Life: it happens, then it suddenly stops happening. Death is the inevitable part of being. Every night must have it’s dawn, every winter have it’s spring, every rose have its thorn, so on and so forth.
The worst part about death is not knowing what’s going to happen to your body. Oh sure, you can make requests, but you’ll never know the difference between your body being launched into space or being dumped behind a Texaco somewhere past state lines. However, I’ve taken time out of my busy schedule of being alive to write for you, the beloved reader, a brief primer on what may happen to your corpse one you’re dead.
Problem: you have one or more corpses that need to be buried However, you’re afraid that this could be the one time where the dead rise in search of vengeance. What’s a brother to do?
Solution: Tie up and/or mutilate the corpse.
Maschalismos is the practice of restraining or otherwise handicapping the dead. Fear of the deceased returning has been acknowledged in virtually every culture in human history and as such each has found their own way to dealing with this unique and non-existent problem. The most basic example is to simply tie up the body, restraining it physically. Some people tend to take it a bit farther, however. In parts of Europe suicides were followed up with a stake through the heart, with Europeans having a gross misunderstanding of the vampire mythos. A group of Australian aborigines will brutalize an already dead body before stuffing it with stones.
The fear of a dread return stems from the belief that those who died a wrongful or early death would be restless in the afterlife, leading to either a physical or spiritual return.
Sometimes one execution just isn’t enough. History is filled with examples of people being executed after death. Sometimes this is done as an example of power, as with Leonidas of Sparta, who was killed via decapitation and double-killed via crucifixion.
In cases of capital punishment a criminal with multiple charges may have been executed for each charge. Italian historian Jacopo Bonfadio was beheaded for sodomy before his lifeless and headless body was burned at the stake for heresy. Of course, this took place in the 1500s before we had a good grasp of how necessary a head is to feel pain and die, but still, they knew how to make a point.
Another reason for posthumous execution can be traced back to early Christianity. It was believed that on the day of judgment the dead would literally rise and walk the earth. However, the body had to be in one piece (Heaven’s got to have standards). So, not only could you execute someone via firing squad, you could also effectively block their efforts to get into Heaven by dicing their body into bits. Jesus has infinite forgiveness but seriously, that’s just gross.
We all know the line “’til death do we part,” but I doubt that anyone who actually says that does so while living in fear of having to spend the rest of their days wed to some sort of phantom. However, ghost marriage is a practice that still exists in China to this day and occurs when one or both members of an engagement give it up to the spirit in the sky before a wedding can take place.
In a situation where where someone dies unwed and engaged, their surviving partner may choose to marry them regardless. This is done for a variety of reasons; a commonly held belief states that one shouldn’t enter the spirit world without a spouse or bad luck will befall their family. Much of the pressure falls on women, however, who need to carry on the family line and integrate themselves into another family.
However, one can marry a spirit without having ever met the person while they were alive. This practice is usually done for one of three reasons. First, a spirit may return to the world of the living and request a spouse, after which a family would visit a medium and find a compatible astrological match. Second, a marriage could be arranged to appease and angry spirit. Third, if a woman doesn’t wish to be married she may offer to marry a spirit as a means to avoid the subject.
Taking things to the other end of the spectrum, sati is a practice in some Indian communities where a widower at a funeral sets herself on fire (with her husband) as a means to join her husband. Sati is intended to emphasize the strength and dedication of the marriage, though this point may be forgotten because oh my god someone’s on fire.
The exact origins of Sati are unknown but can be dated to scripture. Funerals take place within a day after dying, during which time the widow would have to take a break from grieving to decide whether or not burn themselves to death. The practice was completely voluntary. If a widow chose not to go through with the suicide then she would essentially become an outcast and be forced to become a beggar. It was considered noble to choose Sati over living alone. However, there are several recorded instances of Sati being physically forced as well, leading to it being outlawed and the criminalization of witnessing such an event, not that you could look away from it in the first place.
The problem with being dead is that it’s incredibly wasteful on the behalf of the deceased. Think about it: in most cultures you need to pay for a means of disposal (such as cremation or burial), which may then require some means of holding your remains. Then you may need to pay someone to make a tombstone or other grave marker. Then there’s the actual funeral service, which isn’t a cheap affair by any means. In the long run you could end up paying a small fortune just for the riveting experience for no longer being alive.
Tibetan Buddhists used to have a practical solution to this problem known as sky burials. In sky burials a corpse is taken to a large flat rock and cut the deceased as to leave the insides exposed, eventually drawing the attention of birds of prey. Unlike Christianity Buddhism places no importance on maintaining the body after death. Since reincarnation is believed to take place the body is used to give back to to the earth. Families seeking a sky burial could pay to have it done professionally by monks or simply do it themselves.
Author: Ben Dennison — Copyrighted © roadtickle.com