What is Sky Burial? 2

sky burial

Although not a practice that’s traditionally found in the UK or Europe, sky burial is the accepted method for disposing of a community’s dead in a number of places around the world. The Tibetan practice, sometimes referred to as celestial burial, is one of the most well-known examples of this type of burial, but precise details are difficult to come by due to the secrecy that shrouds much of the ceremony.

This ritual is not particularly prevalent outside of Tibetan Buddhist communities, but it does also take place in Zoroastrian and some Mongolian communities. However, here we will focus primarily on the Tibetan practice, only touching briefly on comparable practices found elsewhere in the world.

tibetan burial

The Ceremony

While the ritualistic specifics of Tibetan sky burial can differ from area to area, there are a number of common practices that seem to underpin the tradition. Upon death, the deceased’s body is wrapped in white Tibetan cloth and left to rest for three to five days in the corner of the family home. Buddhist monks chant mantras and read scripture during this period, the family cease all activity to create a peaceful environment, and no one is permitted to touch the body.

After the body has been rested for the appropriate period of time, the family choose their day to transport the body to the burial platform, typically far away from any population areas. There, it is prepared for the birds by a rogyapa, which translates somewhat crudely as a ‘body breaker’. This involves disassembling the body to make it easier for vultures, hawks and eagles to consume. The practice culminates in the body breaker crushing the remaining bones with a mallet, grinding them into a mixture of barley flour, tea and yak milk, before feeding this to the smaller birds still loitering after the vultures have departed.

Compared to a ‘ground burial,’ such as that which is commonplace in the UK and Europe, in a sky burial the deceased’s remains are carried away into the atmosphere by many birds, and the final resting place is not really one place, but many. While this practice might appear barbaric to some of us in the Western world, it’s worth remembering that even when we are buried in ground our bodies are consumed by insects, grubs and bacteria, even if this is not visible above the ground.

Significance of Sky Burials

This ceremony holds a great deal of significance in those communities that employ it and is inextricably bound up with Buddhist practices, beliefs and certain ideas concerning reincarnation. It is believed that the primary spiritual purpose of sky burials is not to unite the deceased with some sacred sky realm, but to demonstrate the impermanence of life and all living things. It is an act of generous giving that sustains other life in the event of an individual’s death and frees them from their current physical incarnation, allowing them to continue their journey onward and ensuring a smooth transmigration between forms.

While the ancient history of sky burial seems to suggest that it may have been introduced as a practical way of safely disposing of bodies, it has been transformed and refined by thousands of years of religious practice and change. With the vast majority of Tibet lying high up above the tree line, wood for cremation is difficult to come by, making this an impractical burial practice and encouraging local populations to develop alternatives. Furthermore, with ground covered by a layer of permafrost, digging a grave is not as easy as it is in other parts of the world, which quite feasibly also led to the development of sky burial. However, there are also a number of factors that endanger the practice. Diminishing vulture numbers, increased regulation around urban environments and certain ritualistic elements that make the ceremony much more expensive than other burial practices, have all resulted in fewer people opting for a sky burial.

Similar Practices

Sky burials, or rituals approaching something similar, can be found throughout Mongolia and in many Zoroastrian communities. In Zoroastrianism, burials are performed in Towers of Silence, the most famous of which can be found in Mumbai. Though the ritual differs in many ways, bodies are still left out to be picked at and consumed by local populations of vultures in a ceremony that is meant to cleanse the body and everything it comes into contact with. In Mongolia, some communities adopted sky burial practices when they converted to Tibetan Buddhism, many of which continue today. While the practice is limited to a very small percentage of the worldwide population, its existence highlights the diversity of belief within that population and how much our funeral ceremonies and rituals change from place to place and over time.

Read more about Buddhist funeral practices here.

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13 of the Best Unique & Unusual Urns for Ashes 4

If you’ve recently lost someone who was a true original, you might be looking for something a little … different … to act as their final resting place. To help out, we’ve delved into the often beautiful and sometimes very strange world of unusual urns for ashes to find the very best around. Whether you’re looking for burial urns or decorative keepsakes, here are 13 wonderfully unique examples to inspire your search.

 

This Viking longboat urn is one of the most impressive unusual urns for ashes aroundA Viking funeral ship

Historial accuracy aside, the idea of the Viking funeral –  the warrior’s body pushed out to sea in a longboat and set ablaze with flaming arrows – has real dramatic appeal.

