Death rituals and practices

Death rituals and practices still present in modern society

Science has enriched our knowledge of the world we live in, and even the Universe does not seem like an endless pit of mysteries anymore. Still, there are a few old questions for which we have yet to find answers. Death is probably the uncertainty that puzzles and frightens us more than anything. The transgression from life to a new state of being, whether it is heaven-like or mere decomposition has created a long string of beliefs and rituals all over the world.

Tradition is one of the things that people care about without even questioning them. Unsurprisingly, many ancient death rituals and practices are still present in modern society. Here are some of them:

Buried in the sky

A millennia-old tradition in Mongolia asks the people in a community to bury their dead loved ones at the top of the highest mountain in their region. The belief that the soul escapes the body upon death leaving behind an empty vessel originates from the Tibetan Buddhists. They consider that your remains should be reintegrated into nature, so the body of the deceased is cut into pieces and laid on a mountaintop as food for the vultures.

The turning of the bones

If you are a member of the Malagasy people in Madagascar, do not expect to spend eternity alone. In fact, you will get visits from your living relatives, and friends once every five or seven years. An ancient death practice asks for the family of the deceased to exhume the remains of their loved ones regularly and have a sort of a party with them.

During the ritual, the bones are turned and whirled while the shamans sprinkle them with wine and perfume. The wealthy families even hire a band to play happy tunes throughout the entire ceremony.

Rest in peace doing what you loved most

The people of Ghana have a distant death ritual that has people buried in a coffin that represents what they loved doing most when they were still breathing. Fishermen have fish-like coffins, farmers sleep for eternity in cow-shaped crates, and chicken breeders in bird-like caskets. This ancient practice ensures that the dead one has a connection with his profession even in the afterlife. In recent times, this ritual had grown to international reputation when people expressed their dying wishes of being buried in coffins shaped like planes, cars or large bibles.

The Philippine view on death

The Philippine islands are inhabited by several groups of people who have evolved from ancient tribes, carrying with them some of the oldest rituals in the world. Death ceremonies vary from one island to another and from one community to the next.

The Benguet people live in the Northwestern part of the country and don’t see death as a parting phase in the life of a family. On the contrary, when a loved one dies they bury their body next to the entrance of the house, making its presence a continuing part of their existence.

The Caviteno tribes that inhabit the region surrounding Manila choose to bury their dead in hollowed-out tree trunks. When a member of a community is ill, they already pick a tree as a future coffin and carve it while the moribund is still breathing.