Death is one of the most unexplainable phenomena we’ll experience in our lives. Everybody has some form of opinion on what happens when we die, where our mind and soul might go. Some think they have all the answers, while many remain clueless. There is no factual evidence as to what happens to us once we’re no longer alive on this planet, and there really may not ever be a way of knowing. One thing we can know for certain, however, is what happens to our bodies after we die.
Humans are one of the rare species that mourns the loss of a person after they die. We mourn, pray, and feel sorrow for long term family members and friends that we lose, as well as complete strangers’ passings we sometimes hear about. Everyone has a different idea as to what they want to happen to their bodies when they die, many planning it out in wills before they even come close to passing away. Some wish to be cremated, others placed inside a casket for eternity. No matter what you or the people around you wish to happen to them, no two people are mourned and remembered the same. But some mourn in ways that seem way different than anything we would ever imagine for ourselves or our loved ones.
Some mourn in ways that chill us to the bone just thinking about it. Others practice mourning rituals that actually make some sense. For now, here are 15 Chilling Post-Mortem traditions from around the world.
15. Turning Of The Bones
There’s a practice among the people of Madagascar that makes The Day of the Dead look pretty innocent. The process is referred to as “the turning of the bones,” or Famadihana. The process involves digging up the remains of a family’s loved ones and basically having a huge party with the body. The celebration occurs about every five years, and once the body is completely decayed, they are no longer exhumed, as their spirits have finally moved on. It seems as though going back and digging up your loved one would be pretty traumatic. For these people, at least, they keep them wrapped up most of the time. It also seems like it would be difficult to have to have their dead body around once again. However, for people who have been practicing this their whole lives, it’s just second nature.
14. Tomb Sweeping
Tomb Sweeping is a practice in Indonesia that’s actually pretty similar to that of the Turning of the Bones. Tomb Sweeping is when they revisit the burial sight of a loved one and remove their body, just like many cultures on the list. They then clean up the coffin or tomb, as well as the decaying family member. They’ll often change their clothes and clean up their hair (if they have any left) and possibly decorate them with flowers and ornaments. They have a little party as well, and the body goes back to the tomb. It seems like this would be a really emotionally exhausting process. For many of us, it’s hard enough to look at our loved one in a coffin. Then, we’d have to look at them again in a few years, only this time, they’re super decayed. Then, we’d have to bury them all over again. However, like we said before, this practice is so common for some that they don’t even think about these things.
13. Post-Mortem Photography
Post-mortem photography is a practice that was common in the Victorian era. In a time when cameras weren’t as easily accessible and when you couldn’t snap a photo in seconds, having pictures of loved ones was a rare occasion. Pictures were hard to take and also expensive, so oftentimes, family members would only take a few photographs throughout their lifetimes, many of them after they already passed away. It was the final image they would ever have of the deceased loved ones, so it definitely didn’t used to be so creepy-feeling to us today. Oftentimes, children were featured in the images because infants and toddlers had a higher mortality rate than they do today. You can usually tell who in the photograph might be deceased, as they commonly appeared less blurry and more clear than the alive subject who would have to sit still for minutes as they had their picture taken next to their dead beloved. The photographs were also taken no matter what the circumstance, meaning if the person suffered a mutilating disease, they’d still be photographed.
12. Hanging Coffins
The process of hanging coffins is common among a few different cultures, but it is primarily practiced in China. The process involves just what you’d imagine, basically hanging a coffin from a cliff. Posts are put into the side of cliffs in order to set the coffins up. they believed that by putting them on a higher ground rather in the ground would help them get closer to the sky and keep them safe from beasts and other harm. Could you imagine just going for a walk and turning the corner only to see all of these coffins just hanging out on the side of the cliff? It definitely sounds like a terrifying scene in a movie. Some cultures also collect the rainwater that might fill the coffin and rub it on their body, hoping to get closer to the deceased loved one.
11. Finger Amputation
A now banned ritual, it used to be common among the Dani people of Papua New Guinea to cut off their fingers if they lost a loved one. The removal of one’s fingers symbolized the pain and suffering that comes when you lose a loved one. This was to help ward off any bad spirits and really show them that you’re not handling the death of your family member well, so they should just go away. In order to cut off the finger, they would first begin by tying a string incredibly tight around the finger they were going to lose. Then, another family member would chop it off with an ax and cauterize the open wound. You would do this every time a loved one close to you died. What happens to those unfortunate enough to lose more than ten members? It seems pretty difficult to have to lose both a family member and part of your body at the same time.
10. Burial Pods
One of the most rewarding ways to take care of our environment is to give something back, most commonly, planting a tree. Well, for the most environmentally conscious people, you can make sure that your body is buried by using one of these burial pods, ensuring that once your body starts decaying, you’ll eventually blossom into a beautiful tree. Now, these grave pods aren’t available quite yet. It’s still a work in progress, but this could be our method of burial for the future. It’s actually a quite beautiful method and hopefully we’ll be able to see the development rather soon. But, like most things on the list, if you really think about it, it’s kind of creepy. What if we realize the trees start developing certain qualities that only certain humans had? And would these trees grow fruits and vegetables? Would that just become endocannibalism full circle? We’ll just have to wait for these to finish developing to find out!
Cannibalism is the terrifying practice of a person eating another person. It’s horrifying to us, but for some cultures, eating the body of a deceased loved one was the best way to come to terms with their death. This is referred to as endocannibalism. It’s not a common practice specific to any culture; it’s something that various cultures and tribes have been discovered in doing all over the world. Some feel as though the best way to say goodbye to a loved one is apparently cutting them up, eating them, and digesting them. It is a way to make use of their body, as well as absorb some of what they left behind. There’s no right way to be an endocannibalist.
