9 Interesting Funeral Rituals

There are only a few rituals that come to mind when pondering the death of an acquaintance or loved one. A wake may be organized and perhaps a eulogy is made. Maybe the family prefers the memorialization through cremation. Memorial Properties is sensitive and accommodating to people of all creeds, which is why we offer such a wide array of funeral programs. However, there are some funeral rituals throughout history you may have not even known existed! Keep reading to learn how humans are as dynamic in death as we are in life.



The technical term for consuming the dead, endocannibalism, is no longer believed to be practiced. But there was a time where it was practiced in some form by cultures all across the world. The Wari tribes of the Brazilian Amazon practiced it as a rite of passage for spirits to pass to the next realm and for mourners to counteract their grief. The Fore people of Papua New Guinea ate various parts of their next of kin for mourning. The Yanomamo tribes mixed the ashes of the deceased in a plantain soup. And the chief of the West-African Junkun tribe would eat the hearts of his predecessors.



The most difficult test of will on the list. Self-mummification is the last thing that, if successful, Japanese Sokushinbutsu Buddhist monks will ever do. It’s a process of extreme dedication, starting first with 1000 days of eating nuts and seeds to strip the body of its fat. Another 1000 days follow, drinking tea that will make the body too poisonous for maggots. Finally, the monk is sealed in a stone tomb with nothing but air and a bell. If the bell is not rung once a day to indicate life, the surviving monks will seal the tomb for a final 1000 days before exhuming and displaying the priest in the monastery.


Buried with a Corvette

George Swanson likely holds the title for taking the largest personal item to the grave with him. In 1994, after his death, Swanson was buried with his Corvette. His widow placed his remains in the driver’s seat and an Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette player. It’s safe to assume that Swanson’s burial plot was larger than normal.


Turning of The Bones

On the island of Madagascar, the Malagasy people aren’t content with burying their dead once. For the “Turning of the Bones,” the bodies of loved ones are exhumed every seven years, wrapped in fresh cloth and then danced with in corpse sacks. Wine is poured and stories are told at length.


Fantasy Coffins

The most popular unique burial choice, fantasy – or novelty – coffins have been popular in the United States for decades. But in Ghana, people have been taking it one step further, creating more direct representations of the dead within the shapes and style of each coffin. A plane coffin may be used for a pilot, for instance, or a fish for a fisherman.


Sky Burial

Both based in religion and practicality, Tibetan Buddhists do not bury their dead. Instead, the people ritually dissect the remains of the deceased and provide the remains to animals. Buddhists do not commemorate the bodies of the dead as they see it as an empty vessel. The climate and stony ground makes it very difficult to bury bodies in the ground.


Death Beads

In 2000, the South Korean government was entrenched in a difficult problem. Burial grounds were becoming far too scarce for the tradition on in-ground burial to continue. To compensate, the government required that all families that buried the body of their loved ones would be required to exhume the remains in 60 years. While some persist with the traditional interment, cremation has become the primary method burial. A new tradition has begun however, skirting the methodology of old. Companies have started to compress the remains into beads similar to gemstones. They are then displayed in the home much like an urn. The practice has yet to gain popularity in the United States.

Green Funerals

Seeking to improve their footprint on the world, many people are now turning to more ecologically friendly methods of burial. Some choose to skip the embalming process, while others are choosing biodegradable, woven-willow caskets. Others are choosing a biodegradable urn, where the ashes serve as nutrients for the seed of a tree. The most interesting option might be a “reef ball;” compressed remains are shaped into a sphere, which is then attached to a reef and provides sea life an additional habitat.


Hawaiian Cave Burials

Burial caves have been found on every island in Hawaii. Some remains are bound in the fetal position, while others are laid out flat. At the peak of the practice, the islanders believed that the bones hold great power, which could be harnessed within the cave. Unfortunately, grave robbing was rather prolific, which leaves few sites intact for modern researchers.


Embracing Individuality in Death Care in New Jersey

Memorial Properties understands that no two people are quite the same. That’s why it continues to strive to offer a wide variety of funeral programs to accommodate the needs of New Jersey residents. If you have a need for specific funeral arrangements, contact us today, or we will happily take your call at (732) 820-02110.