Death is beyond human understanding, and it is for this reason that it is rarely discussed openly, but sadly, it is the fate of everyone. Different communities and religions around the world have different views on matters of death and what happens after death. Some like the Christians believe in life after death, while some believe that death is the end, and nothing happens after that. The death subject has been there for ages shrewd in mystery with no answer. When people die, rituals are performed, and the dead are finally laid to rest. The common and known type of rituals performed on the dead is by holding wakes, putting the deceased inside a coffin and finally laying the body twenty feet underground. In some cultures, the dead are cremated and the ashes preserved or thrown into the sea or a river.
However, some cultures around the world have the most unexpected, spooky, and downright bizarre ways of disposing of the dead. Some of the death rituals are as unusual as they are creepy. From leaving the dead on the mountains to be devoured by hungry vultures to the body being consumed by family members, below are the top 10 disturbing death rituals from around the world.
1 Amputation of the Finger
Cutting off one’s finger as a death ritual is one of the spooky and downright eerie rituals ever. When a member of a family dies, the deceased go through emotional and mental pain as they try to come to terms with the loss. They go through a mourning process that could last from days to months. However, to some communities, the mental and emotional anguish was not enough. They performed something more tangible and super painful. They chopped off the widow’s fingers to signify morning and to complete the morning and burial process of the dead.
This type of death ritual was performed by the Dani people of Papua, New Guinea. Apparently, this type of ritual applied only to women. When a member of the family died, the woman’s fingers were cut off to ward off the spirits of the dead. Apparently, the fingers were tightly tied for thirty minutes to allow them to numb and possibly make the process painless. They were then cut off using an ax and the wound dressed using traditional herbs. The cut pieces were then dried and either burned or kept in a special place in the family. Although the practice was outlawed and is long gone, the ritual is still evident among the elderly in the Dani tribe of New Guinea.
2 Suspended Burials
This is also another shocking death ritual. This rare and extinct ritual was performed by the Asian communities, particularly from China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. History has it that the extinct Bo people of China majorly performed this ritual. Apparently, this practice ceased when the Bo people were wiped out by Ming’s dynasty. In this ritual, the dead were never buried underground, but their coffins were suspended up high in the air.
The coffins were made from tree trunks by creating a hollow on the trunk. The remains of the dead were then placed inside, and the coffin was taken and placed in a human-made cave in the mountain. In some cultures, the coffins were suspended on a cliff. Archeologists report that the latest coffin dates back to the 16th century. Surprisingly they have withstood the test of time and remain to be the most valuable heritage in the Asian countries. The Bo people believed that the ritual brought their dead closer to the angels and gods when suspended in the middle of nowhere.
3 Celestial Burials by Buddhist of the Tibetan
Freaking as it is, this is also another blood-chilling ritual performed on the dead. The Tibet community of China holds this ritual dear to their hearts. In this type of ritual, the dead are not buried but left on the mountains to be devoured by hungry vultures. The Tibetans believe that when someone dies their journey to heaven is through the vultures. They also believe that the remains of the dead’s sole purpose are to enrich other living things, in this case, Vultures. Apparently, the rocky grounds of Tibet and lack of good firewood made the Buddhist have sky burials as their only option of disposing of the dead.
The ritual starts with the monk’s prayers, which often last from twenty-four hours to three days. This ritual is sacred, and only family members are allowed to attend the sky burials. After the prayer session is over, the dead is bundled up in a cloth and carried to the top of the mountain. This can be very tiresome and gruesome. The family members are responsible for carrying the dead. Once at the top, the rogyapas (person responsible for performing the sky burial) dissects the body to small pieces and throws them to nearby hungry vultures to eat them. Apparently, rogyapas has a way of inviting the vulture and informing them on the awaiting delicacy. The process lasts for fifteen minutes. Apparently, the rogyapas are supposed to maintain a happy mood throughout the process. They do this joking and laughing to provide an ambient atmosphere for the dead soul as it travels to the next world. To add, the Tibetan believes that the vultures’ aid in carrying souls of the dead to heaven.
Endo-cannibalism is also another weird and outrageous death ritual performed by some communities from around the world. This is a form of death ritual where the dead are consumed indirectly by the family members. Some of the communities that practiced this type of culture are the Fore of Papua New Guinea, the Yanomami tribe.
When a member of the Yanomami tribe dies, he/she is burnt, and the family members consume the ashes. Practically, they add the ashes to their typical dish, which is mashed bananas. Apparently, according to this tribe, endocannibalism is the only way out to let the dead rest in perfect and eternal peace. If the ritual is not performed, the spirits of the dead will wander around and cause trouble to the living. This Amazon’s tribe, for centuries, has been practicing this ritual.
