The news of the death of a loved one hits everyone differently. Then, community members celebrate life and commemorate the death of individuals in a way that is true to their culture. In western culture, it ranges from traditional coffins to Environment friendly green funeral urns.
Burial techniques and rituals take on unique forms around the world.
Many cultures, especially in the Nordic countries, use water in their chosen ceremonies for the dead, from placing coffins on cliffs facing the water to using water as cemeteries. Some people let the corpse float in the “death ship”, either drifting along the river or being sent to the ocean to return the corpse to the gods or the place where the people of the area value it most.
Sky– or Heavenly Burial
Heavenly burial is very common among Tibetan Buddhists, who believe in the value of sending the souls of their loved ones to heaven. In this ritual, the corpse is left outside, usually cut into pieces for birds or other animals to swallow. This serves the dual purpose of removing the insides from the body and allowing the soul to leave while embracing life and its eternal cycle and providing food for the animals.
There are many ways to celebrate the life of the dead. A tradition in Varanasi, India is for the dead to parade in the streets, and their bodies wear colors that reflect the virtues of the dead for example, red represents purity and yellow represents knowledge. To encourage souls to obtain salvation and end the cycle of reincarnation, the corpse was poured with water from the Ganges river, and then cremated in the main crematorium of the city.
“Dancing with the Dead” best describes the funeral tradition of Famadihana in Madagascar. Every few years, Malagasy people open the graves of their dead and rewrap them in new mourning clothes. Each time the dead receive a new package, they will dance a new dance near the grave and music will be played. This ritual, translated as “turning the bones”, is designed to accelerate decomposition and push the soul of the dead into the afterlife.
The Tower of Silence
A Zoroastrian tradition requires vultures to maintain their ancient funeral rituals. In that tradition, the corpse was thought to contaminate everything it touched, including the ground and fire, and lifting the corpse skyward to be consumed by vultures was the only option. A bull’s urine is used to cleanse the body and then tools that were later destroyed, are used to cut clothing. They place the corpse on top of the Tower of Silence, away from all living things that could be contaminated by it.
Ashes to Death Beads
Although countless funeral traditions around the world include cremation, Koreans go one step further and turn the ashes of the dead into beads. These beads have a bit of sparkle and come in many colors, from pink or black to turquoise. Placed in a glass vase, or even opened on a plate, the beads can become the centerpiece of the home. In a country where space is precious and cremation is becoming the only realistic option for burying the dead, some beautiful things come from this process to give family members a new tradition to embrace and appreciate family heirlooms.
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