Weird Funeral and Burial Practices

Weird funeral and burial practices are still being performed in different parts of the world.

The ceremony for remembering, sanctifying and mourning for our dead loved ones is called a funeral. Funerary customs include beliefs, practices, rituals of traditional cultures of interment, offering of prayers for the deceased. “Funus” is the Latin word for funeral, which means corpse and funerary ceremony. Burial, is the burying of the deceased in an excavated pit or trench and covering it again. There are various kind of funerary burials according to traditions, culture, religions and family’s request . Examples are sky burials, space burials, sea burials, cremation (burning the deceased),state funerals and the Ground Burial or entombment.

Embalming a Body

Container containing embalming solution

 

Embalmer doing embalming process on the corpse

The temporary preservation of human dead body by use of solution process is called embalming process. These process of preserving corpse was an ancient practice of some cultures according to their religions and beliefs. Embalming process begins with cleaning the corpse with disinfectants and germicidal solutions (especially for those who died with contagious disease),bends the flexes of the corpse and massage the arms and legs to relieve the stiffness of death or rigor mortis.

1) Islamic Funerals

Islamic Funeral march

6 Palestinians corpse wrapped in Green Islamic flags

 

A Muslim Grave

In Sharia, the Islamic religious law, the simple rituals of burial is followed. These rituals include bathing of and wrapping the deceased with white cloth or shrouding and followed by prayer or “salah”. During the burial ceremony, the deceased grave must be facing Makkah Al-Mukarra or Mecca. The bathing of the dead should be done only by a closed family member and of the same gender. Muslims prohibit cremation and don’t usually embalm their deceased loved ones. They bury their deceased within 24 hours.

2) State Funeral

Ronald Reagan’s State Funeral

 

Pope John Paul ll, body lying in state

Prince of Wales, guarding his Grandmother’s coffin in a state funeral

A public funeral ceremony, with strict rules of code of behaviors according to society or social groups, is held to honor the head of state, involving general public in a national day of mourning to condole and show sympathy to the bereaved family.

3) Space Burial

Space Burial

Pegasus Rocket (containing ashes of 24 people remains for space burials.

The process of space burials: the cremated ashes of the deceased person is placed in a lipstick like-tube and launched into the space by means of rockets. Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek producer and screenwriter is one of the first to have a space burial.

4) Sea Burial

 

Burial at Sea

 

Cremated remains at Sea Burial

Sea burial is the process of disposing the remains in the sea by boat or ship. Navy and sailors usually performs sea burials, and ceremonies are usually officiated by the commanding officer or captain of the ship. Private citizen are also allowed to have sea burials according to religion and beliefs. The sea burial ceremony can be done by burial in coffins, burial in an urn or scattering of ashes or even burial sewn in sailcloth. Ashes are mixed with concrete to create reef underwater, known as the Neptune Memorial Reef or Atlantis Memorial Reef (an underwater mausoleum for cremated ashes). The Atlantis Memorial Reef or Neptune Memorial Reef is the world’s largest man-made reef located off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida the coast of Florida’s Key Largo.

Neptune Reef or underwater mausoleum

5) Military Funeral

Military burial of Sergeant Major of the Army

Military funeral march

21 gun salute or canon salute

Sailors,Three-volley Salute

The Military funerals are arranged funeral by the military of the country, giving the special rites for the soldier,sailors,marines, airmen, veterans and head of state or other prominent military officers that served the country and died in battles, illnesses or unexpected deaths. The military funeral rites, is presented with guards or honor, the firing of volley shots or the 21 gun salute, drumming and other military elements process with their country flag covering the casket.
6) Sky Funeral and Burial

Sky Burial

Okay the number 1-5 list above are common burial practices. Below are the weird funeral and burial practices- now I am sticking to my main topic!

In Tibet, the Nyingma tradition for funeral preparation begins with reading the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” to a dying person or just died to help guide the spirit to their transition period, between attachment from the living and “Bodhisattva wisdom” (Tib:bardo). They cremate their dead loved ones or dismembered the dead body and feed it to the birds of prey or vultures (Tib:Jhator), and chopped the bones into pieces, these practice is called the sky burial.

Skeletons Sky Burial

Sky Burial (image credit to:theunexplainedmysteries.com)

7) Zoroastrian Funeral and Burial

Zoroastruan Funeral

Zoroastrian funeral tradition begins with cleansing the deceased with bulls urine mixed with water and called gomez. Only professional Zoroastrian corpse’s handlers are allowed to go near the deceased and do the rituals of cleansing. After cleansing, the corpse is laid in clean white linen. The mourners are allowed to pay their respect to the deceased, but are not allowed to touch the lifeless body. “Sagdid” or bringing the dog near the corpse is done twice to cast away evil spirits. Then the clean cloth where the deceased is laid will be wrapped around as shroud to the corpse and lay the deceased on a stone slab or a shallow grave, where circle is drawn around the ground as a barrier among mourners and evil spirits. Fire with frankincense and sandal wood is burnt is part of rituals inside the deceased room before he will be finally “buried” in his final resting place, the Dhakma or “Tower of Silence” where the corpse will be left for vulture’s consumption.

