When it comes to death, there are many different ways that people around the world choose to lay their loved ones to rest. While some cultures treat corpses with the utmost of respect and protection, other traditions do not place as much importance on the body once someone has died. In this article, you will learn about a few rituals pertaining to the dead that Westerners may view as odd.
Feeding the Dead
Since forgotten until recently, old Roman burial grounds in the Vatican have revealed an interesting tradition in laying the dead to rest. It seems that it was customary to eat with the dead, as well as even feed the corpses. Many graves were outfitted with pipes that led from the outside of the grave to the body stored inside. The tubes were used to transfer honey, wine, and other edibles to the dead.
A similar practice has also been detected in Roman graves in England. Ancient Romans would also gather for picnics at the graves of their deceased loved ones. It was their belief that they fed the souls of their dead relatives when following this practice.
Buddhist Self Mummification
Until the late 1800s, self-mummification was a practice seen in Japan until it was outlawed in the early 1900s. The process of becoming a mummy takes more than 2,000 days of preparation, and there were Buddhist priests happy to oblige. One of the first steps was to alter their diet so that they shed off the fat on their body. They consumed nuts and seeds for 1,000 days to achieve this goal, and could not eat anything else. The priest would then take steps to eliminate as much moisture from the body as possible. This was an important step because the majority of the body is comprised of liquid.
The next 1,000 days were spent eating only a small amount of bark and roots from pine trees. A special tea was then consumed, which was made out of the sap of an urushi tree. This was a highly poisonous concoction that caused intense diarrhea and vomiting that lessened the amount of moisture inside the body. The sap would seep into the guts ”“ creating a protective lining that kept maggots from feeding on the body. The priest was then sealed in a small stone room, where he would get into the lotus position. It was there that the priest waited to die.
The Buddhists believed that this was a good way to achieve enlightenment by completely separating yourself from the physical world. In death, they felt they would become reborn ”“ as well as one with Buddha. While some priests successfully transformed into a mummy, most of the time, the process did not work.
If you thought that turning yourself into a mummy by choice was bad, consider the Hindu practice of setting yourself on fire, which is described in the article titled, “Odd Rituals Concerning the Dead III.”