Have you ever envisioned the end? The end of your life; The time when you would be lying lifeless on your death bed! It’s spine-tingling. Death is inevitable, but what stays behind is how your loved ones waved you a final goodbye! Yes, we’re talking about funerals here. There are thousands of traditions in the world that call for different ways for the last rites, and among them, there are few which leave us in awe. Where in most cultures, death is an event of sorrow, there are those areas as well where it is celebrated. In some parts of the world death bodies are never looked back upon, and in some, they are never left behind. Just like these, we’ve brought here some of the most strange and startling funeral traditions for you from different regions of the world. Flip through these stirring customs and practices below that will surely fill you up with wonder.
- Tower of silence
Parsees or Zoroastrians believe in excarnation, and this is exactly what a Tower of Silence (Dakhma) is meant for! These are circular funerary towers that are 20 to 30 feet high and are made up of bricks and stones. According to the rituals of the Zoroastrian religion, dead bodies are exposed on this tower to vultures and corpse-eating birds. When the flesh is eaten, and only bones are left behind, they are collected in a pit located right in the centre of the tower. These bones then slowly disintegrate and are run from various sand and coal filters before being washed out in the sea. The entire purpose of this tradition is to save the earth and atmosphere from the contamination and pollution from the dead bodies.
- The Death Beads
People in South Korea have found a way to keep their loved ones close to them even after their death! They cremate the bodies and then collect the ashes. These ashes are then transformed into beautiful pink, blue-green, or black beads. People keep these beads enclosed in glass jars or in pretty dishes, which provides a decorative way to have their dead relatives nearby. This funeral process became popular in the region after a law was passed in 2000 due to the shortage of burial space in the country. The law made it obligatory for people burying their relatives after 2000 to remove the graves after 60 years of burial. Since then, drastic changes in the traditions have been seen, including the introduction of the death beads.
Famadihana is a funeral practice from the highlands of Madagascar where people dig out the graves of their relatives every five to seven years for a family reunion and celebration. Family members remove the remains of the dead from the grave and cautiously pull off the burial cloth from the corpse. The remains are then wrapped in silk garments, and the celebrations begin. People dance with the corpses, drink and indulge in great conversations with each other.
- Jazz funerals
Jazz funerals take place in New Orleans. People mourn the loss of their loved ones and yet celebrate their life with great liveliness. The funeral starts off from the home of the deceased or the church and ends at the cemetery. A brass band accompanies the mourners; the streets are filled with heavy and sad music, which gradually turns into a celebratory one. Everybody dances to the music, and even the passersby are encouraged to join in and celebrate.
- Aboriginal Funeral
Australia’s population consists of only 3% of the native people now. These indigenous communities believe in a variety of funeral traditions where both cremation and burial are followed. Usually, the last rites are performed in two parts. First, the body of the dead is placed on a heightened platform for some months. When the body has decomposed, and only bones are left, the relatives would collect them and paint them red. After painting, the bones are either buried, stowed at a natural landscape or taken with the family as a remembrance.
- The Tree Burial
Cavite is a province in the Philippines where there rests a deep connection between death and trees! Whenever a Cavite person is considered seriously sick or old and can die soon, he/she is asked to choose a tree in the forest. The family members of the dying person build them a little hut near the tree where the person is supposed to live until they die. The relatives regularly visit them and take care of them while hollowing out the tree trunk. After the person dies, the body is entombed in the trunk vertically. The concept behind this tradition is that the way trees give out food and wood, humans give their life back to the trees after they die.
Endocannibalism is an old ritual being followed in Papua, New Guinea and some parts of Brazil. The practice involves eating the flesh of the dead person from the same tribe or community. The primary focus is on the women and children who have to eat the flesh of the males of their families. In Some parts of India, people burn dead bodies while collecting bones from them. They turn the bones into powder and mix it with the ashes of the body to prepare a soup from it. Different beliefs surround the practice of endocannibalism, including absorbing the dead’s wisdom, gaining immortality and supernatural powers, helping the soul transition into another world and sometimes just to mourn the loss.
- Finger amputation
The people of the Dani tribe in Papua, New Guinea, believe that physical pain is necessary to show the emotional pain of a death in the family. And so, the women of the tribe cut off the upper part of one of their fingers whenever a family member passes away. The upper part of the finger is tightly tied for 30 minutes to make it numb, and then an axe is used to amputate it. The piece of the finger that’s cut is then stored at a significant place or burned to ashes. The belief that circulates around this practice is that it gratifies and sets the departed soul at peace.
- Totem Pole Burial
The ancient and local Haida people of British Columbia follow a totem pole funeral according to their old burial practices. The people of higher status in the community are supposed to get extraordinary funerals, including burying them in a totem pole. A mortuary totem pole is made from carving a cedar tree and making an opening at the top for placing a small burial box. As the box is too small and the dead body cannot fit in it, the body is then crushed to pulp to make it fit. The pole is carved with different things taking in human faces, animals, social statuses and more. Besides this, the Haida people bury the bodies of those of the ordinary status in a large pit. There aren’t any individual pits; instead, every dead body is buried in the same pit outside the village without even a casket.
- Water burial
Water burial is followed in a number of cultures around the world and is done in various ways. In India, the dead body is burned to ashes, after which the ashes are scattered onto the water. Besides, a full-body burial is also practised in other parts of the world where the bodies are placed in unique caskets or burial shrouds which is then released into the sea. Alongside this, in olden times, the people of Solomon Islands used to place the dead bodies on the reefs around the Island for the sharks to consume them.
- Hanging Coffins
In Southern China, you can see some ancient coffins hanging through the cliffs in beautiful landscapes. These coffins belonged to the Guyue and Bo people from 3000 years ago when they didn’t bury or cremated the dead. The bodies were placed in the coffins and then hanged from the cliffs. The locals believed that the higher bodies are hanged, the closer they will be to heaven. They also had faith in the theory that the good souls reside in nature. Moreover, similar practices are also seen in the people of Indonesia and the Philippines.