For most people reading this, the familiar rituals and practices surrounding death are fairly standard – the wake, the funeral, embalming or cremation, burial – but this is not the norm in all parts of the world. The many ways in which humans take care of their loved ones after death, as well as the practices leading up to death, vary greatly around the globe. These 11 traditions might make your skin crawl, but for other people they are just a normal part of life.
In some rural parts of The Philippines and China, people believe that it is best to be laid to rest as close to heaven as possible – literally. Rather than burying them below ground, locals suspend their loved ones’ coffins from the side of cliffs where they hang indefinitely.
Self-mummification was practiced by Buddhist monks in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th centuries. Meant as a demonstration of ultimate austerity, practitioners of sokushinbutsu would shed their body fat and fluids through a diet of tree bark and poisonous tea, then lock themselves in a tomb where the monk would remain in the lotus position and meditate until death.
A traditional practice on the island of Fiji dictated that when a man died, his wife should typically be killed along with him by strangulation. The idea was partly to ensure that the deceased would be surrounded by loved ones in the afterlife, but also because the Fijian god Ruvuyalo was believed to kill the spirits of men not accompanied in death by their wives.