Ancient Vikings lit funeral pyres to honor their dead, and it is accepted practice among Buddhist and Hindu religions. But the practice is largely taboo in the U.S.
The pyre harkens to references in the Christian and Hebrew Bibles equating rising smoke with the ascent of the soul, said David Weddle, a religion professor at Colorado College. It can be seen as honoring a natural cycle, reducing the body to ash and the elements of which it is composed. It also can be a protest against traditional funerals, which some view as a denial of death, Weddle said.[...]
It takes up to four and a half hours for a body to burn completely. Since there's no way of separating human ashes from those of the wood the family receives about five gallons of ashes.
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