Death in different cultures

French people living abroad live outside France, often at the heart of cultures with different customs and customs. They live there, sometimes they are born there, and also they die there. On this day of ToussaintNovember 1, which marks, in Europe and the Americas, a time of meditation dedicated to those who have left us, still too soon, the editorial staff of the site has decided to explore some customs related to death through 10 examples.

Death in Africa

Fantastic coffins in Ghana

There is a cultural belief in Ghana that the dead are much more powerful than the living. They believe that the dead can influence the lives of their living relatives. If the deceased is honored correctly, then the family left on Earth receives a spiritual favor. Some people in Ghana also believe that when a person dies, they continue in the profession they had in life. This means that they must be buried in something that represents the profession they practiced. However, not all coffins should represent professions. The main goal for most is to capture the essence of the recently deceased. Caskets can feature a character trait, a symbol of their position in the community, or what they want in the afterlife. The families of the deceased commission individuals to create unique and elaborate caskets for their deceased loved ones. Also known as “fantastic coffins”, these intricate works can come in many different forms.

In Madagascar we dance with the dead

In Madagascar there is a ceremony called famadihana, or “the turning of the bones”. This happens every five to seven years and bodies are exhumed from ancestral crypts. After being exhumed, the bodies are removed from their burial clothes and placed in new shrouds by family members. After that, guests can talk, drink and even dance with the deceased. Just before sunset, the deceased is returned to the crypt and sealed for another five to seven years. This ceremony comes from the belief that a deceased person can only move on to the next life once all their bones have completely decayed. The souls of the bodies of the deceased who have not been exhumed are also believed to exist in a state of limbo. This is because they are no longer part of the living world nor are they with their ancestors.

Ikwa Ozu ceremony in Nigeria

In southern Nigeria, there is a group of people called the Igbo tribe. In the traditions of the Igbo tribe, death does not represent the end of life, but a transition to a new world. The Igbo tribe has a ceremony called ikwa-ozu, which can be loosely translated as “celebrating the dead”. They believe that until the ikwa-ozu ceremony has been performed, the deceased cannot take his place among his ancestors. The details of the ceremony may vary between different tribal communities, but a common factor in all ceremonies is the transportation of the body to a second location after burial. This is why the tradition is called the “second burial”. The second funeral is often a lavish occasion that can last weeks for some people. The deceased’s family provides things like liquor, entertainment, and livestock for the celebration. On this occasion, there is a rite called ino uno akwa. It was at this time that a person known as ada consumes the deceased’s favorite meal all day in complete silence. They believe it will provide the deceased with enough food for the afterlife. All these ceremonies can be so expensive that the family of the deceased tends to wait several months after the initial burial to participate in the festivities of the “second burial”.

Death in the Americas

Mourning rituals of the Lakota tribe

Native American tribes and cultures do not view death as the end of everything in someone’s life. The dead are thought to have “walked” instead of “deceased”. This implies that death is a continuation of someone’s journey instead of an end point in their journey. Members of the Lakota tribe have a period of mourning when a member of their tribe dies. Meanwhile, people are expressing their grief by crying, moaning, singing, and even cutting their hair. Living family members of the deceased often cut their hair as an outward sign of grief. Other outward signs include covering their bodies and hair in ashes, cutting their clothes, painting their faces black, and in some cases causing physical harm to their own bodies. Women can even cut the tip of a finger, especially if they have lost a child. The Lakota have seven sacred rites given to them by the White Buffalo Calf woman. One of the rites is called soul guarding. In this ceremony there is something called a Soul Bundle. A Soul Bundle is a sacred buckskin wrapped in a lock of hair from the deceased that has been purified by the smoke of burning sweetgrass. The soul pack is kept in a specially constructed teepee by the person chosen to be the soul keeper. The soul keeper must keep the soul pack for about a year, and in doing so, he must live a life free from conflict with others. At the end of the mourning period, the Soul Bundle is removed from the teepee. This releases the soul of the deceased. A feast of a special buffalo hunt follows the release of the soul as well as the distribution of the deceased’s possessions.

