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Unique Burial Practices From Around the World

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.

3. Famadihana

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.