A full-sized Viking longboat is hard to come by these days, but you can still give your loved one a hero’s send-off with this more compact version. This fully combustible cremation urn from Scattering Ashes can be set adrift and then alight in water, though you might want to hold back on the flaming arrows for health and safety reasons.

 

An urn in disguise

Unusual urns for ashes made by Steve RhuleSculptor Steve Rhule was drawn to making cremation urns after realising that most of the ones he’d seen were … less than appealing. Now running the aptly named site Art2DieFor, he specialises in imaginative “urns that do not look like urns”, from enchanting miniature landscapes to maximalist and incredibly detailed shrine sculptures. Perfect for anyone seeking a truly singular urn that draws the eye.

 

An eco-friendly masterpiece

Unique urns by Annie Leigh.An apple, a teapot, a suitcase, a ukelele – whatever personal object you think best fits the person who died, artist Annie Leigh can recreate it as a completely biodegradable custom urn. Her pretty, brightly-painted and highly unique eco urns can be buried, placed in the sea, or kept in the house.

A hefty dose of ingenuity goes into each painstakingly crafted piece: for example, Annie’s boat-and-globe urns are cleverly designed so that, as the ashes sink beneath the water, the boat is released to bob in the waves.

A unusual urn made to look like the Starship Enterprise

A “crazy” bespoke urn

UK-based coffin and urn maker Crazy Coffins dates back to Victorian times, but got a new lease of life (and its current name) after becoming famous for beautifully made and slightly bonkers bespoke pieces made on request. So far, the team have made coffins and urns that look like canal boats, guitars, planes and even the Starship Enterprise. Despite their thoroughly different look, these impressive urns and coffins are fully functional and make a brilliant tribute to the personalities of their owners.

 

 

A bird to watch over you

Unusual urns by Kris Cravens.Looking at the use of lively patterns and texture in her work, it’s no surprise that potter Kris Cravens has a background in fashion. Her carefully handmade keepsake urns have a cheerful, uplifting feel that makes them stand out. The bright red birds perched on many of her pieces symbolise the belief that when you see a red bird, you’re being visited by loved one who has passed.

Kris’s urns tend to be smaller, making them perfect for pets or for families who would like to split the ashes of a loved one between a few different households. Each piece is also made by hand, so you can be sure that you’re getting a completely unique urn. Kris is based in the US, but you can contact her via her Etsy shop for international shipping rates.

 

These biodegradable unique urns for ashes are designed to look like whales.

A whale to explore the deeps

Handmade by local artisans in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this charming whale urn is completely biodegradable and non-toxic, meaning you can keep it at home or use it to release a loved one’s ashes into the ocean. Like a real whale, it will float briefly before sinking into the deeps to rest.

Designed by artist Laura Bruzzese, the whale urn is part of a range that includes paper turtles, lotus flowers and dolphins – all pretty fitting ways to say goodbye to someone who loved the ocean.

 

 

Unique urns woodturned by Martin van der WiltAn urn with not-so-hidden beauty

These handsome woodturned urns are created by Amsterdam-based craftsman Martin van der Wilt, who makes them out of reclaimed wood found near his workshop.

Martin specialises in finding the “hidden beauty of the wood”: bringing out the unique twists, turns and scars in the grain that make each piece special. Gaps are often filled with bright stone to turn what might have been a flaw in another artist’s hands into a striking feature.

 

A creative creature urn

No list of unusual urns for ashes would be complete without potter Laina Watt’s work. Inspired by Ancient Egyptian canopic jars (the animal-headed ones that held the mummy’s organs), mythology, popular culture, and a certain degree of playfulness, Laina’s urns are designed to shine on a mantlepiece or “totally confound archeologists of the future” when buried. No two urns are alike, and with a range that includes a yeti, King Kong and E.T., you can be sure that your loved one will rest in style.

 

An urn for new life

Capsula Mundi make biodegradable urns in the shape of an egg – a symbol of new life that works well with the company’s ethos: on top of every urn buried, they also plant a tree chosen by the person who died.

Over time, relatives can come visit their loved one and see how the tree they planted has grown and flourished. You can find out more about Capsula Mundi in our interview here.

 

 

Wood salvaged and made special

Unusual urns for ashes by Phil IronsBased in Stratford-upon-Avon, veteran woodturner Phil Irons rescues his wood from the clutches of tree surgeons and firewood merchants and turns the would be kindling into works of art. Unusually for an urn-maker, he uses richly-coloured glazes to make the wood’s natural grain “pop”, bringing out its inherent beauty. Phil first tried woodturning at the tender age of 13, and his experience shows in the incredible smooth lines here. Very touchable.

