Posted by Tony O’Shea, Funeral Planning & Life Insurance Expert
In the UK the majority of individuals commemorate the memory of a loved one with a traditional funeral, but ways to honour the deceased vary across the world.
Many different customs have developed over the centuries and we have taken a look at how cultures around the world have honoured their deceased with some bizarre rituals and ceremonies.
This is an ancient funeral custom of the Bo people in southern China but is also common in Indonesia and the Philippines. Hanging coffins are placed and secured on ledges within cliffs. It is believed that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and bless the soul eternally. Also by placing the coffins up high, the deceased is closer to heaven.
Endocannibalism is the practice of eating the flesh of a human being from the same community. In some cultures, this has become part of their funeral ritual.
The Yanomami tribe live in the Amazon rainforest in South America. When someone passes away, they have a rather unique cremation ritual; the deceased’s body is covered with leaves and left until it decomposes. The bones are then gathered for a cremation ceremony. The ashes from the cremation are made into a soup which is shared within their tribe. There is a belief that the deceased’s spirit cannot reach peace in the spirit world until they have completely gone from the living world. Therefore by devouring the soup, they are assisting the recently departed to find peace.
Totem poles usually tell stories of a peoples’ native culture. Mortuary totem poles are different. There are special kinds of totem poles which house the coffins of important people. Quite often they would be placed in front of houses to honour the deceased. Mortuary totem poles were carved from red cedar logs, the figures on totem poles are inherited crests, which identify the pole owners and tell their family histories. The icons found on each pole act as guardians and guide the spirit to the afterlife.
Vikings and their funeral and burial rituals were influenced by their pagan religion and beliefs. For a Viking, their death would lead them into an afterlife. Vikings would take a lot of time preparing and organising funerals and burials in an attempt to send their friends and families to a successful afterlife.
Viking sea burials were very common where they would sail their dead out to sea. This practice involved the burning of the ship before the dead are cast out. It was common to leave gifts with the deceased. Both men and women received grave goods, even if the corpse was to be burnt on a pyre.
Vikings would wait for seven days before any funeral celebration. This day would be marked with the drinking of ale, which signified the passing of any property from the deceased.
In some cultures, finger amputation or finger cutting is a typical mourning practice. The Dani tribe in Papua, New Guinea follow the custom of cutting off a portion of every woman's finger who was close to the deceased. Finger cutting is part of their culture, it mainly applies to older women, but babies have the tips of their fingers bitten off by their mother. This custom has been going on for generations and is still being practised today. When a finger is bitten off it is cremated and the ashes are either buried or stored in a safe place in remembrance of the recently departed.
This is common with Tibetan people and many Mongols. A vulture or sky burial is a funeral practice in which a human corpse is left exposed to the elements to be eaten by scavenging animals. There is no need to preserve the body as it is now considered to be an empty vessel. Birds may eat it or nature may cause it to decompose. The function of the sky burial is simply to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible in line with the Buddhist ethos.
Many people in South Korea opt to compress the ashes of the dead person into gem like beads in different colours. Typically the beads are displayed in a glass cabinet to keep their loved one nearby.
Organising any sort of funeral can be emotionally stressful, but it might be the case that you want to be remembered in a special way. By adding your own personal touch to your funeral, you can make it slightly different and more memorable. It might be beneficial to speak to a Funeral Director so you can outline any specific requirements you have. This way you will be guaranteed to get the funeral you want.
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