The solemn and slow-moving funeral processions traditionally followed in New Orleans primarily in the African American community with music and properly clothed mourners, in front of and behind the hearse carrying the deceased, is an old tradition based on necessary precautions.
The introduction of the rite of lighting candles and torches at funeral services started in the Roman Empire.
The purpose of the traveling ceremony was to ward off evil spirits and guide the departed to Paradise.
The word funeral is derived from the Latin word for torch.
The practice of placing candles in large candelabras on the coffin as it was carried to the burial grounds arose in the fifteenth century.
Prior to the introduction of the automobile and enclosed hearses it was necessary that the funeral procession move at a slow pace so that the candles would not blow out.
(Excerpts from “The Little Book of Answers” – Author – Doug Lennox – (2003) – MJF Books – New York, NY 1001. The book is available on Ebay and other Internet sites.)