Unusual Burial Rituals
Unusual Burial Rituals
For some people death is a bit of a taboo topic for discussion especially when it comes to respectfully disposing of a human corpse. However, this topic should not be disregarded because how different people honour their dead says a lot about the culture they belong to. The superstitions and beliefs surrounding what significance the body has to the deceased person are varied.
Because we live in a Christian based society, the Christian funeral ceremonies are normal to us, but there are many cultures ancient and current that have very different funerals and ways of honouring the dead immediately after their death. These diverse rituals may seem strange to us, but they have their own reasons for doing things that way. We are going to go through a few different types of funeral ceremonies to show you the wonderful cultural diversity there is in this world.
There are some cultures that believe that the soul is still in some way attached to the deceased body after death; one of which was the ancient Egyptians. However there are still some cultures today that believe this is the case. One of these cultures is the Malagasy of Madagascar who believe that the spirit of the deceased person is still attached to the body until it has completely decayed which takes seven years. Unlike the ancient Egyptians, the Malagasy do not believe that the body is vital to the soul’s survival in the afterlife, on the contrary, they celebrate the decomposition of the body. They have a ritual that they perform every five to ten years called famadihana know as ‘the turning of the bones’, in this ritual the families of the deceased exhume their remains in winter, give them new shrouds and dance with them around the crypts before returning them. This is a time for the living to meet the dead and to honor them.
The people of the Tana Toraja region of Indonesia have a slightly different belief, they believe that the soul is still in the body until the proper funerary rituals have been performed. Even so they do not think that death is an abrupt event and it is not unusual for the funeral to be long after the person is deceased because they have extravagant funerals and until they can afford to pay for them the body stays in the house with the family and is treated as though it is still alive. Sometimes the family is saving for the funeral for months or even years and during that time the body is wrapped and treated like a sick person. The coffins are traditionally placed in a high location like the top of a hill or on a cliff.
The Zoroastrians of old and still to this day believe that as soon as the body has started decomposition, which they call falling under the influence of “Druj-Nasu” the evil influence of decomposition, it was or is seen as unholy and infectious because they thought physical corruption led to spiritual corruption. No one is allowed to touch the body after it has reached this stage. The body is not buried but laid out on a tower called the dakhma where it is picked clean by vultures and other scavenging birds.
The Tibetans have a similar way of disposing the deceased body however they do not believe it is corrupt, they just think of it as an empty vessel and they prepare the body and then leave it for the vultures to eat. They then crush the bones, mix the powder with tsumpa (a mixture of yak milk or butter and barley flour and tea) then feed to the remaining scavengers such as the crows and hawks.
So there are just a few different beliefs concerning the body after death, it is interesting how diverse they are.
Brad & Saskia