 

A unique Himalayan salt urn from Urns UK

An urn as salty as the sea

Who knew there were so many uses for Himalayan salt? You can season your food with it, you can carve it into lamps, and you can even use it to make funeral urns. The pink colour and marble-like texture make this urn from Urns UK a beautiful keepsake; however, if you’re burying your loved one at sea, it also dissolves within four hours, making it an eco-friendly option.

 

A driftwood urn like no other

 

Pebble-shaped urns for ashesA peaceful pebble

Made by artist Davina Kemble, these serene birch plywood urns are hand-crafted to mimic the smooth shape of a pebble and the rings in a tree – reminding us of the passing of time and the span of someone’s life.

As well as having a brilliantly tactile, organic shape, they’re biodegradable. A keepsake version is also available, and you can keep some small items that remind you of your loved one – such as jewellery, ornaments or letters – alongside a small quantity of their ashes.

 

That’s it for this round-up of unusual urns! If you’ve found a unique and special urn of your own, tell us in the comment box below – we’d love to add it to our list.

6 Inspiring Eulogy Examples to Draw From 0

Eulogy examples: a microphone in front of a blurred background

Writing a eulogy is widely (and perhaps rightly) thought of as one of the most difficult tasks out there. Not only does it involve public speaking, but it asks you to communicate how you feel about a loved one at a time when your emotions can be overwhelming. If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy, you might be feeling understandably nervous about the whole thing.

Don’t worry. We’ve put together some eulogy examples to show that you don’t have to be Shakespeare to put together a powerful, moving speech.

6 of the best eulogy examples to watch for inspiration

Remember, eulogies don’t have to be that long to be great, and you certainly don’t have to stop yourself from crying. If you’re struggling for words or you’re not sure where to start, here are some long, short, and even funny eulogy examples to get you started.

“He got me ready to be a strong, upstanding man.”

No two people get on one hundred percent of the time. If you’re looking for eulogy examples for a father, this speech about a man who spent some years “butting heads” with his son is a heart warming place to start. By acknowledging that history of conflict in this short, witty eulogy, the son tells the story of how it ultimately strengthened their relationship and helped him be a better version of himself.

“I want my father’s memory to help you and others.”

Here’s one of our short eulogy examples for a father who always kept his promises. Not only has this man picked out a positive character trait and focused on that, but he’s also used it to spark action and conversation among the other people attending the funeral. His father’s memory will inspire guests to follow through for their own loved ones.

“We were the light of her life, and she let us know it ‘til the end.”

“I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies the enormity of the room whose doors have quietly shut.”

Not all of us will be lucky enough to have someone who can eulogise us on national television, but this tribute from American comedy legend Stephen Colbert is a fine eulogy example: a mother who taught her children to sing, dance, and pray in German is commemorated briefly but beautifully in his speech, which you can read in full here.

“She was my first teacher.”

In one of our longer funeral eulogy examples, a mother who believed in making things work is touchingly remembered. This feels like a complete picture of the person who’s died: someone vivacious, entertaining, community-minded, and endlessly resourceful. If you have the time, you can take it to show as many aspects of your loved one as you can.

“She had some trouble with technology.”

Good funny eulogy examples show that you don’t have to tell a long, complicated story with a setup and a punchline to get your audience chuckling – sometimes, just a phone call is enough. In just under four minutes, we learn that the person who’s died was intelligent, sweet, and caring, but she’s also left some laughter behind.

“That’s the kind of man I want to be.”

“Show, don’t tell” is good advice for eulogies as well as fiction. In this often funny, always touching eulogy example, a grandson describes his grandfather through a series of anecdotes that perfectly describe a man deeply loved by, and devoted to, his family.

If you can learn anything from the funeral eulogy examples you’ve seen here, let it be this: eulogies can be sweet or sharp, funny or sad, or all of those things at once – but they’re at their most effective when they’re spoken from the heart. Start with honesty, and mould it from there.

And now for something completely different.

When asked to eulogise his friend and colleague Graham Chapman, John Cleese realised he had a vitally important duty to carry out: to be the first person to drop the F-bomb at a British memorial service. We’re not suggesting this as a template, but think of it as some light relief as you search for a eulogy sample that inspires you.

For more funeral arrangement inspiration, check out our Advice Centre here.


Have you delivered or heard a great eulogy? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us all about it in the comment box below.