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Freaky Funeral Forms

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Do what to the dead?

This is when a culture's funeral 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 any of the following:

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.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Shiki, it's specifically noted that the village of Sotoba is considered odd because they bury their dead instead of cremating them like the majority of bodies in Japan. This ends up being a plot point because that's why the Shiki decided to set up shop there as it gave them ready access to new thralls.

    Comic Books 
  • This caused a Culture Clash in the Green Lantern books when it was revealed new Corps member Arkkis Chummuck had eaten his predecessor's corpse as was the custom of Arrkis' people, but not the deceased's.
  • The French comic Zoulous has one character react with disgust when they come across a raided caravan, the victims left with their guts slashed open. Another character explains that this isn't gratuitous cruelty: the Zulus believe the souls is located in the gut, and apply their customs to those they kill.

  • 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.

  • Circleverse: In Battle Magic, 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.
  • In Courtship Rite the Lost Colony of Geta has no native animal life with a significant amount of meat edible to humans. Funerals are barbecues as a result.
  • Discworld: In Men at Arms, we can see that the funeral of a member of the Fools' Guild involves: a clown carrying the urn with the ashes, that clown being slapped with a bladder on a stick by another clown, the slapped clown throwing the contents of the urn into the attacker's pants in retaliation, and the orchestra that is playing in the background getting into a fight after a trombone "accidentally" hits someone. This is all enacted with complete seriousness on the clowns' part.
  • Doctor Who – Expanded Universe: In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Venusian Lullaby, the Doctor and his companions attend a funeral on Venus. It involves an element of funereal cannibalism — the Venusians can Eat Brain for Memories, so sharing out the deceased's brain is seen as a way of letting the deceased live on. The Doctor takes it in stride, but his human companions find it off-putting.
  • Hell's Gate: After first contact goes poorly, the Arcanan commander orders that the Sharonan dead be granted formal "field rites" (cremation) as if they were Arcanan, in an attempt to apologize for the needless deaths. A few chapters later, we find that Sharonans consider cremation of the dead highly offensive because it deprives the dead of a proper tomb and burial.
  • A short story by Orson Scott Card collected in Maps in a Mirror involves a human diplomat being asked by a dying alien friend to play the main part in his funeral, which in the alien's culture involves taking the deceased's excrement to a holy place for ritual disposal.
  • In the 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.
  • 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.

    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 cremated and her ashes sprinkled into a volcano.
  • In Slings & 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.
  • 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. Odo, meanwhile, wants to buy a piece of Quark.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, there's a species that can actually resurrect the dead, and even turn the dead of other species into members of theirs. The resurrected person usually does not remember their previous lives and are considered new people. It turns out that they did this to a Voyager crew member who had a Burial in Space; while Harry Kim accuses them of "violating" her, her new adoptive father denounces them for "abandoning" her.
  • Vikings "Burial of the Dead": Athelstan is more than a little perturbed when, 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 case this sounds gratuitously Darker and Edgier, it was strongly inspired by one of the few eyewitness accounts of a pagan Norse funeral that we still have, included in the memoirs of the Arab diplomat Ahmad ibn Fadlan when describing his experiences as an envoy of the Abbasid Caliphate to the Volga Bulgars.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the 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.
    • Among certain Orcish tribes, the standard 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Kroot practice cannibalism on both the enemy and their dead, which tends to unnerve people (including their allies, the Tau).
    • The Space Marines harvest two of the bioengineered organs they are implanted with during training from their dead: these are the progenoid glands, which allow creating more such organs and also carry their genetic memory. Some ignorant commoners mistake the practice for cannibalism. While on Hive Worlds "soylens viridians" is a frequent staple food.

    Video Games 
  • Diablo II: The Druid's reaction to burial: "Planting the dead. How odd." This is when he enters the Burial Ground.

  • Digger:
    • Digger finds the idea of skinning the dead and preserving their skins shocking, but realizes she has no other way to "bury" her friend Ed.
    • The hyenas practice funereal cannibalism (specifically, they eat the liver of the deceased), which is not only repulsive but actually harmful to her, as she's an herbivore.
  • 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. Their funereal practices have given them a false reputation amongst humans as being savages that eat people.
  • In Homestuck, the Harley family taxidermies their dead.
  • In Unsounded, the two major religions feel this way about each other's funeral rites. The Ssaelit are disgusted by burial, since it consigns the body to decay and jeopardizes the soul's reincarnation; while the Gefendur believe that bodies should be returned to the Earth goddess that provided them and see Ssaelit cremation rituals as denying Mother Yerta her due.
  • ''Awful Hospital": "Corpse World" is inhabited by various decomposition-themed Mega-Microbes, Mushroom Men, maggots, and so on. They're quite personable, but a human visitor is a bit nauseated to learn that the standard order of business is for them to eat their dead.

    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.
  • There was a recent conflict in the UK when the desire of some very traditionalist Hindus for open-air cremation was declared illegal as an indecent public display of a corpse. After several rounds of litigation, it was finally agreed that the pyre could be surrounded by walls, as long as there was no roof over it.


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