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Burial customs of Haida tribe and other people of long ago

Updated on April 5, 2015

Ways of dead disposal

Remains are cut, bones broken then left  open for the elements,vultures to dispose
Remains are cut, bones broken then left open for the elements,vultures to dispose

The Vikings of Scandinavia

Viking's funeral pyre
Viking's funeral pyre

The Vikings old ways of burial

TWO accounts of Viking burials are available:

  • First, the dead body is laid on a funeral pyre on the deck of a dragon ship. Then the floating casket is let loose towards sunset, followed by warriors flaming arrows to set the pyre on fire.
  • The 2nd account is dead Vikings were buried in large graves dug in the shape of a ship lined with rocks. Their worldly belongings and food are buried with them. Men took their weapons with them to the next world while women are laid to rest in their finest jewelry and accessories.

For deceased great warriors, their women are shared by all member tribesmen who made love to them before they are strangled to death and laid beside their men. Viking descendants no longer practice these types of disposing the dead.

Disposal of Mongolia's dead

The air-sacrifice burial of Mongolia

A white veil is placed on the face of the dead person. Nobody is permitted to touch the dead body except the LAMA or LAMAS who do all the decisions as what direction the entourage will go with the dead body, the date and time of the final burial. The number of lamas indicates the level of social standing the deceased has enjoyed while still alive. More lamas in attendance means the deceased is rich or vice versa.

They believed that the deceased has a soul and that it will come back. So the lamas pray and offer food to the bad spirits to keep them away and to protect the health of the heirs. In the corpse’s bed are placed blue stones to prevent evil spirits from entering the dead body. In the yurt, the naked body of the deceased is surrounded by men on the right side with the women on the left, with their right or left hands placed under their heads. They’re in fetal position.

Meanwhile, the family burns incense and places food outside to feed all visiting spirits. When the body is moved for its final destination, it must pass through a hole cut through the wall or through the window to block the passage of evil ghosts while the door is open.

Away from the community and on an open ground with stones laid outlining the size of the deceased, the naked body is laid. Then hungry village dogs which have been penned for days without food are released to devour the remains. Morsels left by the dogs are set upon by the waiting vultures. All that is left of the deceased are the stones to serve as reminder. All steps of the ceremony must be observed, if not bad karma are expected to follow suit

Tebet fed their dead to animals
Tebet fed their dead to animals


THE dead body is nothing after the spirit has departed from it. This is the belief of a Buddhist. So the dead body is left to the monk or usually the ROGYAPA (body-breaker) who bring it to an appointed place usually in an open area where he cut it into small pieces then pound the bones with his tools into tidbits and left it for the elements to consume

In the 1950’s the Chinese- who took control of the country- outlawed it as barbaric. But to the Buddhist Tebetans, the practice is okay and legal. The practice represents the perfect Buddhist act, known as jhator. The cadaver provides food for the birds of prey that are hungrily waiting for their share.

totem pole
totem pole


BEFORE contact with civilization, tribesmen of the American northwest coast. particularly the HAIDA just throw their dead into a large open pit behind their village. The dead were just left to the elements and wild animals to devour. However, their dead chieftains, shamans or warriors were bestowed especial treatments. Their bodies were pounded with clubs until they fit into a small wooden box. Then the box with the crushed body is fitted atop a totem pole which is posted in the village. The various icons in the totem pole reportedly acted as guardian for the deceased spirit journey to the next world.

Accounts written by missionaries tell that during visits to these villages, stench of decaying flesh are unbearable. Now this practice was outlawed.

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