Created By: MrInitialMan on January 26, 2013 Last Edited By: MrInitialMan on August 5, 2014

Freaky Funeral Forms

Do \'\'what\'\' to the dead?

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Trope
When Due to the Dead becomes Do what to the dead?

This is when funereal practices are seen as strange.

One possibility is when a culture's funereal practices are seen as bizarre or even repulsive to someone not of that culture. The outsider may reject or come to accept these practices. This is basically Due to the Dead meets:

The inverse of the above (which also fits here) is when someone wants a funeral that's strange according to the deceased's own culture—either due to eccentricity or as a final Take That to one and all.

Examples

Literature
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In The House Of Black And White in Braavos, the suicidal come into the House and drink from a poison. Acolytes of The Many Faced God, a personification of death, strip the bodies of valuables and clothing before delivering them to the lowest level of the building where their faces are removed and stored for Faceless Men assassins to assume as disguises. Arya Stark, traumatized and emotionally deadened before she came to Braavos, is desensitized to the dead but is shocked to discover exactly what becomes of them.

  • In one Circle of Magic book, the Gyongxin practice of "sky burial" is essentially the same thing as the air burial practice noted under Real Life, although with less funerary rites by necessity due to the large amount of battlefield dead. Although Briar accepts the explanation, he's still very discomfited by the sight of friends and comrades being eaten by vultures.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Bones Brennan tells Booth her plans for when she's dead: She wants to be delivered to a certain place where her body will be dismembered by hammers in order to be eaten by vultures. After Booth objects, she modifies her will so that she will be creamated and her ashes sprinkled into a volcano.
  • In Slings and Arrows Oliver's will asks for his skull to be used in all of the theater's future productions of Hamlet Although this is not unheard of for actors in Real Life, it leaves Geoffrey with the difficult task of carrying out the wishes. First he has to convince the morticians that he's not crazy and Oliver really asked for this, then once they concede it turns out they can only remove the head and don't have the equipment to clean off the skull forcing Geoffrey to take the severed head, in an ice cooler, to a taxidermist to finish the job.

  • Vikings "Burial of the Dead": Athelstan is more than a little perturbed as part of Earl Haraldson's funeral, a slave girl has sex with several men to send their goodwill along with her, then her throat is slit and her body is placed on the Earl's pyre for his Viking Funeral.

  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Ferengi funeral customs involve freeze-drying the body, placing the resultant powder into sealed plastic disks, and selling it as a collectible. This strikes the humans on the station as somewhat disconcerting.
Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40K: the Kroot practice cannibalism on both the enemy and their dead, which tends to unnerve people (including their allies, the Tau).
    • Also in Warhammer 40K, the Space Marines harvest the bioengineered organs they are implanted with during training from their dead, for re-use. Some ignorant commoners mistake the practice for cannibalism. While on Hive Worlds "soylens viridians" is a frequent staple food.
  • In the D&D adventure module "Night's Dark Terror", a gnollish cemetery is full of gnoll corpses strung up on tall posts for birds to scavenge on. The scene is played for creepiness, at least from the POV of non-gnoll adventurers.

Video Games
  • Diablo II: The Druid's line as he enteres the Monastery Graveyard is "Planting the dead... how odd."

Web Comics
  • In Digger, Digger finds the idea of skinning the dead and preserving their skins shocking, but realizes she has no other way to "bury" Ed.
    • Also from Digger is the hyenas' practice of funereal cannibalism (specifically, the liver), which is not only repulsive but actually harmful to her, as she's an herbivore.

Real Life
  • Ancient Egyptian mummification was regarded as morbid and strange by most Greek writers of the day. Conversely, Egyptians of that era found Greek cremation rites equally bizarre/dubious.

  • "I request a Satanic burial!" - ritual magician and mountebank Aleister Crowley had one final shock left for the world. At his funeral service in 1948, which was held at a municipal crematorium in Hastings, Sussex, his last few faithful followers held a funeral according to their own devising. "The Rite of Pan" was performed - essentially a libation to a rather priapic God - and excitable reporting had it that a Black Mass had been held to deconsecrate a nominally Christian place (the crematorium chapel). Hastings Council announced it was taking steps to ensure that any service held on its premises was to be pre-vetted and approved, and anything held not to be in keeping with approved religious services, or else held to be offensive to public morals, would not be allowed.

  • Values Dissonance applies. Many people are shocked, disgusted or at least rendered uncomfortable by the least common form of funeral on Earth: air burial. Practiced by older religions and communities such as Zoroastrians, and formerly by some Native Americans, this involves leaving the body of the deceased in the open in a high place to be eaten by foraging carrion birds and animals (and thus, as with other forms of burial, to return naturally to the Earth. eventually.) The funeral is still done with respectful rites of passage, and proponents argue this is in its essentials no different from burial in earth or at sea, in that the body will still be recycled and returned to the ecology. it is also held to be less wasteful of resources than cremation - which allows for nothing returning to the ecology and which consumes energy via materials needed for burning.

