Calitown.com samples and bring to you some of the most bizzare death rituals, see if you like any.
But why nourish yourself with the flesh of the recently deceased when you can use it to feed wild animals? Such is the thinking of Tibetan Buddhists practice ritual dissection, or “Sky Burials” — the tradition of chopping up the dead into small pieces and giving the remains to animals, particularly birds. Sometimes the body is left intact — which is not a problem for advantageous vultures. While this may seem undignified and even a bit disgusting, the ritual makes complete sense from a Buddhist perspective. Buddhists have no desire to preserve or commemorate a dead body, something that is seen as an empty vessel. Moreover, in tune with their respect for all life, Buddhists see it as only fitting that one’s final act (even if committed in proxy) is to have their remains used to sustain the life of another living creature; and in fact, the ritual is seen as a gesture of compassion and charity. Today, over 80% of Tibetan Buddhists choose sky burial, a ritual that has been observed for thousands of years.
The mysterious Bo people of the Hemp Pond Valley in Southwest China’s Gongxian County flourished for millennia before they were massacred by the Ming Dynasty over five centuries ago. Today, the Bo are almost completely forgotten, save for the dramatic hanging coffins they have left behind — a haunting array of wooden caskets that extend from the rock face to a height of almost 300 feet. Located just above the Crab Stream, the 160 coffins were placed along the cliffs and within natural caves, with some resting on wooden posts that extend out from the cliffside. The precipice itself features many murals that are painted with bright cinnabar red colors, many of which depict the lives of the Bo people. Today, the locals refer to the long-lost civilization by such names as “Sons of the Cliffs” and “Subjugators of the Sky.” But why they interred their dead in this way remains a complete mystery.
According to the historic account of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, a 10th century Arab Muslim writer, the ritual following the death of a chieftain was exceptionally brutal. Once dead, a chieftain’s body was put into a temporary grave for ten days while new clothes were being prepared for him. During this time, one of his slave girls would “volunteer” to join him in the afterlife; she was then guarded day and night and given copious amounts of intoxicating drinks. Once the cremation ceremony got started, the girl went from tent to tent to have sex with every man in the village. As the men were having sex with her — or what today we woud call “rape” — they would say, “Tell your master that I did this because of my love for him.” Following this, the girl was taken to a tent where she had sex with six Viking men, was strangled to death with rope, and finally stabbed by a village matriarch. And for the coup de grace, the bodies of the chieftain and slave girl were place onboard a wooden ship that was set alight. The Vikings did this to ensure that the slave girl would serve her master in the afterlife, while the sexual rites were a way to transform the chieftain’s life force.
The Malagasy people of Madagascar have clearly never heard the phrase, “Rest in peace.” In an effort to hasten decomposition — what’s seen as an crucial step in the ongoing process of getting the spirits of the dead into the afterlife — the Malagasy dig up the remains of their relatives and rewrap them in fresh cloth. Afterward, the Malagasy then dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music. Called Famadihana, or “Turning of the Bones,” the ritual has been around for three centuries — one that the local Christian churches are doing their best to stamp out.
Ritual Finger Amputation
As if the death of a loved one wasn’t traumatic enough, the Dani people of West Papua, New Guinea also had to cut off their own fingers. This seemingly severe and incomprehensible ritual applied to any woman related to the deceased, as well as any children. The practice was done to both gratify and drive away the spirits, while also providing a way to use physical pain as an expression of sorrow and suffering. To perform the amputation, fingers were tied tightly with string and then cut off with an axe. The leftover piece was then dried and burned to ashes or stored in a special place. The ritual is now banned in New Guinea, but the effects of the practice can still be seen in some of the older members of the community.
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