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Top 5 Facts About Exotic Funeral Rituals

VO: Chris Masson
Script written by Alexander Tkachuk The world is full of different and beautiful people that all have their own way of dealing with death. Welcome to WatchMojo's Top 5 Facts. Today we'll be counting down our favorite facts about funeral rituals from around the world. We realize that our audience is so international that some of these facts may not seem all that exotic to you, but they sure do to us here in North America. Special thanks to our user christo for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Alexander Tkachuk

Top 5 Facts: Exotic Funeral Rituals


The world is full of different and beautiful people that all have their own way of dealing with death. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. Today we’ll be counting down our favorite facts about funeral rituals from around the world. We realize that our audience is so international that some of these facts may not seem all that exotic to you, but they sure do to us here in North America.

#5 In Ghana You Can Be Buried in a Pineapple Under

Ghana has a whole industry around custom built fantasy coffins. These include everything from coffins in the shape of fish for fishermen, to shoe coffins for shoes cobblers, and even coffins in the shape of coca cola bottles for ummm… Pepsi haters? Ghanaian Funerals are meant to be a celebration of the loved one’s life. They are full of music and dancing and laughing and crying. these coffins are part of that bitter sweet celebration. They remind the mourners of their loved one’s life and they bring joy as much as they bring tears.

#4: People Dance With Their Dead Relatives in Madagascar

Meanwhile, on the other side of Africa, every half decade or so Malagasy people perform a ritual called Famadihana in which the dead are dug up, given new shrouds and are lifted above dancing relatives in a Tim Burton-esque crowd surfing re-enactment. This ritual has become a cross religious Madagascar tradition that’s performed equally by Christians, Muslims and the members of the local animist religions. Though these festivities may seem strange to westerners, in Madagascar it’s just a way to say thank you to your ancestors. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of relatives and friends get together with good food and live music, then they dance with the ancestors who made their lives possible.

#3: Cannibalism Helps Some People Deal With the Grieving Process

The Wari tribes of the Brazilian Amazon practice cannibalism during their funerals…which probably makes them cheaper to cater. The funerals involve burning and destroying everything the deceased once owned, along with the uneaten parts his or her body. The ritual is designed to eradicate everything that could remind the deceased’s family of their loved one. Even the dead person’s name is no longer used after the funeral. The act of eating the body is meant to change even the physical substance of the deceased into something that won’t cause grief. This practice has stopped during the last 50 years, but many Wari elders miss the old days, and find the idea of letting the bodies of their dead relatives rot in the dirt to be disturbing and disrespectful.

#2: Japanese Monks Perfected the Art of Self-Mummification

At the opposite end of the Wari’s erase-the-deceased policy is this “my body stays, damnit” technique. The process took over 8 years to finish and it has only been done successfully around 2 dozen times. It involves eating a special diet of nuts, berries, roots and bark while exercising to remove body fat. The monk also drinks a toxic tea made from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree for several years to make the body so dehydrated and poisonous that maggots will not eat it. Then the monk seals himself in a tiny tomb where he meditates until he dies. After a thousand days the tomb is opened. If the mummification was successful– and it usually was not– the monk’s eyes are removed. Some of these mummy monks are still on display in Japan, but the process has been outlawed for obvious reasons.

#1: Tibetans Are Eaten by Birds

Tibetan sky burials, known as Jhator to the locals, are funerals where a deceased person is fed to Vultures. The body’s spine is broken so that it can be folded in half easily, then a friend of the deceased ties the body to his back and carries it to a holy site. After it’s been prayed over, monks disassemble the body and feed it to vultures. It may seem unnerving to outsiders, but the locals view it very differently. Firstly Vultures are thought of as holy birds in Tibet. Secondly it reminds the mourners of the ephemerality of the body and the interconnectedness of life which are both important concepts in the Buddhist tradition. Reportedly, most Tibetans prefer to have this kind of funeral, which is good because most of the country is too mountainous and rocky for ground burials, and wood has historically been too scarce to waste on cremation.


So which of these funerals would you prefer to have? For more pineapple coffin top 10s and self-catered top 5s be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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