A look into burial practices around the world

Hanine El Mir
Copy Editor

In Lebanon, burial practices differ even among citizens of the same country, depending on their religions and sects. Around the globe, the difference is even greater. Some cultures have completely gotten rid of the idea of burying the corpse in the ground, or they never even had it in the first place.

The primary reason that burial is a concept that is spread across multiple cultures and performed by all sects in Lebanon is owed to Abrahamic religions and especially the verse from the Genesis: “By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” [3:19]

In East Africa, the Maasai tribe believes that ground burials are only for chiefs and people worthy of respect. The rest of the tribe members aren’t buried but instead are left out to be consumed by animals. This tribe believes that putting the bodies in the ground is bad for Earth and can be poisonous to the ground. The Maasai people do not believe in an afterlife, so being buried underground is not a concern to them.

In Mongolia, blue stones are placed around the corpse to keep evil spirits from approaching it. The face of the corpse is covered with a white silk veil while the body is kept bare. The family of the dead burns incense and places food near the corpse. After a while, the body is passed through a window or hole in the wall to simulate a flight. The corpse is then laid on the ground in an open space with stones around it and left for dogs, whom had been starved for days, to eat it. The stones are left in their place as a reminder of the deceased.

In the Philippines, the Benguets blindfold their dead, and the corpses are then placed near the main entrance of the family’s house. The Tinguians dress them up, make them sit up in a fancy chair, and place a lit cigarette in between their lips. The Caviteño and the Apayo, however, do bury their dead. The Caviteño bury them in a hollowed-out tree trunk, and the Apayo bury them under their kitchen sink.

In Bali, a hut is constructed for the dead, and the way to the hut is lined in fire lanterns. The body is bathed and then placed in the hut with food nearby. Several bodies get stacked in a grave-like hole in the hut until it’s filled, and then the ceremony is held for all of them at once. The bodies are then taken out of the grave, adorned with flowers, and set on fire while people watch them cremate.

In South Korea, cremation is also widely practiced, but recently the preferred practice became to turn the remains of the dead into gem-like pink, turquoise, or black beads, instead of ashes.

While the customs are different, similar patterns can be spotted in burial patterns across the world, and they all revolve around either one of the elements or all four of them: earth, fire, wind, and water.

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