Unusual Funeral Traditions from Around the World

TOP 25: Unbelievable funeral traditions from the past and present that actually exist

For centuries, people have paid special attention to the ritual of burying their loved ones. Our beliefs, beliefs, and feelings have always played a huge role in choosing how to honor the deceased and say goodbye to them one last time. Some funeral customs are quite simple and succinct, while others can amaze you with their sophistication and solemnity. Either way, all of these traditions have a long and unique history, and different parts of the world experience funerals in very different ways. Ahead of you is a selection of 25 very curious funeral rituals and the most unusual grave sites!

25. Mummification Photo: Jay Malone

Most people are familiar with this custom from movies and history lessons about the ancient Egyptian pyramids and the bodies of pharaohs wrapped in a white shroud. In ancient times, the Egyptians developed a whole elaborate procedure for preserving the body after a person died. The process was so delicate that it lasted 70 days! The internal organs of the deceased were removed, the corpse was treated and filled with special solutions, washed, stored in sodium lye, and finally swaddled and covered with vegetable resins for better preservation of the shell.

24. Alkaline hydrolysis, resomation Photo: Davidrase

And this is a more modern and environmentally friendly technology for treating the body when compared to cremation or simple burial in the ground. After demineralizing the bones and dissolving the soft tissues in a special chamber (resomator), and then after further drying and grinding the unprocessed remains of the deceased, only white powder remains. The resomator dissolves the body by means of a solution of potassium hydroxide and under the influence of elevated temperature (about 160°C) and pressure (up to 10 atmospheres). The new method of processing the remains has attracted the attention of those who advocate environmental protection, because resomation requires less energy and produces fewer exhaust fumes.

23. Promessication (cryomation)

Photo: Millrock / English Wikipedia

The name of the process comes from the Italian word “promessa” (promise). Promessia is another new and very environmentally friendly way of disposing of human remains, invented by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak. The process involves dry freezing of the body, immersing it in liquid nitrogen, crushing the remains by vibrations of a certain amplitude, drying in a vacuum chamber and burying the resulting ashes in the top layer of soil. In 12 months this powder turns into an ideal compost for fertilizing the soil, and a tree or some other plant is often planted in the same place. The King of Sweden himself has approved the innovative method by giving an honorary award to the inventor and 60 countries are already interested in the procedure.

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22. Neanderthal cave cemetery Photo: JosephV / English Wikipedia

In Iraq, a team of archaeologists discovered the remains of Neanderthals in Shanidar Cave. The first two skeletons found clearly indicate the existence of funerary rituals among these ancient people. The grave of the second Neanderthal was covered with a lot of stones, and traces of an impressive fireplace were visible nearby. The fourth skeleton was found lying on its left side in a fetal position, and traces of flower pollen were found around it.

21. Trees with human DNA Photo: Unsplash.com

Would you want someone to grow a genetically modified apple tree with fragments of your DNA? Biopresence was founded by Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel together with scientist and artist John Davis, and all together they were passionate about the idea of creating “Living Monuments” or even more likely “Transgenic Tombstones.” The bio-presence of human DNA is achieved by inserting it into the DNA of an apple tree, and in the end it does not affect the appearance or the genetic structure of the tree in any way.

20. Funerals and fireworks Photo: Wikipedia Commons

There are many ways to scatter ashes, but this ritual will definitely surprise you. With the help of fireworks, the ashes can be scattered not only over very far distances, but also with enviable spectacle. For such a funeral, the ashes of the deceased are placed in the body of a firecracker along with a pyrotechnic charge, which is then launched high into the sky and explodes in the air, illuminating the surroundings with bright sparkles. The ashes end up high above the ground and are blown around in the wind.

19. Cremation art Photo: Wikimedia Commons

More often than not, families either bury urns of ashes in cemeteries or display them in the most conspicuous places in their own homes. Recently, however, Americans have been able to use the ashes of the deceased even in creative compositions. Ashes began to be mixed with paints and even added to glass sculptures, jewelry and many other decorative items, so that the memory of a loved one was always there and carried a special symbolism.

18. Reef Burial Photo: Elkman

If you adore everything to do with the sea, a grave in the middle of a coral reef might seem like a very tempting option. It’s not really human remains that are submerged underwater, but rather ashes after cremation mixed with cement to create a structure suitable for integration into the reef. One of the most famous underwater mausoleums is located in the coastal area of the island town of Key Biscayne, Florida, and it is called Neptune Memorial Reef. By the way, this reef is also the biggest man-made reef in the world.

