When it comes to bizarre death rituals, there are millions of ways to mourn the dead, and the ones on this list are certainly the most unique. This list of weird funeral traditions takes us on a journey from Tibet, where corpses are laid out to be eaten by vultures, to Madagascar, where people would re-wrap their ancestors’ bodies in fresh cloth before dancing around with their tombs. The ancient Bo people of China would hang their coffins from giant cliffs. Enjoy the craziest ways to mourn and celebrate the deceased in this list of bizarre death rituals from around the world.
Aseki Smoked Bodies
In the Menyama region of Papua New Guinea, these red corpses hanging on a cliff is a death ritual that preserves bodies. The locals smoke them, string them up, and hang them on a cliff face. This way, the bodies can look down and protect the village below.
In the Amazon rainforest, the Yanomami tribe prepares a corpse for eating so that the soul can go to Paradise. When a loved one dies, they wrap the corpse in leaves and allow bugs to indulge. A little over a month later, the bones are made into a banana soup for everyone, and a little over a year later, the ashes are mixed with plantain soup.
Tibetan Buddhist Sky Burials
In Sichuan, a man prepares another man for sky burial, a primarily Tibetan ritual in which a dead body is taken to the top of a mountain to be eaten by vultures. Mongols and Tibetans, who often do these sky burials, are adhering to the Vajrayana Buddhist belief that, after death, the body is just an empty vessel that doesn’t need to be preserved. Hence, it’s for the birds.
Finger amputation in Papua New Guinea
In Papua, Indonesia, these people used to amputate their fingers at funerals and express their sorrow by smearing their faces with clay and ashes. Though it is now banned, it’s not hard to find an elderly Dani female with five snipped fingers.
The Haida Mortuary Totem Poles
A totem pole stands erected in honor of a warrior, shaman, or chief of the Haida people. If you were a Haida Indian who fit that description, your body would be beaten with clubs until it could fit inside a tiny wooden box. That box was then put on top of a mortuary totem pole in front of the dead person’s home.
Near Antsirabe, Madagascar, people rewrap their ancestors’ bodies in fresh cloth. Famidihana is a funeral practice of the Malagasy people who, after the rewrapping, dance with the corpses around the tomb. With live music, the traditional Famidahana has also been called “the turning of the bones” and “dance with the dead.”
Zoroastrian Towers of Silence
Lay out your dead! This is The Tower of Silence, where the corpses are left out to be eaten by vultures. Before being brought there, Zoroastrians obsessively clean the dead body, washing it with water and bull urine, and are only allowed to be touched by professional corpse-bearers. They see the bodies as terribly corrupt and at risk of attracting demons.
About four centuries ago, the Bo people of China’s Sichuan province hung these wooden tombs from the cliffs. It is unknown whether the intention for these suspended burials was to keep the coffin out of reach from animals or to be within reach of the gods. An ancient death ritual, these tombs are approaching 3,000 years old.