6 Peculiar Cremation, Burial and Death Rituals From Around the World

Death is a pretty grim topic by all accounts, but the best way to deal with it is to celebrate the life of the person who passed and to find ways to remember them. This is something that we have been doing for centuries, though not always in the same way. In fact to an outsider many of the rituals may seem very peculiar indeed. Here we will look at some of the strangest from around the world and from history. But remember, they probably think that the way we do it is odd!

Ghana Fantasy Coffins

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Here’s a nice one to start with – in Ghana many people ask to be buried in coffins that represent something about their lives. Often these will represent the works of those people (particularly for artists) while in other cases they might be shaped like cars, like books or as a number of other fantastic objects. It makes a square box look rather boring by comparison…

Sutee

Sutee means ‘self-immolation’ and was the name for a traditional Hindu ritual once practiced in India. Here widows would voluntarily lay themselves next to their deceased husbands on the funeral pyre in order to burn alive right next to them. The tradition was outlawed by occupying British in 1829, but there have still been cases of it occurring (the most recent being in 1981). In some horrific cases the widows would change their minds and attempt to run away, at which point bystanders would often enforce the ritual.

Self-Mummification

Speaking of carrying out your own death ritual early, self-mummification was popular in Japan until 1800s. And if you thought that Sutee was bizarre then you’ll find this one really odd: these people weren’t wracked with grief mourning for loved ones. Rather self-mummification was a result of the belief of Buddhist priests that you could achieve enlightenment by separating yourself from the physical world. As such, these priests would fast for up to 1,000 days, then they would dehydrate themselves for a further 1,000 days (using a special laxative tea). Next you would sit in lotus position in a stone room until death. Unsurprisingly this practice was also banned.

Body Exposure

Body exposure was an alternative ‘burial’ ritual practiced by Australian Aboriginals. The process involves exposing corpses on raised platforms until they disintegrate entirely save for the bones. Said bones are then retrieved and painted red, before being warn or left in a cave to further dissolve. Another part of the ritual forbids surviving relatives from saying the deceased’s name and encourages the surviving relatives to destroy all of their belongings.

Joss Paper

This is a ritual still practiced today in China and involves the burning of paper money as well as various paper-crafts made in the likeness of different objects. This usually takes place in the holiday seasons and is done with the hope that those items will be passed on to the spirits of the deceased in the afterlife. You can even buy iPhones and iPads made from joss paper, though whether or not there’s a strong WiFi connection in the afterlife we won’t know for a while. Today not everyone will necessarily believe the tradition works literally, but it is a nice way to remember those who have passed away and to make some kind of sacrifice in their honour.

Sky Burial

Vajrayana Buddhists in Mongolia and Tibet believe that spirits leave the body after death and that the body becomes nothing more than an empty vessel that should thus be ‘recycled’ back into the Earth. To accomplish this, the Buddhists will chop up the bodies of their lost relatives and then place them at the top of a mountain to be exposed to the elements. Many of the remains end up becoming food for Vultures. This is still common among Tibetans being the preferred choice.

I think I’ll just stick with a simple cremation thank you very much!

Foreseeing Death – 5 Celebrities and Historical Characters Who Eerily Predicted Their Own Death

No matter how well you live your life, it’s always the Reaper who gets the last word. No one has yet managed to outsmart death and it really does come for us all in the end.

But while no one has yet managed to circumvent death, one impressive feat that has been achieved – on a number of occasions – is to at least predict their own demise. A number of famous historical characters, celebrities and others have all managed this and spooked out their contemporaries in doing so (suicides don’t count).

And actually predicting your own death makes more sense than you might at first think, seeing as our brain stores so much information about us and our bodies in particular. For some early signs have become conscious long before they died allowing them to pull off amazing feats of fortune telling, for others it seems to have been in their unconscious minds and found other ways to get out. Here are some miraculous examples…

Mark Twain

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Mark Twain was a famous writer known for his wit and humour. He also managed to predict his own death to within a day, joking that he would ‘go out with’ Haley’s comet the next time it passed. His reasoning was that as it had passed during the year he was born, it would be a shame for it not to coincide with his death also. He imagined God as saying ‘now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’. And so they did…

William Thomas Stead

This is less a case of amazing precognition and more a case of a shocking and tragic irony. Stead was a journalist and editor and also wrote some fiction. He wrote a story called ‘The Sinking of a Modern Liner’ which described a giant boat crashing and sinking, and then later wrote a second story called ‘From the Old World to the New’ about a Majestic who had a vision of an ocean liner colliding with an iceberg. Twenty years later he nevertheless saw fit to board the Titanic and we all know how that one ended. William didn’t really predict his own death, but rather wrote about it without even realising.

