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Death is inevitable. Everyone dies at some point. There’s no escaping it’s grasp.
And yet, it is one of the most feared things in the entire world–right there below public speaking.
What really happens when you die? That’s definitely one of the eternal questions we are constantly asking ourselves.
In the western world, we seem to plan for the inevitable by writing a will, taking out some life insurance, purchasing flowers, choosing a casket… and so on. There’s typically a routine to the madness of losing a loved one–an obligation to accept what has happened and move on.
In other parts of the world, the way people grieve, commemorate, and dispose of the deceased varies tremendously. Some cultures don’t simply accept that someone has lived and died, but their life is truly celebrated.
This can mean anything from consuming a person’s remains, holding funerals that last years, or exhuming their loved ones from the ground and dancing with them in the sunlight. There are those in India that even prepare for their own demise by voluntarily fasting to death.
While we may choose to look upon these rituals with disgust or surprise, these funeral practices have been deeply ingrained in cultures for thousands of years, and depending on specific beliefs and values, anything goes.
Click through the 13 craziest death rituals in the slideshow above to see how people in other parts of the world honor their dead.
Even here in the US, people do some rather interesting things with the dead, including taking funeral selfies next to the casket, attending the funeral of a complete stranger, or even burying them on their motorcycle or in the front yard of their home.
1. Drive Through Funeral Parlor, Los Angeles, California
In Los Angeles, residents looking for quick and convenient ways to say goodbye can just visit the city’s drive through, bulletproof funeral parlor. This service is mainly provided for gang-related deaths.
2. Fantasy Coffins
In Ghana, the death of a loved one is a time to mourn for them as well as a time to celebrate their life. Instead of being buried in a traditional coffin, carpenters fashion out caskets symbolizing the deceased person’s life, including their character traits or status in society. Some are quite creative and made into fish, coke bottles, animals, or beer cans.
Interested in turning your deceased grandmother into a synthetic diamond? To create the shiny crystal, this company called LifeGem takes a person’s cremated remains, turns them into graphite, then places it into a diamond press. For $3500 to $20,000, you can wear your loved one on your finger.
4. “Turning of the Bones”
Once every five or seven years, the Malagasy people of Madagascar have a centuries-old celebration for the dead by exhuming the bodies and dressing them in new clothes or cloth. Then, the Malagasy dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music.
Santhara is a voluntary death brought on by fasting. Practiced by the Jains community in India, Santhara begins after a person decides their life has served its purpose and they are ready for spiritual purification. This practice is often seen as a form of suicide or euthanasia.
6. Mysterious Hanging Coffins of the Bo People
The Bo People of Gongxian, China, once hung their coffins hundreds of feet up on the sides of cliffs.
7. Tana Toraja in Eastern Indonesia
Funerals in Tana Toraja, in eastern Indonesia, are epic affairs that involve an entire village and can last anywhere from a couple days to weeks. Sacrificial water buffalo are slaughtered to carry the soul of the deceased into the afterlife. But that moment could take years. In the meantime, they are considered one “who is asleep” and are placed in special rooms within the home and symbolically fed, cared for and taken out–remaining a part of their relative’s lives.
A few tribes in Australia and South America have been known to feast on the flesh of the dead. According to anthropologist Napolean Changon, the Yanomamo community in South America still eat the ground bones and ashes of the deceased after cremation has taken place.
9. Ritual Amputation
In West Papua, New Guinea, when a loved one passed on, the Dani people used to cut off their own fingers. This ritual is now banned, but was allegedly practiced to drive away spirits as well as to use physical pain as a form of expression.
The amputated flesh was then dried and burned to ashes or stored in a sacred place.
10. “Sky Burials”
Many Buddhists in Mongolia and Tibet practice ritual dissection, or “Sky Burials.” This tradition often involves chopping up the deceased into pieces and feeding them to animals, mainly vultures. In Buddhism, a dead body is seen as an empty vessel and is not commemorated.
11. Funeral Strippers
Taiwan showgirls are known to strip for the dead during religious events in order to “appease the wandering spirits.”
12. “Tower of Silence”
The Zoroastrians in Mumbai, India, would leave their dead at a “dakhma,” also known as “Tower of Silence.” The scripture and tradition spoke of decaying corpses polluting the earth, so when someone died, their exposed bodies were taken to “Tower of Silence” to be eaten by vultures.
13. Varanasi, India
On the banks of the Ganges River, Hindus bathe in the waters to absolve them of their sins. The Ganges is also a place encompassed in death. Believing that the river will release them from the cycle of rebirth, wealthy Hindus are ceremoniously cremated here and their ashes are released into the water.