Top 10 Unusual Ways to Dispose of the Dead
5. Hanging Coffins
Would you like to solve a mystery and make over $36,000 US dollars at the same time? Well all you have to do is answer a 3,000-year-old question. How did the peoples of the ancient world hang coffins down the side of cliffs?
In several areas of the world, especially China and the Philippines, ancient peoples found a way to hang their coffins, made of a single piece of wood, from the sides of cliffs. No one knows how they did it. The Bo people of China believed that the higher a coffin was hung on the wall of a cliff the more they honored the deceased. Historians believe the Bo lowered their coffins down the cliff with ropes, bringing them to rest on stakes driven into the cliff wall. However, that still leaves another group, the Guyue people who hung their coffins on the Fairy-water Rocks of Longhushan in China. These coffins are so precariously situated that the Longhushan Administration Bureau has offered $36,000 US dollars to anyone who can prove how they were hung. Just so you know; saying it was space aliens is the wrong answer.
4. Tree Burial
Tree burial can take several forms. In one type practiced in the Philippines, the body is actually entombed in a tree trunk. The “soon to be deceased” picks their tree and moves to live near it while waiting to die. You can imagine the embarrassment along with relief if the family moves to quickly and the sick person recovers after they have built him a nice little hut beside his coffin tree. Another form of tree burial is to tie the coffin to the branches of a tree. Sometimes the deceased is sewn into blankets and the body tied high in the tree branches to keep it away from animals. The Blackfeet Indians in Montana, USA, practiced this in the past.
3. Front Porch Burial
In some societies in the Philippines the deceased may be dead but not really gone. The Tinguian and the Benguet both sit their deceased in chairs, dress them in their best clothes, and leave them sitting for more than a week allowing family and friends an extended period to say goodbye. The Tinguian allow the corpse to sit several weeks. During this time the deceased relatives come and share their grief. The deceased is even supplied with smoking tobacco. Well, at least smoking won’t be hazardous to their health. The Benguet also dress their dead in their finest and then tie them to a chair just outside the front door of their house. The corpse is blindfolded and left there for eight days. The night before the burial the older friends and family sing a funeral song called a “bangil”. The bangil tells the story of the deceased’s life pointing out the good and the bad. There are other groups in the Philippines like the Itnegs of Abra and the Apayaos who bury their dead under their houses.
Endo means inner or within so endocannibalism occurs when members of a group eat their own dead. This brings a completely new meaning to dinnertime. The Fore tribes in New Guinea, for example, practice ritual cannibalism by consuming their dead relatives. There are tribes in Brazil that cremate their dead and mix the ashes in a thick soup which the tribe then eats. These practices are part of the grieving process and keeps the deceased alive as part of the living. Other groups believe they can gain power and strength by consuming their dead. A tribe in northern India, the Aghoris, eats the flesh of the dead, believing it will give them supernatural powers. While the idea of endocannibalism may strike us as gruesome, it does appear to have an underlying belief that even in death human beings are unique and should be honored…and possibly served with a fine wine.
This process gives us modern day mummies. Water and fat are extracted from the body and replaced with silicone. The resulting specimen, usually with the skin removed to show the muscles, can be used by medical schools to study and teach. It may be handled like any other piece of plastic. The remains may be dissected or kept whole and displayed. Gunther von Hagens developed the process and displays bodies in an exhibit called “Body Worlds”. Needless to say the thought of turning human remains into plastic dolls does not sit well with some people. They feel it is disrespectful to the memory of the decease, the sanctity of the human body, and just disturbing to see human corpses on display. Others have the opinion that it is far better to donate their body to science and have it used as a teaching tool or even go on display than to simply cremate or bury it. The controversy surrounding plastination might even outlast the bodies themselves.