Five Interesting (If Not Brutal) Death Rituals Around The World

Published October 25, 2015
Updated February 28, 2018
Weird Death Rituals Around The World

Photo by Sijori Images. Source: Daily Mail UK

In the United States, group recognition of death is typically a somber — and formulaic — affair: we wear black, head to the funeral, and watch as life slowly returns to earth or ash. This particular ritual is not one shared around the world, though, as evidenced in the following practices. WARNING: This post contains some graphic images.

Sky Burial

Weird Death Rituals Sky Mound

Photo by John Hill Source: Wikipedia

In Tibet, sky burial is a relatively common way to dispose of the corpses of the less-affluent. In the ritual, the deceased is dismembered and left for scavengers, specifically vultures. The ritual often takes place on hilltops, like the one in the Yerpa Valley, pictured above.

Weird Death Rituals Sky Preparation

Photo by FishOil Source: Wikipedia

Preparing the corpse for sky burial is a deeply spiritual task that requires incredible precision. The deceased is left untouched for three days following death, while monks chant prayers around the body. After the third day the body is cleansed, wrapped in white cloth, and placed into the fetal position.

Before sunrise the following morning, the monks lead a procession to the sky burial site, chanting along the way so as to guide the soul to its sacred destination. Upon arrival the body breakers take over, quickly chopping the corpse into several pieces. The breakers break the bones into dust which is mixed with roasted barley flour to ensure their consumption by the Dakini, the Tibetan equivalent of angels.

Sky Burial

Source: Wikipedia

Upon consuming the body, the Dakini — usually vultures — transport the deceased souls into the heavens, where they await reincarnation. “This donation of human flesh to the vultures is considered virtuous because it saves the lives of small animals that the vultures might otherwise capture for food. Sakyamuni, one of the Buddhas, demonstrated this virtue. To save a pigeon, he once fed a hawk with his own flesh.” states Travel China Guide.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Kelly, Erin. "Five Interesting (If Not Brutal) Death Rituals Around The World.", October 25, 2015, Accessed May 19, 2024.