Jazz funeral in New Orleans

In New Orleans, there is a tradition of having jazz-filled funeral processions that usually start in a church and lead to the cemetery. Most jazz funerals are performed by musicians, but anyone can request one. These funerals are a unique blend of joy and mourning as those in attendance are usually led by a marching band on the way to the burial. On the way to the burial place, the band will play sorrowful songs in honor of the dead. After the funeral, the band will switch to more upbeat music. To commemorate the lives of the dead, funeral attendants will often participate in dances to upbeat music. Even passers-by are encouraged to participate and celebrate as long as they are respectful.

Death in Asia

Tibetan celestial burials

Tibetan sky burials are an ancient practice where the body of the deceased is placed on a high peak, so that vultures and birds of prey can feast on it. For most people, this might consider the practice gruesome, but it is an enduring option that also serves a symbolic purpose for the Tibetan people. It represents the impermanence of life for those who practice the Buddhist faith. For followers of Buddhism, the body is only a shell. This means that the corpse for them is just an empty shell, and the soul that was inside has moved towards reincarnation. If a body is completely consumed, it is a good sign according to Tibetan custom. It is believed that even vultures would not consume the body of someone who has done bad things.

Hong Kong and the scattering of ashes at sea

Before the old Hong Kong was demolished in the 1990s, it was considered the most densely populated city on the planet. Hong Kong is still a city with an overwhelming number of people within it. This makes things like ground burial grounds a high-end luxury. The few plots available are outrageously expensive. Of the thousands of people who die in Hong Kong each year, 2005% are cremated. In Chinese culture, the idea of ​​bringing an urn home is a big mistake. Combining the worlds of the living and the dead is taboo. The Hong Kong government’s promotion of “green burials” has begun to encourage families of the deceased to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in one of the thirteen memorial gardens, or at sea. In the memorial gardens, relatives may scatter the ashes of recently deceased persons with the assistance of a staff member from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. This service is free, but families could purchase a plaque dedicated to their deceased loved one which would be placed in one of the gardens. There are three areas in the sea that are now designated for the scattering of human remains. The three areas are east of Tap Mun, east of Tung Lung Chau and south of West Lamma Channel. There is even a free government-run ferry service capable of transporting up to three hundred people to and from the designated dispersal point.

Cremation in Varanasi

On the bank of the Ganges, the city of Varanasi contains the Manikarnika Ghat, which is the largest cremation ghat. Varanasi is the only city in India to have funeral pyres which burn twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There are about two hundred bodies burned daily in the city. The bodies of the deceased are wrapped in several layers of colored fabrics before being transported to the Ganges on a bamboo stretcher. The bamboo stretcher with the body is carried by male relatives and the whole thing is quickly immersed in the river. After being immersed in the river, the body is left to dry on the ghat or the stairs leading down to a river. After drying on the steps, the body is carried to a burning pit and covered with sandalwood by the family of the deceased. Sandalwood and frankincense are used to cover the smell of burnt flesh during cremation. These riverside cremations are a big deal for the city of Varanasi because Hindus believe that being cremated in the holy city will free them from the cycle of life, death and reincarnation.

Hanging coffins in the Philippines

In the northern provinces of the island of Luzon in the Philippines, there is a group called the Igorot people. The Igorot practice the funeral custom of old people creating their own coffins. Once uks die and are placed in the coffin, it is then hung from the side of a cliff. This tradition dates back approximately two thousand years and is practiced because they believe it decreases the distance between recently deceased people and their ancestors. Before the recently deceased is placed in his coffin, he is seated on the “chair of death”. The body is bound with leaves and then covered with a blanket. To avoid decomposition, the body is smoked. This allows loved ones and others to pay respects to the dead. As the coffin is hoisted to its final resting place, loved ones stand below and allow the fluids of the decaying body to drip onto them. It is believed to bring them good luck.

“Pearls of Death” in South Korea

South Koreans participated in an alternative form of burial to the traditional one. Many people are now involved in transforming the remains of a deceased loved one into colorful gem-like beads. These pearls are usually presented in dishes or glass containers. It’s a decorative way to commemorate a loved one and keep them close. It has become a more popular form of burial due to shrinking ground burial space.

  • Loic Pautou is a young Frenchman who left for LIFE in Vietnam and never returned. Owner of a tourist agency in Hanoi, he also writes for and the Guide du Routard

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Death in different cultures

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