All Cultures Honor Their Deceased
From burial in space to the use of fire, water and scavengers, there are a number of fascinating funeral practices that most of us haven’t heard of. It’s also interesting to learn of the many similarities in cultural behaviors, such as the traditions that honor a deity or incorporate beliefs of an afterlife.
There are people who believe in nature and natural laws who are both religious and not. Traditions exist for the family members specifically, religious leaders, how to handle the dead and mourning practices. Regardless of the culture, however, all cultures and traditions involve honoring the deceased in ways that match their life. We all have an opportunity in our death practices to truly show the values that were important to us in life. It becomes for us all, a celebration of life.
Many cultures, such as the Mongolians, Tibetans, and the Maasai Tribe of Kenya, allow the natural scavengers of the area to assist in the removal of the deceased. In Tibet and Kenya, they simply place the body out to be consumed by nature. In Tibet, this may have been begun due to the difficult terrain which makes burial and cremation difficult. In Mongolia, the body is taken outside the village and hungry dogs are allowed to feast before other scavengers do. All three of the cultures have additional traditions that are related to the social status of the deceased.
Cremation has long been a way to dispose of the dead. Hindu, Romani and Viking cultures have used a pyre to conduct open air cremations, which are illegal in most western culture areas today. Vikings were known to set a boat on fire that held the dead along with belongings and food and sometimes their sacrificed wife. Romani culture still uses fire to cremate not just the deceased but their belongings as well. In Hindu Bali, mass cremations are done accompanied by large ceremonies which include a parade and a feast to honor the dead.
Air and Space
The cremated remains of more than 3o0 people have made it into space via Celestis Inc. and Elysium Space. Some ashes have made it to the moon, while others orbit Earth and return or vaporize, and some even disappear into deep space. Prices range from $1,300-$12,500 in addition to the cost of cremation. It is important to book as soon as possible, as most launches happen only every 1-3 years.
The Native American Tribe Haida would keep their dead in a pit adjacent to their village as a mass grave. Vietnamese would bury the dead in the fields in which they worked, usually marking the graves with stones and offerings that would help the deceased in the afterlife. In some cultures, such as the Hawaiians, Israelis and Mountain Tribes, the dead were buried in caves. Of course, there plenty of pirate folklore that involves burial in caves as well.
Ship captains have traditionally been to conduct burial at sea, which is a popular method for not just sailors or lovers of the ocean. There is an attraction to the vast waters that draws many cultures to ‘bury’ the dead there. “The ceremony may include burial in a casket, burial sewn in sailcloth, burial in an urn, or scattering of the cremated remains by ship.”
And unlike the circulated stories of the Eskimo people sending elderly to their deaths, there was a time when the dead were sent into the freezing waters of the sea.