13 Strange Funeral Traditions Around the World
- SAMEER KAPOOR
- UPDATED Dec 07, 2017
- 142.9K Views
Death is the eventual reality of this lively and beautiful world. The evolution of the human society saw the creation of rituals and traditions that surrounded each and every aspect of human life and death was no exception to this. While most of the societies resort to the usual practices such as cremating or burying the dead, there are sections of this world that kept up this practice in a strange manner. However, one should keep in mind that it’s the outsider’s perspective that terms these practices as bizarre. Here are some of the strange funeral traditions across the world that will make your eyebrows raise at least once as they are not usual and are thus certainly strange in their own ways.
1. Endocannibalism - a practice of eating the dead
While most of you would have heard of cannibalistic tribes across the world, the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea and the Wari people of Brazil used to eat the dead in order to deal with the fear and mystery that enshrouded death, in the past.
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2. Hanging Coffins
While most of us would like to see the coffins underground, the old Chinese Dynasties in the ancient world followed a death ritual that involved the displaying of coffins on high rock cliffs. The idea was to make the dead close to the sky so as to be nearer to the heaven. It was only later on that these coffins were uncovered by the archaeologists and have become indeed an attraction to look out for.
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3. Sky Burials - Leave the dead for the vultures
While this might seem as too gross to us, the Tibetan Buddhists had a proper reason behind this funeral tradition. The sky burial meant that the dead were chopped up into small body parts to become food for the vultures. This way the death of one being was seen as a preserver of another’s life.
4. Sati - the act of self-immolation on funeral pyre
Most of the termed strange funeral traditions around the world at least were equal for everyone. However, with Sati, the act of self-immolation, we have one of the funeral traditions that was completely unfair for women. Although not practiced today, in the past this practice forced women to sacrifice their lives on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Sometimes, they were even dragged to the pyre against their own will. Interestingly, India was not the first and only culture to adopt the tradition. Other ancient societies that practiced something similar to Sati included the Egyptians, Greeks, Goths, and Scythians.
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5. Finger Amputation in Memory of the dead
The Dani people of West Papua, New Guinea had to cut off their own fingers after the death of their family member. This is one bizarre ritual that was applied to any woman related to the deceased, as well as any children. The practice was carried out to both gratify and drive away the spirits. Also, physical pain was seen as an expression of sorrow and suffering. To perform the amputation, fingers were tied tightly with string and then cut off with an axe. The leftover piece was then dried and burned to ashes or stored in a special place. Although this weird funeral custom is banned today, its ravages can be still seen in the older members of the community.
6. Viking Sexual Funeral
So we always thought that the dead won’t have erections anymore? It seems that Viking community believed that even the dead chieftain would need a sexual partner to satisfy him in afterlife. The Norse funeral for local leaders featured sexual rites, wherein a slave girl would have sex with every man in the village, would be strangled to death with a rope, and then stabbed by the matriarch of the village. Her dead body would then join the chieftain on the burning ship so as to satisfy him in afterlife. Women seem to have a tougher end in most of these funeral traditions!
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7. Famidihana - rewrapping the dead
Famidihana is a funeral practice of the Malagasy people in Madagascar, whereby the dead body was rewrapped after few days of initial burial, followed by a dance with the corpses around the tomb. Also called as "the turning of the bones" and "dance with the dead", this funeral tradition was made lively with music and dance.
8. The Tower of Silence - Zoroastrian Funerals
Zoroastrian communities have a different way of paying to their dead. In order to disperse away the dead body, they set up the Tower of Silence, where the corpses are left out to be eaten by vultures. Before being brought there, they clean the dead body, washing it with water and bull urine, and are only allowed to be touched by professional corpse-bearers.
9. Fantasy Coffins
This would be the fanciest of them all. Although it was a funeral movement of the 1950’s in Ghana, it still deserves a mention in this list. The people of Ghana wanted to make something meaningful out of their death too. Also called as "figurative coffins," carpenters in Ghana make these giant works of art to house dead people for eternity. Since the Ghana people believe life continues in the next world, they have elaborate fantasy coffins that often represent the jobs of the deceased or what they wanted to achieve.
10. Putting the Dead as Beads
In South Korea, people opt to compress the remains of the deceased person into gem-like beads of different colors which are meant to be displayed at home in commemoration of the dead.
11. Defying Death by making dead live
The Tinguian people of the Philippines dress bodies in their most beautiful clothes, make sit them on a chair and place a lit cigarette in their lips. Cool eh!
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12. The Totem Pole funeral
The Haida people of North America had a special ritual for the death of a chief or shaman. The body used to be crushed till it became pulp with clubs and was then put in a suitcase box. The box would then be placed in a mortuary totem pole in front of the deceased person's house.
13. Under Home Burials
Maya people buried their relatives under their homes itself so as to keep them near their hearth. This way, family histories could remain in the family, and it was possible to keep dead family members close - within the walls of the home.
Do you know of any other funeral custom which is different from the usual ones? Let us know.
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