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17. Cryonics Photo: Cryonics Institute

The Greek word “cryos” translates to ice cold, and this modern procedure involves the long-term preservation of the body in conditions of reduced temperature. You’ve probably seen something similar in sci-fi movies about heroes who wake up after centuries of freezing in the future and encounter a wonderful new world. Most clients of real cryonics companies hope that one day they can be unfrozen and brought back to life happy and healthy when technology allows it. The price of such a chance is between $80,000 and $250,000.

16. A Viking-style funeral Photo: Andy Stephenson

On the Ardnamurchan Peninsula is the only Viking cemetery on the entire island of Great Britain. The mound was discovered in 2006, although full-scale excavations were not begun until 2011. Here, too, archaeologists have unearthed boats, which were either used as coffins for the dead man and his valuables (sometimes even young slave girls were buried with the deceased), or buried as a separate valuable property.

15. Swamp Bodies Photo: pixabay.com

Bog bodies are human corpses that have been mummified naturally in peat bogs, and such bodies are found mostly in northern Europe. The remains of the dead found have survived to this day from virtually intact, to regular skeletons. Mummification in these cases was due to the increased acidity of the water, low temperatures and reduced oxygen levels in the swampy terrain. Taken together, these conditions more than once resulted in virtually preserved bodies, although their bones were most often very badly damaged by the increased acidity of the water, which leached out their calcium phosphate.

14. Cremation in Bali Photo: Cazz

This ceremony is most commonly referred to as ngaben, and is usually performed on the island of Bali in Indonesia. The deceased is placed in a coffin as if he were just sleeping, and the loved ones hold back tears because they believe that the deceased will either go through reincarnation or find eternal rest. On the day of cremation, the coffin containing the body is placed in a sarcophagus in the shape of a huge bull, solemnly carried through the streets of the village, and burned at the stake.

13. An unusual cemetery in an abandoned Bulgarian settlement Photo: pixabay.com

Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered one highly unusual place in Bulgaria. A cemetery was found in an ancient settlement where some people were buried in a very strange way – without feet. Scientists do not quite understand how and why such a burial ritual was invented. In addition, some bodies in this ancient cemetery were literally mummified, which also puzzled archeologists.

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12. Hanging coffins Photo: Aldrin J. Garces (ag)

Such burials can be found in different countries all over the world, including China, Indonesia and the Philippines. Hanging coffins, or xuangguan as they are called in China, are usually attached to a steep rock, and have been done so according to an ancient minority tradition for many centuries. Hanging coffins come in three varieties: some are attached to wooden beams in the rock, others are buried in caves, and still others are laid directly on ledges in the rock. All these methods of burial can be seen in the same place, Gongxian County, which has the largest collection of hanging coffins in all of China.

11. Funeral in Space Photo: PxHere.com

The burning desire to be in space has become especially popular in recent decades, so it is not surprising that there are those who dream of being buried outside of our home planet. A space funeral involves launching a small capsule outside the Earth’s atmosphere in which a handful of the deceased’s ashes are sealed. Several prominent scientists, astronomers, and even the creator of the legendary television series Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, have chosen just such a funeral. The ashes of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of the dwarf planet Pluto, were sent farthest away (outside the solar system).

10. Burial forests Photo: Michael Gunther

Burial scaffolds are regular trees or sometimes other supports on which either bodies or coffins with bodies are hung at once. This practice has been popular among the people of Bali, some Australian aborigines, the Naga people (India, Myanmar), and among some North American Indians. Tibetans believe that burial scaffolding allows the soul of a deceased child to be reborn in heaven and keeps the family of the deceased from the death of other children or from major setbacks. According to other beliefs, it was safer to hang the coffin in a tree to protect the body from wild animals and moisture, or it was hung higher so that loved ones would have a chance to come and communicate with the dead person.

9. Memorial diamonds Photo: Roger Blake

Like cremation art, memorial diamonds are created from the hair or ashes of the deceased. If hair is used, the samples are subjected to a carbon extraction process. When ashes are used, the carbon compound is obtained in gaseous form. In both cases, the resulting carbon is turned into synthetic diamonds.

