By: Carol Williams Gebel
This study surveys the function of quilts in ceremonial rites and customs related to death, the final rite of passage. It examines quilts in the context of several cultures both historic and contemporary, including European-American, Polynesian, Native American, African, and some Asian groups.
Quilts have been used when “laying out” the deceased; for wrapping the body of the deceased, and for lining the coffin. Some permanently remain in or on the grave, while others have temporary use in funeral or commemorative services. Other quilts are made from funeral fabrics.
In some cultures the role of quilts in death rites is well established, while in others this use of quilts is a personal choice, rather that a societally sanctioned act.