When a loved one passes on, Americans carry out burial traditions that
are meaningful and respectful. The deceased may be buried or cremated,
and they may be left in a clean, nicely marked grave or an ornate urn.
But, throughout the world and throughout history, people have respected
and cared for the dead in numerous and surprising ways.
Below, we'll discuss seven unique burial traditions throughout time.
1. Jazz Funerals
In New Orleans, the mourners can sometimes be led by a jazz band, playing
a sorrowful tune as the deceased is taken to the burial site. After the
burial, the band begins to play something more upbeat to celebrate the
deceased's life. Sometimes, mourners and other participants dance
expressively in this celebration.
This practice allows the mourners to feel both sadness and joy as they
bury a loved one.
2. Fantasy Coffins
The people of Ghana bury their loved ones in a coffin that represents their
life. The coffin can be shaped as something they love or something that
illustrates their lifelong career. For instance, a farmer might be buried
in a corn-shaped coffin, or a fisherman may be buried in a fish-shaped coffin.
The Malagasy in Madagascar keep a regular tradition to continuously connect
with those who have passed on. Families participate in something called
Famadihana, or Turning of the Bones. Every seven years, they exhume the
bodies of their loved ones, wrap them in fresh cloth, and spray them with
wine or perfume.
To the beat of energetic music, the Malagasy people carry the bodies over
their head while they dance. This is a time of remembrance, and it gives
people a chance to catch up with their passed on relatives. Participants
tell stories about the deceased, and they also share any recent family
news with and ask for blessings from the dead.
4. Viking Burial
Back in the day, Vikings would weave their lifestyle into their burials.
The deceased would be buried in a grave that's shaped like a ship,
and the grave would have a rock lining. The dead would also be buried
with food and possessions. Women would be buried wearing their best jewelry,
and men would be buried with their weapons.
5. Sky Burials
Influenced by Buddhist beliefs, the people of Tibet place the bodies of
deceased loved ones on mountaintops and away from towns and civilizations.
This leaves the remains exposed to wildlife and the elements.
Buddhists believe the spirit moves on after death, and that the body is
simply an empty vessel. In Tibet, the ground is often too frozen for burial,
and cremation can often be difficult to achieve. The sky burials allow
the body to return effectively to the earth while the spirit makes its
passage to the afterlife.
6. Air Sacrifice
The Mongolians have a burial practice that's similar to that of Tibet.
During the ceremony, lamas, or Mongolian Buddhist monks, direct every
step of the event. They'll determine what day the ceremony should
happen, which direction they'll carry the body, and when the ceremony
should be put on.
The deceased is placed in an open area, and the body is outlined by stones.
The body is left to the elements and wildlife as it returns to the earth.
The outline acts as something of a marker, or a reminder of those that
have passed on.
But before the body is placed, it's arranged just so, and a white silk
veil covers the face. The lamas leave food for other spirits to protect
the living family and keep evil spirits at bay. The lamas also pray, and
they are the only people permitted to touch the body.
To further protect the family from evil spirits, the body is moved out
of the home through a cut hole in the wall or an open window since it's
believed evil spirits can find their way in through an open door.
The entire ceremony must be carried out in full. If it's not, many
Mongolians believe misfortune will befall everyone involved. However,
Mongolians do sometimes bury their deceased in a casket, covering the
vessel with the mourning colors of black and red.
7. Skull Burial
There's a small island in the Pacific Ocean called Kiribati, and when
a loved one passes, the body is left in the home for at least three days.
Sometimes, the body can be kept in the house for up to twelve days if
they have a higher status. Family and friends offer a root pudding to
those that have passed on and visit the deceased before burial.
The dead are then buried, and after many months, they exhume the body and
remove the skull. The skull is presented food and tobacco, and oiled and
polished. The rest of the body is reburied while the skull is put on a
shelf in a relative's home. They believe a local god, named Nakaa,
guides deceased loved ones to the island's northern area.
Different cultures have various ways of respecting and caring for the dead.
Religious and cultural beliefs mold different practices and allow family
and friends to properly mourn for their dead.
When your loved one passes on, trust in Elmwood Casket Company. We can
provide the perfect casket or urn to show your love and respect.