By Jonny Lupsha, Present Occasions Author
Physique preservation, like mummification, sidesteps corpse disposal. Some cultures eat their ancestors’ floor bones. Skeletons may even be made into musical devices.
One main, sensible, but typically disagreeable, query surrounding demise is what precisely must be executed with the corpse. In-ground burials are the oldest identified observe, although cremation can be frequent. Different disposal strategies are extra stunning, and discover themselves within the information once more after an American musician who not too long ago obtained his uncle’s stays made a guitar from the skeleton.
In his video collection Demise, Dying, and the Afterlife: Classes from World Cultures, Dr. Mark Berkson, Professor of Faith at Hamline College, discusses the assorted rituals for dealing with corpses, together with some historical, eyebrow-raising practices.
A Return to Nature
“[One] type of burial—one which, by necessity, happens solely as soon as—is water burial, or burial by sea—a ritual that has lengthy been practiced by mariners,” Dr. Berkson mentioned. “The US Navy’s technique is to slip the shrouded corpse off the facet of the ship.”
The Navy isn’t the one one to observe sea burials. Vikings did as effectively, although in a distinct style, in line with Dr. Berkson.
“In some forms of Viking burials, like among the many Norwegians, the corpse was positioned in a ship surrounded by grave items, all of which was lined by earth. The ship was then lit on fireplace and set adrift, that means that the burial concerned earth, water, and fireplace.”
For the Birds
One other type of corpse disposal is named excarnation. On this observe, the physique is left exterior, above floor, to be eaten by animals or consumed by the weather, leaving solely the bones. Though it might appear disturbing to some, it has quite a lot of ecological advantages, and a close to relation to excarnation carries appreciable symbolism.
“In Tibet, the observe of exposing a corpse is called a sky burial,” Dr. Berkson mentioned. “The physique is eaten by vultures, who collect on the spots the place the rituals happen. The consumption of the physique will not be seen as desecration, however as returning the deceased to the pure cycle of all issues.”
Sky burials are additionally sensible for Tibet because the floor is frozen a lot of the yr, making burials difficult; and bushes are scarce, hindering cremation efforts.
Essentially the most controversial technique of corpse disposal for many Westerners is the thought of fellow people consuming the corpse.
“Though there are few, if any, cultures that interact within the observe at the moment, historical past accommodates examples of peoples who made a behavior of consuming the lifeless of their very own tribe,” Dr. Berkson mentioned.
One tribe, the Wari of the western Brazilian rainforest, engaged in corpse consumption till the mid-Twentieth century. An anthropologist studied the Wari and revealed her findings in 1995, saying that they ate “substantial quantities of corpses’ physique substances.”
“Which means they consumed the roasted flesh, brains, coronary heart, and liver, and typically floor bones,” Dr. Berkson mentioned. “The Wari thought of their type of cannibalism to be essentially the most respectful means of treating a beloved one’s lifeless physique.”
In fact, it’s unlikely to catch on in trendy society.