8. Tibetan air burial rite Photo: pixabay.com

An air burial is the oldest Tibetan rite in which the body of the deceased is suspended in the air and exposed to the natural elements (air, spirit, light, wood, animals, and others). Most Tibetans practice Buddhism, so they consider the body an empty vessel and the person will eventually be reborn again.

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7. Native American Funeral Photo: Steve Evans / Citizen of the World

Some North American peoples have a tradition of hanging bodies from wooden scaffolding to allow them to gradually rot and decay under the forces of nature. This ritual has two main stages. First, the body is left on an elevated platform and covered with leaves and branches so that the flesh rots completely. The second stage comes when only the bones are left of the body. They are painted with ochre and traditionally re-transformed to exposure to the natural elements (light, air, and others).

6. Plastination Photo: pixabay.com

Plastination is a modern technology of treating a corpse or parts of the body for their long-term preservation. This embalming method was first developed by Gunther von Hagens in 1977. To achieve this level of preservation, the water and fat in the flesh are replaced by synthetic polymers and resins. The result is a plastic that can be touched, does not smell or decompose, and even retains most of the deceased’s distinctive features. This method is most often used to create anatomical objects that end up in exhibitions and museums.

5. Chair burial, Ifugao people Photo: Shubert Ciencia

The Ifugao people live in the Philippines, and this culture has its own unique customs. The funeral ritual depends on the position of the deceased in society and the cause of death. The first stage of the funeral involves seating the dead person in a special chair in front of the house for 13-15 days if he was a person of high class, and for 2-3 days if he was a simple poor man. After this ritual, the remains are buried in a grave in the cemetery at the foot of the mountain, all in the same seated position, and stones are necessarily thrown into the grave.

4. Tower of Silence Photo: anonymous

In Zoroastrian culture the bodies of the dead are unclean and therefore they are not buried or burned, they are placed on a lattice platform on top of special towers, also called dakhmas. The term “tower of silence” is rather a neologism, introduced by Robert Murphy at the time when India was ruled by the British colonial government. The roof of such a ritual tower is divided into three rings, where male bodies are usually placed along the outer ring, female bodies in the middle area, and children in the center. The bodies decompose under the influence of sunlight, wind and rain, and their flesh is also pecked by vultures. The decayed bones eventually fall through the lattice roof into an inner well, where they continue to decay until they are finally washed away by the rainwater.

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3. endocannibalism Photo: pixabay.com

In ancient times, some Native Americans and peoples who lived in India practiced endocannibalism, which is the eating of human flesh after the death of one of their own tribesmen. Today this practice may sound rather savage, but once upon a time long ago such a tradition was quite common throughout the world. Australian medical researcher Michael Alpers discovered that genes protecting against prion diseases (caused by cannibalism) are found almost all over the world. This finding clearly indicates that endocannibalism was once very common, and our species theoretically survived due to a kind of genetic insurance that would not have arisen without any particular reason.

2. Sati ritual (self-immolation) Photo: anonymous

Sati is a ritual tradition once common among Hindus. According to this ancient custom, the wife of the deceased is burned on the funeral pyre along with her husband. The ritual takes its name from the goddess Sati, also known as Dakshayani, who sacrificed herself after suffering her father’s mistreatment of her beloved husband. In some communities the burning of a wife after her husband is still considered the highest expression of respect for her husband, although the Indian authorities have officially forbidden this ritual. Contrary to the law in some parts of India, women continue to climb the platform for the funeral pyre, not always doing so of their own free will.

1. Self-mortification or Sokushimbutsu Photo: pixabay.com

Sokushimbutsu was practiced by Buddhist monks or priests. To succeed in self-mummification they underwent a long and very rigorous process of driving themselves to death by successive starvation, refusal of ordinary food in favor of bark, pine roots and poisonous plant sap, and the final stage was burying the person alive under the ground with a tube for breathing. The procedure stretched up to 10 years, and as a result the body of the person was practically self-mummified (not always successfully). This ritual used to be practiced in some parts of Japan, but only 24 successful cases of such self-mummification are known to date. According to Buddhist tradition, if the entire ritual is performed correctly, a monk can be equated with Buddha himself and have his body displayed in a temple as a deity. The rite of sokushimbutsu has long been out of practice and has been officially banned by Japanese authorities.

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