Abraham de Moivre

If anyone should be able to anticipate their own death, you might think that it should be a mathematician with the ability to calculate the probability more accurately than anyone else. That’s precisely what Abraham de Moivre did – creating an algorithm that could be used to predict a person’s lifespan by looking at death rates and other factors.

It wasn’t actually this algorithm that resulted in his amazing prediction though, but instead a prediction he made later at age 87. He was sleeping 15 minutes longer every night for a time and decided that once those 15 minutes added up to 24 hours, he would die. And he did – on exactly the day he calculated.

Pete ‘Pistol’ Maravich

Again this was something of an unwitting premonition and also a very tragic one. Here the NBA player (regarded as one of the greatest of all time) told a reporter that he didn’t want to ‘play NBA for 10 years and then die of a heart attack at the age of 40’. He must have forgotten to touch would though, as he actually did exactly that – quitting after ten years then dying eight years later of a heart attack. His last words were ‘I feel great’. Apparently he again forgot to touch wood…

Jackie Wilson

Here’s another bit of irony for you. Jackie Wilson was a singer whose biggest hit was ‘lonely tear drops’. This song features the line ‘my heart is cryin’, cryin”. In one performance this turned out to be a far more literal line than anyone would have guessed. He didn’t just die singing the song – he died singing that precise line from a massive heart attack.

So how’s your prediction coming on? Get good enough and maybe you could book your own cremation services a few decades in advance?

8 Surprising Things You Can Do With Ashes

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If you choose to get cremated then your ashes are going to be all that remains of you after you’re gone. Sure there will be people’s memories and there will be the finances and the inspiring messages that you leave behind – but in terms of your physical remains, your ashes are going to be all that’s leftover.

But in case you thought that was a bad thing, it’s actually a positive in many ways. For one it means you aren’t taking up space and for another it means that your family don’t get wracked with guilt when they let your gravestone become overgrown and untended.

More to the point though, being so small and compact means you can do all kinds of amazing things that you otherwise would never have been able to. Likewise if you have the ashes of a loved one it means that you have plenty of options when it comes to remembering them and helping them live on. Read on to see just a few of them.

Scattering

One of the simplest things to do with ashes is also one of the nicest and the most logical – scattering them somewhere that means somewhere to the person who has passed away. This way they can enjoy their final resting place in the Grand Canyon, or perhaps in a scenic location that they visited often in life. It’s a lot more exciting than ending up in a nameless graveyard that’s for sure!

Go to Space

But why settle for a boring old terrestrial location when you can instead be blasted off into space as your final resting place? It sounds insane, but actually there are several companies that do this and it’s cheaper than you might think. There was even a Kickstarter project launching things into space at one point if you want to do it DIY!

Becoming a Diamond

Diamonds are not only beautiful but also the hardest thing known to man. That’s a pretty cool thing to become, especially if it means that relatives can keep you close on their jewellery. To have yourself or a loved one turned into a diamond you need to be cremated first and then have your carbon compacted down to become a diamond – we’re made of the same stuff!

Growing a Tree

All fertiliser is is a selection of organic materials that plants can repurpose into plant food and thus sustain themselves as they grow. Now of course you can’t actually become a tree (people and trees are not made of the same stuff…), but what you can do is to have your ashes scattered on the soil where you plant a new tree and that way contribute to the circle of life.

