Death, sounds scary right? But, have you ever thought in something else besides the moment itself? Have you thought about what your body is going to be done with? Oh sure, a regular funeral or a cremation may come right away to your head. But, let’s stop at regular for a moment. What is actually a regular funeral? Is it really putting your body in a coffin and burying it in a graveyard? What would you think if I tell you that you can have a Coca-cola coffin, a fish or a car coffin? What would you think if I tell you that your relatives can keep your skull as some sort of souvenir? What would you think if I tell you that you can even be buried in the sky? You would probably think I’m crazy or something, but I’m not. This is actually the way in which some people from Ghana, Austria and China carry on their funerals.
For the Ga tribe, funerals are a time of mourning, but also of celebration. They believe that when their loved ones die, they move on into another life and they make sure they do so in style. They honor their dead with brightly colored coffins that celebrate the way they lived. These coffins are designed to represent an aspect of the dead person’s life, such as a car if they were a driver, a fish if their livelihood was the sea or a sewing machine for a seamstress. They might also symbolize a vice, such as a bottle of beer or a cigarette.
Now, let’s travel to Europe. Hallstatt. It’s between a mountain and lake, so therefore has very limited burial space. To solve this problem they would allow for the remains of their dead to lie in the cemetery for 12 years only. When the time was up the bones would be exhumed and moved to a charnel, but the skull would be kept. It would be tastefully decorated with the name of the deceased, a cross and plants. It would then be displayed in a chapel. Although cremation has now been allowed in the village this custom still takes place.
So, what about being buried in the sky? We’ll have to go all the way to the southwest of china. The Tibet. For Tibetans the most common and regular funerals are the Sky Burials, which consists of cutting a person’s body in “strategic” places (euphemism for “likely to attract wildlife”) and placing the loved one on top of a mountain or temple. Then just wait for the magic to happen! The magic being that the vultures will then pick apart the flesh until what’s left is a pile of bones, which are either mashed into a bird feed pulp.
This type of funeral is considered to be environmental friendly, because it doesn’t involve any wood burning or waiting years until the body is turned into organin matter. It’s the most effective way of getting rid of human bodies.
Tibetans call the practice jhator, which means giving arms to the birds. And also legs, torsos and heads as well. So, if you want to have a classy funeral with a fancy coffin that represents your lifestyle you’d like it to happen in Ghana, but if you’re looking for a strange, creepy, sadististic, and environmental caring funeral your best choices may be Hallstatt, in Austria, or the Tibet, in China. What are regular funerals for you now?