5 Sati Ritual
Sati ritual is also another shocking death ritual that was performed by the uncivilized and native Indians. This practice was gruesome and outrightly bizarre. In this type of ritual, a married woman was supposed to voluntarily commit suicide or be forcefully burnt on her husband’s pyre. This was to show the oneness and solidarity of a wife to her husband. Apparently, sati was the name of Lord Shiva and tales have it that she burned herself to death in protest of her father’s hatred towards her husband, Shiva.
The Hindu community slowly but gradually adopted the practice for various reason. One was to warn and scare away women from killing their wealthy husbands and running away to marry their sweethearts. Also, the ritual was to show their love for their husbands. This act was outlawed by the Indian government in the year 1827 by Lord Bentinck owing to its bizarre nature.
This spooky death ritual performed by communities in Madagascar is not only outrageous but also mind-boggling. Also referred to as the turning of the bones, famadihana is a death ritual that as widely performed by the Malagasy people. When someone died in this culture, burial was conducted, and the dead were laid to rest but not for long. After a few years estimated to be from five to seven years, the dead were exhumed from their graves and famadihana was performed. Practically, during the process, the deceased had their old, and tattered wrappings removed and were dressed up in new clothes. Eating and dancing ceremonies were later performed to celebrate their reunion.
Apparently, this ceremony lasted for two days after which the dead were returned to their resting tombs. Once at the tomb, the family members held a moment of silence before sending off their departed souls with money, food, and other valuables to appease their spirits. To add, this ceremony was viewed as a process that would bring blessings and luck to the family members and community at large. The barren would keep the old wrappings of the dead under their beads believing that by doing so, they would conceive. The practice has since ceased due to the emergence of the religion.
7 Totem Poles
Performed by the Haida of North West, this is also another bizarre death ritual of all times. This tribe in what is modern-day called British Columbia not only buried their loved ones in totem poles but also had believed in reincarnation. This tribe had various death rituals, but the common ones were the totem poles rituals and the pit burials. Pit burial was whereby the dead were dumped into the massive pits established outside the village without coffins.
On the other hand, the totem pole burial was meant for the mighty and influential in the Haida society. When the chief, a warrior or a shaman died, their bodies were kept in the homes for a while and later crushed to a pulp, stuffed inside a box and safely placed on a totem pole in the family’s graveyard. Apparently, the burial box was never visible from the front as it was covered in carvings. The carvings were of humans, animals, statutes, or family crests. This tribe believed that carvings protected the souls of the dead on their journey to the next life.
8 Aboriginal Death Rituals
The Aboriginal tribe of Australia is not only a fascinating tribe but also practiced the weirdest and bizarre death rituals. In ancient Australia, the death ritual differed slightly from one place to the other. In the north-eastern part, the dead were covered in red ochre and painted on the face, on the chest and the lower part of the body with the clan’s identity marks. Apparently, this was to fasten the identification process in the next life. Also, the deceased hair is cut and woven together with feathers. To keep off the spirit of the dead, no food was set aside for them. Furthermore, the mourners used smoke from green leaves to drive away from the spirits of the dead and to purify themselves. What followed next was the construction of a platform in which the dead person was placed on and left to decompose.
In Georgia district, the deceased together with his/her belongings were placed on a platform with the feet directed towards the west. A fire was lit underneath the belongings with the belief that the dead will hunt and cook their own food. The Wallaroi people collected the fluid dropping from the dead body and applied it on themselves, believing that they would gain strength.
9 The Zoroastrian Death Ritual
The Zoroastrians of Mumbai also have a strange way of sending off the dead. When a person dies in this community, he/she is considered impure, and no living being should come in contact with the body. Zoroastrians used bull’s urine and water to cleanse the dead. As mourners come to pay their final respects, a dog is brought in to protect the mourners from coming in contact with the deceased’s demons. This ritual was commonly called sagdid. The body is transported to what is referred to as the tower of silence. This is at the top of a mountain. The body is left there to be devoured by vultures and decompose on its own.
10 The Viking Death Ritual
The Vikings also had the weirdest ways of burying their dead loved ones. Apparently, they practiced two significant death rituals. These were cremation and Inhumation. Cremation was burning of the dead into ashes while Inhumation was burying the dead on the ground and placing stones around the grave.
During cremation, pyres were set and the dead burnt to ashes. The ash was then collected and buried together with the deceased’s belongings. The Vikings believed that the smoke from the burning pyre carried the dead to their after-life. Ship stone structures were placed on top of the graves for the dead to the sail safely to the next world. In some occasions, the Vikings shipped their dead loved ones into the heart of the sea and buried them there.