Weirdest Death Traditions From Around The World
July 12, 2017 6:00 AM
Death, perhaps more than any other event in our circle of life, has plenty of strange and bizarre rituals associated with it. It's no surprise, all religions see it as a gateway of some form, leaving the realm of the living to that of the dead. Whether you treat the dead body as a temple, or you couldn't give a toss, there are a whole load of frankly stomach churning rituals associated with kicking the bucket.
So, get comfy, make sure your stomach, and bowels, are empty, and enjoy...
Fear Of Being Buried Alive - Victorian, England
That the Victorians had a fascination with death and mourning should come as no surprise to anyone who was forced to slog through any Victorian works of fiction at school. They had a literal morbid interest in the afterlife. From fraudulent spiritualists attempting to contact those who'd recently popped their clogs through to parents posing their dead children for photos as bizarre mementoes, the Victorians were fascinated with death.
One of the weirdest manifestations of this was actually a fear of being accidentally buried alive. Medical science was relatively basic compared to today, but you'd think they'd still be able to spot a stiff when they saw one. But the Victorians dread of being wide awake six feet under was given a boost when well-known cheery scribbler Edgar Allan Poe penned a short story, 'The Premature Burial', in 1844, about someone with just that fear.
So, apart from telling everyone you know you were still alive, you know, by having a conversation, how could you avoid being buried alive?
Techniques used included waiting mortuaries. These were a bit like a hospital ward, but instead of waiting to get better, you waited to get rotter. Once visible putrefaction was achieved, all was well and you could be carted off.
Another technique employed was the use of safety coffins, which were designed that in the event of you waking up buried in the ground, you could stay awake long enough to summon help. Some of these included air tubes, and strings connected to flags, lights or bells above ground to let people know you were in a bit of a pickle. Sadly, no evidence exists that these we're ever actually used for their intended purpose. However, we think the technology could be better employed to bring you that first cup of tea in the morning.
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Nothing to do with the walking corpse Rupert Murdoch, this one. Sky burial is practised by some Buddhists in Tibet. Buddhists consider the dead body an empty vessel, so pretty much anything is fair game at this point. After the body has been left alone for three days, it is brought to the burial site and unwrapped. Here, Monks get to work with axes and reduce the body to a series of 'chunks'. These tasty morsels are left out for the local vultures to feed on. But what about the bones left over at the end, we hear you ask? Well, they crush those up with hammers, mix them with flour and use them as bird food.
The mountainous areas in Tibet where this is practised are short on trees and deep soil, so it's possible this form of 'burial' came about because people couldn't be burnt or buried, so they went with the bird food route. It's nothing to crow about!
Eating The Dead
Anyone who's ever eaten a ropey kebab after a late night out has at least partially experienced this practise.
Once you've shuffled off this mortal coil your body is generally considered an empty vessel. We're quite content with burying or burning in the UK. Others have decided to make a more practical use of the corpse. What better parting gift can you leave your friends and family then the chance to wolf down your own body. Imagine being part of the food served at your own funeral? Could save a lot of money in catering.
Endocannibalism is the practice of eating the flesh of a human from the same community - tribe, family or society, usually after they have died. For a closer look at your bog standard cannibalism, take a look at Bone Tomahawk on Netflix, just don't be snacking on sausages when you do!
The first written record was from Herodotus, the Ancient Greek historian, who reports that endocannibalism was occurring in a tribe in India. More recently, the some of the Mayan tribes in South America are believed to have practised it. Some researchers believe this form of cannibalism may have been quite widespread in the ancient world, as a means of 'absorbing' your dead rellies and keeping them 'alive'. If the research for this practice is sounding a bit vague, we're guessing the fact that as the majority of the evidence for it was eaten isn't going to have helped much. Endocannibalism is now believed to have died out, ironically enough.
Practiced by Buddhists in Japan into the 1800s before it was outlawed, it doesn't actually sound that bad, does it? Wrap yourself up in some bandages, walk like an Egyptian, and hang around until you die. Oh, if only that's all it was. Stop reading now if you don't want to spend a fair chunk of the next few hours with some truly horrible visions floating through your mind.
Still here? Ok, so the idea behind self mummification was that, according to Buddhist belief, instead of being reborn, if you managed to achieve enlightenment at the point of death by separating your spiritual self from your physical body, then you will be at one with Buddha. So where do you start? Well, like parents trying to get you to do your homework, you'll only get the required grades if you put some effort in! Start at least 2000 days before you intend to achieve that much-desired enlightenment...
Spend 1,000 days losing all your fat by eating a diet consisting purely of nuts and seeds. No emergency Mars bars, no takeaways.
Spend another 1,000 days trying to get all the water out of your body. Eat the bark and roots of pine trees. Then drink some poisonous tea which makes you vom and shit yourself. Great, that pesky fluid is leaving your body, plus the pine sap in the bark and roots will help protect your guts from maggots once you've died.
This is where the fun begins. Get bricked into a tiny room, possibly underground, lined in stone, that is big enough for you to sit in the lotus position but not much more. You'll have an air pipe to the outside world, but that's it. Sit tight, wait to die, and have faith your body will mummify rather than decompose. 1,000 days later your old mates will come and dig you out to see if it worked.
Did it work?
Most of the time, no, it didn't. If these guys did get reincarnated, let's hope it wasn't so they could attempt the same thing. Mummify myself once, shame on you. Mummify myself twice, well, shame on me again, actually.
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