RE: [asa] burial customs

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Tue Oct 27 2009 - 19:36:20 EDT

"Zoroastrian burial rites center on exposure of the dead. After death, a dog is brought before the corpse (preferably a "four-eyed" dog, i.e., with a spot above each eye, believed to increase the efficacy of its gaze). The rite is repeated five times a day. After the first one, fire is brought into the room where it is kept burning until three days after the removal of the corpse to the Tower of Silence. The removal must be done during the daytime.

The interior of the Tower of Silence is built in three concentric circles, one each for men, women, and children. The corpses are exposed there naked. The vultures do not take long—an hour or two at the most—to strip the flesh off the bones, and these, dried by the sun, are later swept into the central well. Formerly the bones were kept in an ossuary, the astodan, to preserve them from rain and animals. The morning of the fourth day is marked by the most solemn observance in the death ritual, for it is then that the departed soul reaches the next world and appears before the deities who are to pass judgment over it."

Armenians were Zoroastrians before becoming the first nation to adopt the Christian faith in 301 AD.


From: [] On Behalf Of []
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 5:52 PM
Subject: [asa] burial customs

This is a spin-off from all the 'morals' posts. But can anyone give a history
of how burial customs for humans came to be? I don't remember any Biblical
passages that endorse any specific practices other than the plenty of passages
that recognize the "cursed" state of one whose body is left for wild animals or
birds. Presumably this is more a reflection on the fact that they have no
family or loved ones left (or who care about them enough) to bury them. But in
this the Bible may simply be picking up on surrounding cultural values that were
already in place, and in fact never really endorses them --i.e. "Thou shalt
bury thy dead." I guess it could be implied in some of the purity instructions,
given that dead bodies are "unclean".

But given all this, what is it today (other than highly $$ motivated funeral
industry) that morally motivates us to seal our fresh corpses into concrete
vaults where they can now spend decades as rotting mush instead of the mere
years necessary if we'd just let nature have at it? How are some of the
aboriginals so wrong having a party to eat their dead after they die? As far as
I can tell, cannibalism is also a cultural, not a biblical taboo, as long as
there is no murder involved. Of course, the local health department will
probably have a thing or two to say if a family wants to make a buffet out of
their late uncle Johnny. But practical concerns aside, what are some of the
sources of these "morals", if that is even the right category for them.


personally, I think being eaten has a lot more appeal than being sealed in a
small water-tight box. --the ultimate in economical cremation: let nature
scatter you abroad. could be disconcerting to surviving family to see parts
laying around, though... I do understand that.

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Received on Tue Oct 27 19:39:18 2009

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