7 unique funeral rituals around the world

7 unique funeral rituals around the world
7 unique funeral rituals around the world

Heavenly burial

Sky burial is common in Tibet among Buddhists who believe in the value of sending the souls of loved ones to heaven. In this ritual, bodies are left outside, often cut into pieces, to be eaten by birds or other animals. This serves the dual purpose of eliminating the now-empty vessel of the body and allowing the soul to leave, while also spanning the circle of life and providing sustenance to the animals.

A ritual for LOVE that works!

Famadihana

“Dance with the dead” best describes the funeral tradition in Madagascar at Famadihana. The Madagascans open the graves of their dead every few years and rewrap them in fresh burial clothes. Every time the dead get new packs, they also get a new dance near the tomb while music plays everywhere. This ritual – translated as “turning the bones” – aims to speed up decomposition and propel the spirit of the dead to the afterlife.

Water burial

Many cultures, especially in the Nordic countries, have embraced water in their chosen rituals for the dead, from placing coffins on top of cliffs facing the water to actually using the water as a burial ground. Some let the bodies drift on the “ships of death”, either along a river or sent out into the ocean, returning the bodies back to the gods or to places most valued by the people of the area.

The parade

Celebrating the life of the deceased can take many forms. A tradition from Varanasi, India, involves parading the dead through the streets, the bodies dressed in colors that emphasize the virtues of the deceased (red for purity or yellow for knowledge, for example). In an attempt to encourage souls to reach salvation, ending the cycle of rebirth, the bodies are sprinkled with water from the Ganges River and then cremated in the city’s main cremation grounds.

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The Tower of Silence

A Zoroastrian tradition requires vultures to keep their ancient burial ritual alive. According to this tradition, a dead body is believed to defile everything it touches – including earth and fire – and raising a corpse to heaven for vultures to devour has historically been the only option. The bull’s urine is used to clean the body before the tools, which are later destroyed, are used to cut off the clothes. The corpse is then placed atop the Tower of Silence, out of the way of the living who might be tainted by it.

Ashes to Death Beads

While countless funeral traditions around the world involve cremation, South Koreans have taken it a step further by turning the deceased’s ashes into beads. These beads have a little sparkle and come in a range of colors, from pink or black to turquoise. Placed in glass vases or even open in containers, beads can take center stage in the home, a more decorative choice than a simple urn. In a country where space is at a premium and cremation becomes the only realistic choice for burying the dead, extracting something beautiful from the process gives loved ones a new tradition to embrace and a legacy to treasure.

A set of Filipino traditions

We promised seven unique funeral rituals, but when it comes to the Philippines, there were too many to choose from. The Tingui people dress the deceased in the most beautiful clothes and seat the body on a chair, often placing a lit cigarette in the lips, while the Benge people blindfold their dead before placing them on the chairs at the entrance of the home. Cebuano people dress children in red at funerals to reduce the chance of seeing ghosts. The Sagada region features coffins suspended from rocks, bringing the souls of the dead closer to heaven, while people in Cavite often bury the deceased vertically in a carved tree chosen by the person before death. The diversity of regions in the Philippines has resulted in a variety of Filipino funeral rites that have no parallel.


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