Coffin Lowering Devices
Lowering a coffin into a grave is an act of finality and is one of the most significant rituals of any funeral. Read more here on coffin lowering devices.
Despite the ever-increasing cost of funerals, large sections of the South African population remain committed to traditional methods of disposing of their loved ones.
For example, Zulus believe they will be cursed if they are cremated, and not buried.
Graves are Zulu soil – a place where they go to rest after a crisis in their lives.
Jews, too, believe in traditional burial ceremonies.
Their religion dictates that their bodies are a gift from God.
Cremation, Embalming, autopsies (unless required by law) and donating body organs is strictly against their faith.
What are coffin lowering devices?
Coffin and casket lowering devices form an integral part of any traditional South African funeral service.
Mourners and undertakers use these devices to lower coffins or caskets into a grave.
They consist of strong and sturdy materials such as stainless steel, galvanised steel and powder coated steel.
History of coffin lowering devices
The lowering device dates back to 1894.
The shallow grave option created the problem of bodies being dug up by grave robbers or marauding animals.
The deeper grave, on the other hand, required several people working together to lower the body into the hole.
Richardson realised the need for an invention to overcome this problem and set about designing a lowering device system.
This early invention consisted of a series of pulleys, ropes or strips of strong material that retained the coffin at an even keel when lowered into the grave.
While manual coffin lowering devices are still in use today, particularly in rural areas, people prefer automated mechanisms.
The manual lowering device
When the funeral procession arrives at the cemetery, pallbearers are usually delegated with the task of manually lowering the coffin into the grave.
The lowering device straddles the grave.
They place the body on the device in the middle of the grave, with the ropes or straps running below the casket and through the handles of the coffin.
The mechanised lowering device
Mechanised coffin lowering devices are portable and collapsible.
It is a system of two, thick straps, on rolling cylinders, and straddles the open grave.
The coffin rests on the straps. A winding mechanism controls these.
Then they release a locking device on the lowering mechanism, and the coffin then descends into the grave.
Who makes these devices?
One of the best-known coffin lowering device manufacturers is South African Funeral Supplies (SAFS).
A self-claimed proudly South African company, it has nine branches throughout the country, each with its showroom displaying the latest products and accessories available on the market.
It also supplies products to customers across South Africa’s borders.
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