Yazd, Zoroastrian Tower of Silence in Iran or Dhakma

Bungli, India Bungalow as Dhakma place

Bungli bungalows are used as “funeral homes” in India and as temporary home where Zoroastrian deceased will have their funeral rites and rituals. The mortuary room or ‘tower of silence’ is attached to this bungli. This bungli has complete bedroom, bathroom, dining and kitchen facilities.

8) Japanese Funeral and Burial

Cremation in Japan J.M.W.Silver sketch image

 

Kotsuage, picking of cremated bones

The Adam’s Apple bone, is considered the most important part of cremated human bones among Japanese, and must be put inside the urn.

 

Japanese grave where the living spouse’s name is written in red at the tombstone

Japanese Buddhism funeral rites, Saidan. Japan

Japanese Funeral envelope for alms

The Sogi or soshiki (Japanese funeral), this weird death customs and burial tradition begins the funeral ceremony from the wake and vigil, till the day of cremation or burial in a family grave with a periodic memorial services. In most cases, the Japanese cremate their dead family. And the cremated ashes is buried or scattered in the sea (sea burial). It is very rare for Japanese to have space burial (it is very expensive). Before or after death, they moistened the deceased’s lips with water known as matzugo-no-mizu rituals or “water of the last moment”. Thebutsudan or Buddhist altar or Kamidana (Shinto shrine) of the deceased’s house, are covered with white paper to impure the soul of the deceased (Kumidana-fuji). A “knife” is placed on top the corpse’s chest to cast away the evil spirits, and decorated table with candles, incense and flowers is placed near the bed of the deceased.

9) Chinese Funeral and Burials

Joss paper folded and ready for burning offering

 

Chinese corpse in the casket with children paying respect

 

Chinese family mourners

 

Throwing of rice at the burial rites

On the beginning of the wake, family and relatives are not allowed to wear jewelries and red clothing. Red clothing is the symbol of good luck and happiness. Within the period of 49 days of mourning, the families are not allowed to cut their hair. Family members break the deceased comb into two (half of it shall be kept by family and other half is placed inside the casket). This weird death customs and burial traditions is superseded by wailing and crying out loud. This burial practice is very important on Chinese funeral wakes as it symbolizes respect and loyalty to the deceased, especially if the deceased left a big fortune or wealth. The children and daughters-in-law wear black clothing with hood of sack cloth on their head to signify that they are grieving; the sons-in-law wear white or bright clothing, because they are considered as “outsiders,” grandchildren and great-grandchildren wear light blue clothing. Visiting relatives must crawl approaching the coffin to pay their last respect. During funeral procession, if they have to cross water, they must inform the deceased, or else the deceased’s soul cannot pass across the water.

10) Korean Funeral and Burial

 

Korean Traditional funeral

Korean Funeral

 

Korean burial ceremony

The Korean funerals are set in the deceased home or hospitals, and burials are usually done in the morning of the 3rd day of death, where the deceased will be cremated or buried in a family grave. Ashes are placed in columbarium niches. The funeral clothing worn by family and relatives are made of hemp, while Korean women used the traditional white han bok, the arm bands, hair clips and hats made of hemp symbolizes grief.

Cremation : Process of burning human corpse in high temperature, and the process of reducing dead bodies to chemical compound in the form of gases and bone fragments from oxidation and vaporization. Crematories or crematorium found usually in memorial chapels, cemetery and funeral homes, are the usual place for cremation. But in some countries, they still use the funeral pyre, structural made of woods where they lay the corpse and set fire to burn the dead body, and these are “open-air cremations”.Cremation is more cheaper than ground burials, and have more simple funeral services.

Burning body in a Crematory

 

Columbarium, Arlington National Cemetery , where cremated ashes are buried

 

11) Bali. Indonesia Funeral and Burial Ceremony

Balinese Funeral procession

Bali Funeral procession carrying the Lembu sarcophagus where the coffin is laid

Balinese cremation

In Bali, Indonesia, the deceased is treated as still living and just sleeping, but temporarily absent and no one will shed their tears. They believe in reincarnation and the deceased will finally rest in Moksha or setting free from death cycle and reincarnation. On burial day, the deceased will be laid in a sarcophagus or in Wadah and it will be carried down to the cremation site, in a funeral procession. During the march, the mourners and the wadah carriers should not walk in a straight line, to confuse the bad spirits that follows the dead person. Ngaben or cremation rites process are believed that they send the deceased to the next dimension.