Be in a Painting

Having a portrait painted is a great way to be remembered after you’re gone, but it works even better if the painting is made from your ashes. Just have your remains mixed into the paint and this is something you can do relatively easily. Now all you need to do is to find someone who has the skill to paint something that’s beautiful and that represents you. Likewise your ashes can be turned into ink for writing…

Tattoos

Or for tattoos. Many people like to get tattoos to remember their loved ones by, so why not take this one step further to its obvious logical conclusion and have your ashes actually turned into ink for tattoos. That way you can be a part of someone else forever…

Be in an Hour Glass

The above are examples of things that are popular to do with ashes, or that have been done multiple times at least. But in reality you can really do pretty much anything you like with your ashes and there are many people who have demonstrated this with unique, amusing and clever uses for their remains. One particularly clever and humorous example: having your ashes kept in an hourglass.

Live on a Windowsill

And lastly there’s the traditional option of staying in an Urn on the windowsill giving your loved ones a keepsake and a memorial that they can keep close to hand.

Whatever you choose, your cremation needn’t be the end!

5 Ways to Live Long After You Are Gone

No one can live forever, and when you actually think about it it’s probably just as well. But while we may not be able to physically stay on Earth ourselves, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still ways we can ensure we don’t get quickly forgotten either. There are ways you can ‘live on’ after death, and all of these can help us to create a legacy for ourselves that will long outlast our physical presence. Some people view life as simply a pattern of information, and if that’s truly the case then ensuring that that information gets passed on is as good a way as any to live longer. Every time someone thinks of you, or your words enter their minds, you will almost be living again…

So what are these methods of outlasting yourself? And how do you go about ensuring your memory lasts as long as it possibly can? Here are five great methods that anyone can use…

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Funeral: Something that most of us will do on parting is to have a funeral held in our honour. This serves as a celebration of our lives and also as a way for our surviving loved ones to remember us and to come to terms with our parting. In many ways your funeral is the last party you will ever throw…

Creating Something: Another option is to create something that can outlast you. An example could be a work of art, a great musical composition, or a best-selling novel. That way you could potentially live on in the same way as say Shakespeare or Mozart – historical characters who are still house-hold names.

Of course not everyone has quite the skill of either of these two giants, so a more modest aim might be to write a book that will be read by a lot of people of your generation. Alternatively you could create something else such as a business or a website which would be easier to quickly help spread.

People: By creating something or having a large funeral you remind people of yourself indirectly – but more important are the ways you touch people in person and the way you change their lives. The people who you help and who you teach will end up achieving great things and having fulfilling lives because of you – and in those ways their achievements and their experiences will be yours too.

Then of course there’s the big one – having children. These are people who will not only have been raised and influenced by you in large ways, but also people who will share your genetic code and who will be even more of a lasting impression of you.

Your Remains: Your remains will obviously last long after you are gone even if you don’t do anything with them. However there are many more exciting ways you can help your remains to ‘live on’ in a way. One example may be to have a cremation and then have your ashes scattered, but another good option is to create a magnificent and well-tended grave.

Money: Finally you should think about your assets and your estate and whether they might be able to help others once you’re gone. Whether you get life insurance and make certain that your money will go to helping your loved ones thrive without you, or whether you look to donate money to a good cause you should think about this as your final act of kindness.

7 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Death

Death might seem pretty straightforward – after-all it is essentially nothing more than a book-end to your life meaning that there isn’t really much you can do beyond that point or much that can happen. Death is when your heart stops beating… what else is there to know?

Well actually there’s plenty to know and you’d be surprised just what a fascinating topic this is once you get down to it. Read on and we’ll look at some truly amazing facts you probably didn’t know about death…

1 Death is Hard to Define

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Everything you think you know about death is wrong – including the ‘when your heart stops beating’ part. Of course you can live long after your heart has stopped beating if you get resuscitated or if you are put on mechanical life-support. So how do you define death?

Actually it’s a topic for much debate and while the most common answer is that it’s ‘when you stop showing brain activity’ the precise definition is something that experts are still arguing about.

2 Death is Defined Differently in Different States

In fact death is so hard to define that different countries and states define it differently. What that means is that you could be legally ‘dead’ in one state, have someone drag you across the border, and then technically be ‘alive’ again. Now that’s a remarkable resurrection!

3 You Can Live With No Head

Or technically no body… Because speaking of brain activity, it turns out that the human head remains conscious for around 15-20 seconds after a decapitation. It’s grim, but also pretty amazing! The reason of course is that you will still have enough oxygen and blood in your brain to live for those few seconds. Meanwhile one headless chicken is known to have lived for over two years as it still had enough of a brain-stem left to continue the basic brain functions required for staying alive.