  • Sir Charles James Napier, the Commander-in-Chief in India, had this response when Hindu priests complained about the British ban on sati (in which a widow is burned on her husband's funeral pyre)
    Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • January 26, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    No New Stock Phrases, thus it needs a better name. Bizarre Funeral Practices?
  • January 26, 2013
    Generality
    Also from Digger is the hyenas' practice of funereal cannibalism, which is not only repulsive to her, but also harmful, as she's an herbivore.
  • January 26, 2013
    Desertopa
    In Errant Story, trolls show their respect for the deceased of their tribe (and symbolically keep their spirits alive) by eating their flesh. Those whom they hold in deep scorn will have their bodies left out to be eaten by wild animals.

    Bizarre Funeral Practices sounds like a decent name to me.
  • January 26, 2013
    MrInitialMan
    And mine was such a lovely pun on Due To The Dead. ;_; Ah, well.
  • January 26, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Warhammer 40 K: the Kroot practice cannibalism on both the enemy and their dead, which tends to unnerve people (including their allies, the Tau).
  • January 26, 2013
    MrInitialMan
    In Errant Story, is it portrayed that others find this strange?
  • January 27, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Robert Heinlein
      • Stranger In A Strange Land. The Martians eat their dead, and since Valentine Michael Smith was raised among them he accepted this custom as normal. After he is returned to Earth he introduces the custom to his human followers. In fact, after his death they consume him.
      • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Bodies are used as fertilizer in lunar farms. This is necessary because of the scarcity of organic matter on the Moon.
  • January 27, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Not sure about the "outsider sees it as a bizarre practice" bit, but two examples come to mind anyway.

    • In Water World, the inhabitants of the fortified archipelago throw their dead (and those sentenced to death) into a pool of slime that slowly dissolves them, enriching the slime with their nutrients which can then be consumed by the populace in a kind of neverending cycle. Yuck.

    • In Dune, the Fremen remove every last drop of water from a dead warrior's body, since water is the most precious substance on the planet and wasting even a tiny bit is practicaly considered heresy. Water compromises up to 90 percent of a human's body, so it's not hard to imagine how the corpse looks after the procedure.
  • January 27, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    Fanfiction Example: The Naruto fanfic 'Time Mix Up' has the Uchiha having cannibalism of their family members as a funeral ritual (reason why it started was a pretty bad winter several generations ago, and nowadays an Uchiha NOT being part of this ritual or NOT being eaten upon death is seen as a pretty large sacrilege).
  • January 27, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • In Dungeons And Dragons, among certain Orcish tribes, the standar funeral customs involves grabbing the body, saying a prayer to the gods (I.E: screaming at the top of your lungs), swinging yourself around to build up momentum, and throwing the corpse as far as you can off into the distance. May he rest at wherever he lands.
  • January 27, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^^ More like 50-60% water by weight, actually, depending on gender. Even babies, who have the moistest tissue, are only about 75% water.

    • In the D&D adventure module "Night's Dark Terror", a gnollish cemetery is full of gnoll corpses strung up on tall posts for birds to scavenge on. The scene is played for creepiness, at least from the POV of non-gnoll adventurers.

    • Real Life: Ancient Egyptian mummification was regarded as morbid and strange by most Greek writers of the day. Conversely, Egyptians of that era found Greek cremation rites equally bizarre/dubious.
  • January 27, 2013
    Desertopa
    "In Errant Story, is it portrayed that others find this strange?"

    Sort of. The trolls are little understood and regarded as savages by humans, and have a false reputation for eating people based on their own funeral practices. For a troll to eat a human would actually be a remarkable display of respect; normally the troll would just kill them.
  • January 29, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Bones Brennan tells Booth her plans for when she's dead: She wants to be delivered to a certain place where her body will be dismembered by hammers in order to be eaten by vultures. After Booth objects, she modifies her will so that she will be creamated and her ashes sprinkled into a volcano.
  • January 29, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Would individual's requests for funerary practices count?
  • January 29, 2013
    DRCEQ
    ^ "I REQUEST A SATANIC FUNERAL!"

    If we do count last requests, I do have an example.

    • Some iterations of the classic tale of Robin Hood go beyond his exploits of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. After all is said and done, an elderly Robin lay on his death bed, and his final request be that one of his most trusted friends fire a golden arrow from the window of his tower, and be buried wherever it lands.
  • January 29, 2013
    Chernoskill
    "^^^ More like 50-60% water by weight, actually, depending on gender. Even babies, who have the moistest tissue, are only about 75% water. "

    I faintly remembered a children's book about the human body I read as a kid giving the 90 percent quote, but obviously either my memory fails me or the book had it all wrong :D
  • January 29, 2013
    Desertopa
    A lot of sources give inaccurate figures for the amount of water in the human body. I usually hear 70% cited, occasionally 80%, but these figures are incorrect.