 

12) Under Home Burials

Under Home Burials

The Mayans bury their dead under their house to keep their deceased family closed to their homes. Poverty is also one reason of under home burials.

The Apayao tribes in the Philippines, also called the Isnegs, bury their deceased loved ones under their kitchen areas.

13) Sitting Position burials in Benguet Province,Philippines

Ibaloi tibe burials (credit images to:wmf.org)

Ibaloi Tribes mummies in Benguet Province (credit images to:wmf.org)

After 8 days wake of mourning, the tribe from Benguet blindfolded the deceased, and sits them on chair by tying their arms and legs in a sitting position or placed them in kab coffins, placed to their home main entrance. The bangil ceremony is done on funeral’s eve. The practice involves the family or community members, the involved party will recite the deceased’s biography in a chanting manner. On the burial day, the deceased should face toward the heaven.

Tinguian Tribes dresses and groom their deceased’s loved one. They also sit the dead body on a chair. Sometimes, the deceased’s loved ones also put a lit tobacco on the deceased’s lips.

 

14) Hanging Coffins in China and Sagada, Philippines

Sagada Hanging coffins

In Sagada, Mt Province, Philippines, people believe that hanging the deceased’s coffins from mountain sides or cliffs will keep the deceased closer to heaven. In my research, I have learned that Bo tribe in Southwest China, had the same burial practices. They hang the coffins by lowering it down on cliffs by ropes.

 

15) Fijian Funeral and Burials

Fijian Funeral procession

Momor Cho’s funeral ceremony in Nalofu, Kadavu

Fijian funeral grave

Another weird funeral and burial practice is celebrated in Fiji (this is considered a colorful funeral). During the wake they celebrate and have feast and follow the strangulation rituals. Wife, husband,siblings and even the deceased’s closest friend or loyal servant is strangled and buried with the deceased. They believed that the deceased will be surrounded with friends and family in the next life.

16) Vietnam Funeral and Burials

Vietnamese Funeral march

 

Vietnamese funerals

Vietnamese cemetery

In Vietnam, as soon as the parent dies, the children do not “confirm” the death. Chopstick is placed between the deceased’s teeth, and the lifeless body is laid on the mat the next process is to make an effort to bring the dead into life. The eldest son or daughter strips of the deceased’s clothing and wave it in the air calling the soul of their deceased to return to his or her body. After this rituals, they wash the deceased’s body and groom it by combing the hair, clipped the nails to wash off dust or dirt of the living world. Then they place the rice, money and gold in the deceased mouth believing that the deceased will not suffer hunger on his trip. Consequently, the dead person will be wrapped in white linen and placed inside the coffin. The burial rites will then follow.

 

17) Egyptian Funerals and Burial

Egyptian mummies

Egypt mummified burials

 

Canopic Burial jars in Egypt

In ancient Egyptian burials, items like combs, bowls, jewelry or any valuable items are buried with the deceased. Egyptians believethat the dead could use these items in their next life. The funeral and burials are officiated by their priest who will recite the “magic spell” after the mummification process. The next step that follows is to touch the mummy or coffin with the adze , a ceremonial tool made of stone blade or coppers. Canopic jars are containers used as coffins for the mummified deceased. Nowadays, Egyptian practices modern way funeral and burial rites.

Adze, Egyptian ceremonial funeral tool

18) Ireland Funeral and Burial

Funeral in Ireland

Tomas Mac Giolla’s wake, Dublin, Ireland

In Ireland, the deceased is kept in their home for overnight vigil and partying. The family and friends drink and eat overnight and must not grieve for the loss of their loved ones, and believe that the soul will have a happy trip to his next life. Like the Scottish beliefs, some Irish put a wooden plate on top of the deceased’s chest with some amount of soil and salt. The soil symbolizes as “the body will return into dusts”, and the salt symbolizes the soul that will not decay.

Wooden plate

19) Madagascar Funerals

Madagascar Funerals and Burials

Mourning on a family wake in Madagascar.

 

Famadahana , Madagascar funeral celebrations (www.theunexplainedmyeteries.com)

After few years of burials, the remains of their loved ones are exhumed and a feast is held. The villagers dances around the dead body. The lifeless body is stripped off the old shroud and a new clean shroud will be provided. The old shroud will be torn in many pieces and distributed to couples, essentially these couples believe that they will conceive a baby.

Here’s a bonus-To wrap up our weird funeral and burial practices post!

20) Famous Weird and Funny Coffins in Teshie, Ghana, Africa

Weird Coffin

Fish Coffin

Shoe coffin

Cellphone Coffin

 

Fireman’s coffin

Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, Teshie, Ghana, Africa ()

Do you think your tears will shed for grief if you see your loved ones laid on these weird and funny coffins? Well I guess, no more tears and the deceased will be happy to be laid on his or her awesome coffin.

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