4 The Last Sense to Go

So if you were beheaded you’d get to see your headless body for a couple of seconds before dying – pretty shocking! What about normal death? Well in that case the last sense to go would be your hearing, so after you’d stopped being able to see you’d hear a few lingering sounds before sinking into oblivion.

5 Your Hair Doesn’t Really Keep Growing

Have you ever heard the ‘fact’ that your hair keeps on growing after you die? Actually that’s a myth – it keeps getting longer yes, but that’s only because your skin recedes after death thus exposing more of the hair.

6 Egyptians Really Loved Their Cats

Death doesn’t just affect people of course – it also affects animals which can often leave their owners almost as grief stricken. Back in Ancient Egypt this was even more of a huge deal among cat owners who would shave off their eyebrows in honour of their deceased felines and who would actually mummify their pets!

If you want to remember your pets today consider cremation instead – it’s less creepy for visitors.

7 Pets Have Been Successfully Cloned

If you thought the Egyptians were a little extreme though, then consider that in the US some people have successfully managed to clone their pets as a way to bring them back from death’s icy grip. That’s right – commercial cloning for pets is already a reality, although you’ll need to be pretty rich as the first couple to do it paid $155,000 for the privilege and the company responsible has since closed down. The pooch goes by the name of ‘Sir Lancelot’.

8 Epic Last Words from Famous Personalities

Last words are your last opportunity to say something memorable, to get a laugh or just to show off how tough you are. In many cases they’re what you’re going to be remembered for, and at the very least you hope that they will be memorable or in some way interesting.

Obviously it’s not always easy to come up with something amusing, witty or inspiring to say when you’re literally on death’s door. You’re probably going to be a little too focussed on just trying to stay alive to think of anything clever – and that’s assuming that you even know that your time is coming near.

While this is a persisting problem though, there are certainly things you can do to improve your chances of getting a satisfactory last word. One option is to be constantly inspiring and witty. Another option is to talk less – thus improving the overall quality of your spoken content. Another easier option is to read the following examples of great and famous last words and then hope that they spring to mind again when you’re about to pass away…

Oscar Wilde

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Oscar Wilde was well-known for his witticisms in life, so it’s only fitting that he should share one more with us before he die. His choice of words were:

‘My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.’

Badum.

Che Guevara

We all hope that when our time comes we’ll have the nerve to say something cool, and we could all do a lot worse than to emulate Che Guevara whose last words sound like something Clint Eastwood might say:

‘Shot, coward, you are only going to kill a man!’

Emiliano Zapata

Not all of us are great at coming up with great last-words on short notice, so another option is always to follow in the footsteps of revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and attempt to outsource the process. His last words were ‘don’t let me die like this, say I said something’. Nice try!

L. Frank Baum

Quoting your own works is a popular way to come up with last words, which is precisely what the author of The Wizard of Oz did before he died.

‘Now I can cross the shifting sands…’

In the story, the Shifting Sands are impassable deserts surrounding the Land of Oz. This was pretty meta before post-modernism was in vogue…

Groucho Marx

Some people just have to have the last laugh, and for those who are so inclined the death bed provides a particularly unique opportunity. This seems to be the way that Groucho Marx saw it, whose last words were ‘Die my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do!’

Marco Polo

Traveller and writer Marco Polo saw fit to leave the world with a ‘teaser’, uttering ‘I have not told half of what I saw’ as the last words before he died.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx is the famous founder of Marxism – the philosophical underpinnings for communism. When his housekeeper asked if he had any final words as he lay dying his response was:

‘Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!’

Ironically these are some of the coolest last words ever…

Giles Corey

Giles Corey would not constitute a famous personality were it not for his last words – how’s that for epic irony? Giles was a farmer who refused to plead guilty when accused of being a witch and who was subjected to the cruel torture of being crushed under heavy boulders. His persecutors kept adding weight, slowly crushing the life out of him, but with his last breaths he uttered:

‘More weight’

How’s that for inspiration next time you’re down the gym?

Quick Tip: If you can’t think of a last word, you can always come up with something for your gravestone or urn if you’re going for a cremation.