    You can check your own body water content with an electrical impedance scale (used for measuring body fat percentage.) Muscle has more water than fat, and an adult has to be quite lean for their body water levels to exceed 60%

  • January 30, 2013
    MrInitialMan
    Some of these examples have not been added because I haven't seen any sign that these were even considered odd. This is basically a reaction trope.
  • January 30, 2013
    DRCEQ
    ^ The trope would thrive more if it wasn't. Making it a reaction trope would put it as YMMV, but then limiting it to In-Universe reactions only severely limits your possible examples.
  • January 30, 2013
    Arivne
    ^ Seconded.
  • January 30, 2013
    AFP

    ^ I'm not sure if this would be an Inversion or a Subversion or what, as it's something that a group of aliens specifically only do to human remains, not their own.
  • January 30, 2013
    SKJAM
    This caused a Culture Clash in the Green Lantern books when it was revealed new Corps member Arrkis Chummuck (sp?) had eaten his predecessor's corpse as was the custom of Arrkis' people, but not the deceased's.
  • January 30, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In the Sharing Knife series, Lakewalker funeral practices are this for farmers; they are (inaccurately) rumored to practice cannibalism. What they really do is remove the thigh bones from some bodies (only Lakewalker bodies, with the prior permission of the deceased, although the process is admittedly messy and looks horrible) to make the titular sharing knives, which are the only way to kill potentially world destroying monsters.
  • January 30, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    That's supposed to link to The Sharing Knife
  • January 30, 2013
    Darthcaliber
    In Slings And Arrows Oliver's will asks for his skull to be used in all of the theater's future productions of Hamlet Although this is not unheard of for actors in Real Life, it leaves Geoffrey with the difficult task of carrying out the wishes. First he has to convince the morticians that he's not crazy and Oliver really asked for this, then once they concede it turns out they can only remove the head and don't have the equipment to clean off the skull forcing Geoffrey to take the severed head, in an ice cooler, to a taxidermist to finish the job.
  • August 1, 2014
    arbiter099
    A Song Of Ice And Fire: In The House Of Black And White in Braavos, the suicidal come into the House and drink from a poison. Acolytes of The Many Faced God, a personification of death, strip the bodies of valuables and clothing before delivering them to the lowest level of the building where their faces are removed and stored for Faceless Men assassins to assume as disguises. Arya Stark, traumatized and emotionally deadened before she came to Braavos, is desensitized to the dead but is shocked to discover exactly what becomes of them.
  • August 2, 2014
    AgProv
    Real life:
    • Values Dissonance applies. Many people are shocked, disgusted or at least rendered uncomfortable by the least common form of funeral on Earth: air burial. Practiced by older religions and communities such as Zoroastrians, and formerly by some Native Americans, this involves leaving the body of the deceased in the open in a high place to be eaten by foraging carrion birds and animals (and thus, as with other forms of burial, to return naturally to the Earth. eventually.) The funeral is still done with respectful rites of passage, and proponents argue this is in its essentials no different from burial in earth or at sea, in that the body will still be recycled and returned to the ecology. it is also held to be less wasteful of resources than cremation - which allows for nothing returning to the ecology and which consumes energy via materials needed for burning.
  • August 2, 2014
    AgProv
    @ DRCEQ:
    • "I request a Satanic burial!" - ritual magician and mountebank Aleister Crowley had one final shock left for the world. At his funeral service in 1948, which was held at a municipal crematorium in Hastings, Sussex, his last few faithful followers held a funeral according to their own devising. "The Rite of Pan" was performed - essentially a libation to a rather priapic God - and excitable reporting had it that a Black Mass had been held to deconsecrate a nominally Christian place (the crematorium chapel). Hastings Council announced it was taking steps to ensure that any service held on its premises was to be pre-vetted and approved, and anything held not to be in keeping with approved religious services, or else held to be offensive to public morals, would not be allowed.
  • August 2, 2014
    jormis29
    • Vikings "Burial of the Dead": Athelstan is more than a little perturbed that as part of Earl Haraldson's funeral, a slave girl has sex with several men to send their goodwill along with her, then her throat is slit and her body is placed on the Earl's pyre for his Viking Funeral.
  • August 2, 2014
    DaibhidC
    • In Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Ferengi funeral customs involve freeze-drying the body, placing the resultant powder into sealed plastic disks, and selling it as a collectible. This strikes the humans on the station as somewhat disconcerting.
  • August 2, 2014
    DAN004
    So the funeral has to be freaky in-universe?
  • August 4, 2014
    MrInitialMan
  • August 4, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ maybe add Culture Clash too
  • August 4, 2014
    MrInitialMan
    ^^ *Adds.*
  • August 4, 2014
    eowynjedi
    Lit:
    • In one Circle Of Magic book, the Gyongxin practice of "sky burial" is essentially the same thing as the air burial practice noted under Real Life, although with less funerary rites by necessity due to the large amount of battlefield dead. Although Briar accepts the explanation, he's still very discomfited by the sight of friends and comrades being eaten by vultures.
  • August 4, 2014
    zarpaulus
    • Also in Warhammer 40K, the Space Marines harvest the bioengineered organs they are implanted with during training from their dead, for re-use. Some ignorant commoners mistake the practice for cannibalism. While on Hive Worlds "soylens viridians" is a frequent staple food.

    Actually in many dystopian or even some neutral sci-fi works it's common for the nutrients from corpses to be "recycled" in some way.
    It is every citizen's final duty to go into the tanks, and become one with all the people.
    — Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, "Ethics for Tomorrow", description for "Recycling Tanks" project, Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri

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