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Meaning of Death in Cross-Cultural Perspectives
Advanced Psychology Seminar
Walker and Thompson (2009)

Methods: Qualitative interviews conducted with 27 volunteers within the Muscogee Creek Tribe, ages 21-79, mean age 59

    What does death mean to you?
    What happens to the spirit and body after death?
    Do you continue to have a relationship with the deceased and communicate after the death? If so, how and for how long?
    Does life continue to exist for the deceased after the physical death?
    Are your views on death traditional or contemporary?

Analysis - Qualitative Codes:
    Life after death beliefs
    Relationship with deceased and other spirits
    Messengers and symbols
    General meaning of death

    Similarities between church and ceremonial grounds
    Differences between church and ceremonial ground
    Ongoing bonds perspective
    Meaning making perspective

Discussion Questions
How might traditional Muscogee Creek culture resemble the university culture here at ORU?

Discuss the Creek concept of God, Ibofanga, as genderless, universal energy that permeates everyone and everything. Does this challenge your concept of God? If so, how?

Discuss the differences in meaning of death between traditional Creek culture (circular; a transformation of energy to a new form) and Christianity (death as an endpoint of sorts).

Consider the concept of afterlife (ongoing vs. permanent residence in Heaven or Hell).  Does this challenge your concept of the afterlife? If so, how?

Some Christians said that their spiritual experiences were “in their minds because they missed the person so much,” while ceremonial ground members believed in the authenticity of their experiences. Why do you believe this is so?

Regardless of religious type, the vast majority of participants reported interactions with loved ones after they died. Ceremonial ground members also reported interactions with people they did not know (after their deaths). Do you believe this has particular implications about traditional Creeks’ sense of spirituality?

Creek participants showed minimal evidence of having shattered assumptions about the world. Do you agree with the authors’ suggestion that this may be because of the experiential, present-oriented (vs. faith) approach to spirituality? Why or why not?

What role does community play in experiencing shattered assumptions and subsequent meaning making, according to the author? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

Creek spirituality focuses considerably more than dominant U. S. culture on subjective perceptions of events. Do these perceptions appear truthful to you?

Does the data in this article challenge your current view of spirituality (and/or religion)? Please explain.

Have you experienced interactions with loved ones after they have died? Have you experienced messengers and symbols, such as what many Creeks described? Please explain.

Final Question
    Do you inhabit a cultural heritage with origins outside of dominant U. S. culture?
    In what types of mourning rituals does this culture engage?
    What meaning do members of this culture tend to attribute to death?
    What is this culture’s perception of God?