Shroud
While many Christians are familiar with the Shroud of Turin - the mysterious cloth wrapped around Jesus Christ after his death - the practice of burial sheets is one that has been used all across the world. Shrouds are commonly used in a variety of manners and styles. Initially, Christians used burial shrouds as a way to save on materials and still present the deceased in a respectful manner. However, this practice also dates back to other funerary practices in Ancient Egyptian and Native American cultures.
Today, this tradition continues on in many religious and cultural circles. For instance, Jewish burials often utilize shrouds, known in Hebrew as "Tahirim" that are white and made by hand, directly correlating to the religious, historical significance this cloth has carried. Many Christians also continue this practice, often signifying the fabric with a cross or the Trisagion hymn.
Muslim and Hindu cultures also utilize shrouds, but in a much different manner. In these cultures, shrouds become a part of preparing the deceased for their journey into the afterlife. These cultures take meticulous measures when making shrouds, such as by washing them a certain number of times with scented water.
Using Shrouds Today
While many still use shrouds as part of the cultural custom, others are beginning to use them as part of "green burial" practices, to encourage less material usage. Whatever the purpose, families have many options when using shrouds themselves, and funeral homes can often help direct individuals to professionals that specialize in producing these cloths.