8. Sky Burial
Sky-burial is a practice mostly common in Tibetan Buddhists. The process involves taking the body of the deceased to a high mountain top, somewhere close to the sky. They then let it decay in the sun and allow it to become a feast for wildlife, most commonly birds. The birds are then able to fly to faraway lands, spreading the body in different areas. It seems that letting birds and wildlife feast on the skin and insides of a person is something that many cultures would most certainly try their best to avoid. However, many religions believe that the body is simply a vessel, therefore once the soul leaves, there is no longer any purpose to keep it around. Why not let it become free food for the wildlife around? it definitely looks like a brutal process and something you might see out of a horror movie. For many, this is the best way to mourn.
7. The Vikings And Their Doomed Sex Slave
If you know anything about Vikings, at the very least, you know they’re pretty brutal. It makes sense, then, that their funerals would be extreme. When a Chieftain Viking passed away, they would take the mourning ritual to the extreme. When a Chieftain died, they would immediately bury him. Then, for ten days, they prepared the clothes he would wear and offerings to be cremated with him when they dug him up in ten days. The offerings were most commonly foods, sometimes chickens and other livestock. But the most brutal part? They would oftentimes prepare a slave or two to be burned with the Chieftain as well so that they could aid him in his future life. Oftentimes, these slaves were women, and for the ten days that they spent preparing the Chieftains gifts, the other Vikings would spend their time taking turns having sex with the slave girls so as to show their love for the Chieftain. Then, after ten days, the slaves would be burned alive with the Chieftain.
6. Skull Burial
This is one of the least common practices on the list as only a small village performs it on the island of Kiribati. The process involves burying an individual in their front yard. Then, after about several months, or as long as they feel it would take to let a body rot and decay, they would go back and dig it up, only taking the skull. They would then polish and clean the skull, offer it food and tobacco, and keep the skull on the highest shelf in their home. You probably know someone who’s died at some point in your life. Just imagine having to dig up their body and take their head. And there’s a decent chance all of the flesh, muscles, and tissue have yet to completely decay. And then you’d have to keep the skull in your house to watch your every move! It’s chill if that’s what you’re into, but we’ll stick to something else.
You’ve probably dressed up as a mummy once before, right? Anyone can do it by just taking a roll of toilet paper and wrapping themselves up! Well, that’s not quite the way that those who have participated in self-mummification went about the process. The practice was most common in Japan among Buddhist monks. The ritual involved a 3,000-day training period in which the person being mummified would basically starve themselves. They’d sometimes drink certain things that would also make them vomit up what little they did have. Then, when it was time, they would sit in a tomb almost completely sealed with just a small crack to let air in. They would sit and chant prayers endlessly while ringing a bell. Once the ringing of the bell stopped, someone on the outside would assume they were dead and would close them in the tomb. Then, three years later, the tomb was opened to check and see if it worked.
4. Mortuary Totem Poles
Totem poles are a common practice among indigenous people of the pacific northwest. They are meant to tell a story in the way that they are carved and decorated. They’re beautiful symbols of the story of one’s life, but there’s a specific type of totem pole that seems a bit more eerie than others. It’s known as the mortuary totem pole and was used to symbolize when a notable warrior or chief had passed on. At the top of the totem pole, a little box would be carved out to put the remains. The only problem and the creepy part? The box was pretty small and the remains commonly didn’t fit. In order to get them to fit in the space, the bodies would be beaten with clubs until they were basically a pulp that they could fit at the top of the pole.
3. Mourning Jewelry
Mourning Jewelry used to much more common over 100 years ago when people didn’t have easier ways to mourn and remember their loved ones. Oftentimes, mourning jewelry was nothing more than the birthstone or some other important gem of a deceased loved one. It’s something that we still practice commonly today. But even rarer were instances when people would keep locks of hair of the beloved dead in a locket or other form of jewelry. People still practice this today as well, it’s just seen as a little more macabre than it used to be. Everyone probably knows someone who has their ashes of a deceased loved one, and some people take it as far as to carry those ashes around with them on some form of jewelry. There’s nothing wrong with this if it’s the way you choose to mourn. But for some, it can seem a little weird to wear around another person’s body, in a sense.
Many cultures throughout history, even parts of our western culture today, believe that a woman’s only purpose is to serve men. A woman’s job is to be somebody’s husband. Therefore, a lot of people believe that if your husband dies, your job on the Earth is pretty much done and there’s no point to you being alive anymore. That’s why many cultures felt as though that when a man died, his wife should be burned alive with his corpse. The process is referred to as self-immolation, which refers to as someone killing themselves for sacrifice. Many people then believed that the woman would go on to serve the man yet again in the afterlife. The horrifying part is that if the woman decided last second that she wanted to stay alive and not die for no reason, then she would still be forced to go through with the process and would often be tied down to be burned alive.
1. Modern Funerals Everywhere
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing other cultures and the things our ancestors were into, but it’s also important to discuss our own mourning practices in American and European culture. Sure, funerals seem normal; everyone’s been to one in their life. But out of all of these practices on the list, what we do to mourn is still a bit creepy in comparison. First, we pump all the blood out of a body and replace it with a weird liquid so we don’t start rotting too early. Then, we glue our mouths and eyes closed and put makeup and clothes on us that we probably wouldn’t normally wear alive. After that, we’re put into an extremely expensive wooden box in a room so all of our loved ones can come and stare at our dead body. The way anyone chooses to mourn is totally up to them and fine as long as they’re not hurting anyone. But it’s important to be critical of our own culture when dissecting another’s.