Some of the funeral traditions involve ceremonies only for family members and close friends. Then there are others that invite all the people of the village to pay their respects for the dead. There are certain cultures where funerals take place in a quiet manner. In some other cultures, the ceremonies involve a grand celebration of the dead. Here we present some of the most bizarre funeral traditions:
1. Funerals of the Viking
An Arab explorer named Ahmad ibn Fadlan spent some time observing the Volga Vikings. He lived in the 10th century. According to his writings, the Viking funerals were exceptionally brutal. The dead chieftains of the Vikings were temporarily buried while the clothes were prepared for the new funeral.
One of the slave girls of the chief would agree to join him in the afterlife. She would then indulge in a sexual encounter with each male in the Viking camp. After this, the matriarch of the village would stab her to death. Then, placing her alongside her chief on a wooden ship, it was set on fire.
This ritual is known as ‘the turning of the bones’. It is performed by the Malagasy people residing in Madagascar. According to the ritual, they exhume the bodies of the deceased from their ancestral crypts every seven years. Then, after wrapping the bodies again in fresh cloth, a lively celebration follows. This celebration involves a huge feast and music.
The living members dance with their dead ancestors and pass on the news from their family to them. The living members also seek blessings from the deceased. When all of these strange things are over, they bury the bodies again. Famadihana is a way of maintaining a bond between the living and the dead.
3. Sky burials
This ritual is based on the belief that the soul of the dead immediately leaves the body. It involves feeding of the remains to vultures. One can witness the sky burials in parts of Tibet and Mongolia. They consider this as the last act of charity to the earth. This practice of the Vajrayana Buddhists has been given the term ‘jhator’ in the local language.
They dissect the body of the dead and place the pieces on the top of a mountain. The purpose is to feed these pieces to the vultures. This ritual has been in practice in these parts of the world since ages. Nearly 80 percent of Tibetans choose sky burial even today.
4. The hanging coffins
In the Chinese province of Sichuan, one can find hundreds of hanging coffins. They belong to the Bo people. These members of the Bo people are believed to have died around 400 years ago. This practice also exists among ethnic groups in Indonesia and the Philippines. In the mountain town of Sagada in the Philippines, the logrot people practice this tradition.
Many such hanging coffins dot the faces of the cliff in the Echo Valley. These people believe that the ritual protects the dead from animals and flooding. In the Igorot culture, there’s also a belief that this ritual grants an easier passage to the afterlife.