From the Appalachian Mountains to the hot deserts of Africa, not everyone deals with death in the same manner. When it comes to the funeral customs and death rituals observed around the world, there are many different views on how the dead should be honored or acknowledged. In this article, we will take a look at some of these different ways that surround the subject of death and dying.
Over the years, many ancient customs and traditions have faded from various cultures, while other beliefs and superstitions have indeed survived. Below you will find an array of rituals observed throughout the world:
1) In some parts of Africa, the preparation of a proper funeral is one that starts with the removal of the body from its home. If it is known that a local is dying, a hole is created in the side of their home. When it is time for removing the body, it is taken out of the house using the hole instead of the door. The feet are the first body parts to leave the home as well.
The reasoning behind this death ritual is that it is done to keep the spirit from finding an easy way back into the household. During the transportation of the body, items (like sticks and thorns) are placed along the path. They are often laid down in a pattern that zigs and zags, as an attempt to confuse the spirit. To the living, it is very important that spirits do not bother their relatives on earth.
While some Africans follow this ritual, not all do, as they wish to make it easier for the spirits of the newly departed to find their homes. Some relatives are even buried next to or even underneath their former home.
2) In Africa, sacrificing animals is a common death ritual. Usually, the animal of choice is an ox, as many hold the belief that this particular animal will accompany the deceased to the land of their ancestors. Oxen are also used for another purpose , to provide food for the mourners. Depending on the family, the sacrifice of an animal may take place months or even several years after an individual has passed away. It is also thought that a relative hasn’t truly passed on unless there is no one left alive to remember his or her existence.
3) When it comes to the burial customs of the Vikings, there is evidence that this culture would bury their possessions of most value to them when they died. Tools and weapons were often placed beside the bodies of dead men, while the women were buried with their cooking utensils and jewelry. Their burial plots were also filled with a small amount of food and drink to prevent hunger from striking during their journey to the afterlife.
Some Vikings were even buried with his or her boat positioned across their grave. When the deceased did not own a boat, the locals would put stones about their grave, making the shape of a boat. All of this was because the Vikings believed that using a boat to travel was the best method to reaching the “other world.”