Category Archives: viking funeral

Fire & Water

Wednesday, 16 July 2014



Posted by John Porter

I am an archer. I am a funeral celebrant. The last funeral I facilitated was of Thelma, my archery coach. She used to coach the British archery team many years ago. The chairman of Tonbridge Archers led the tribute and, much to everyone’s surprise (he was renowned for “going on at length” at meetings) stuck to his five minutes – pretty important to avoid crematorium fines! When he had finished I said: “… even when Thelma was sick she used to come and watch us practice and she could spot a poor release of an arrow at a long distance – ‘what kind of release do you call that – pathetic’.”  she would often say about my performance. Some reacted negatively to her criticisms but I accepted them. She was right. My release was very poor.

Watching a scene from Game of Thrones provoked this blog contribution. Someone has died. He is laid in a boat garnished with sword, shield and kindred flag. Kindling straw and pots of some kind of accelerant are added to ensure it’s a good show.


Pic 1.jpg


A young archer steps forward, nocks a large black arrow bound with twine at the top of the shaft and dips it in the fire before drawing. It is a very dramatic and emotional moment. The arrow flies towards the dead person’s boat, now steadily drifting away along the water.


Pic 2


He misses. He shoots another lighted arrow with a deeper draw as the boat is further away. He misses again. My heart goes out to him as I too have missed the target many times. I know that look. The squint is to hide embarassment and ponder how to get it right next time – mind you he does have a king standing behind him. I had Thelma sat on a chair 20 yards away. It’s still scrutiny!

Pic 3


An older archer steps forward, snatches the bow from the young archer, lights the arrow and draws deeply and aims high towards the distant boat. He looks to the flag to see what the wind is doing before releasing the flaming messenger. The younger archer watches, still smarting from his two failed attempts to seal the ceremony.

Pic 4


The archer does not bother to see if it reached its target. He knew his arrow had found its mark.

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It had.

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I love the drama of this scene. I feel for the younger archer. I remember Thelma. I did my best to make Thelma’s event meaningful and positively memorable but, oh, how I would have loved to have stood on the dock and released a perfect arrow towards her dead body on a dressed raft of some kind. Fire and water. Life and death. Health and safety. The modern crematorium offers little opportunity for high drama. Sanitised and hidden. Pity. Flaming arrows aside, I know we can create better ceremonies. Let’s share ideas here.

EXCLUSIVE: It’s going to be one wacky sendoff for Downton’s Matthew

Monday, 1 April 2013


The GFG can exclusively reveal that Downton star Matthew Crawley will be cremated in a way-out guerilla funeral on the ancestral estate in a ritual created by the grief-stricken family.

Devotees of toff-soap Downton Abbey were left dazed and heartbroken at the end of the 2012 Christmas special when heir Matthew Crawley was violently killed after his motor car flipped as it swerved to avoid an oncoming lorry.

Dan Stevens

According to plot notes for upcoming series 4, jotted by writer Julian Fellowes and seen exclusively by the GFG, a distraught Lady Mary will banish local undertaker Grassby’s men when they come to take Matthew’s body into their care.

In  heartrending scenes that follow, viewers will see Lady Mary supervise sobbing servants as they wash Matthew’s body, dress it in his favourite suit and lay it out in the state drawing room flanked by bowed footmen and surrounded by candles and essential oils. Here, it is reverently watched over by members of the family.

Meanwhile, it’s all hands to the pump downstairs as the servants are enlisted to build Matthew’s coffin and refurbish a derelict cremator (pictured) which was last used to cremate Lady Mary’s convention-busting great-grandfather Lord Bertram Crawley in 1882.

In a final agonising development, the funeral procession, led by butler Carson, is surrounded by police tipped off by villainous valet Thomas Barrow. After a tense standoff the proceedings are allowed to go ahead in a ceremony led by real-life funeral celebrant and GFG commenter Gloria Mundi.


The storyline is believed to be inspired by Fellowes’ near neighbour and cremation pioneer Captain Thomas Hanham, who lived just 20 miles away in Blandford Forum. Hanham illegally cremated his wife and his mother in the grounds of his estate. The authorities did not prosecute him and a few years later the first Cremation Act was passed.

The GFG believes that Fellowes intends to raise awareness of family-arranged or home funerals, sometimes termed DIY funerals. He was overheard at a funeral he recently attended to exclaim, “Why on earth do we hand over the whole bally shooting match to strangers? We really should jolly well do more of this ourselves.”

Fellowes’ plot notes reveal that he even considered cremating Matthew on an open-air pyre. A scribble in the margin betrays second thoughts: “No. A twist too far. Maybe for Maggie [Smith].” Dame Maggie Smith plays the part of the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

NOTE: Journalists and bloggers are asked as a matter of courtesy to acknowledge the GFG as their source when reporting this story.

Fiery funeral

Monday, 17 September 2012


The story:

Scores of Viking warriors descended on the shores of Lough Neagh last weekend, where they engaged in battle and bade farewell to one of their own on a blazing funeral pyre, watched by hundreds of people, young and old.

The full story:

It was a re-enactment. 

Good fun, though — great spectacle. 

Green Light For Tower of Silence In English Seaside Town

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Architect’s impression of the proposed Weymouth Tower of Silence


Posted by Charles


In a move which is sending shockwaves through an English tourist resort, council chiefs in Weymouth, Dorset, have given the go-ahead for followers of the Zoroastrian religion to expose the bodies of their dead in the midst of sunbathing holidaymakers.

The down-at-heel, bucket-and-spade seaside town has granted the Zoroastrian Council of Great Britain (ZCGB) controversial planning permission to build a Tower of Silence in a prominent position on its historic seafront. 

 Zoroastrians believe that dead bodies pollute the earth. When they die, their bodies are placed on raised platforms, more correctly known as dakhmas, where they are exposed to the elements and birds of prey. The Weymouth tower will stand 300 feet high and the dead will be brought up to the platform by means of a lift in the central column.

Although the dead bodies will not be visible from the ground, some Weymouth residents are up in arms about the scheme.

Single mother Tracey Brockway said “It’s  disgusting. The whole town will be covered in flies. How can anyone lie on the beach knowing what’s going on up there? As far as I’m concerned this is the last nail in the coffin for Weymouth.”

However, most Weymouth residents are in favour of the tower. In common with many seaside resorts, the town’s tourist trade has been in decline for decades and many have rallied round the council’s initiative.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s brief holder for Leisure and Tourism, Peter Traskey, said: “Traditional tourist streams are drying up as people increasingly holiday abroad. We need to diversify, and we see multicultural funeral tourism as the future for our town.”

Mr Traskey also gave credence to reports that the council is in discussion with the Hindu community to establish a burning ghat on the quay recently vacated by Condor Ferries. The River Wey is currently undergoing an elaborate consecration process. 

The council is even considering a scheme submitted by the Natural Death Centre to hold spectacular Viking funerals in Weymouth Bay in a Viking longboat made of steel which can be re-used after each open-air cremation. “I think it’s a great idea,” said Traskey. “We are right behind this initiative.”

The RSPB is supporting the Weymouth Tower of Silence. RSPB spokesperson Jonathan Taylor told us, “We anticipate that the region’s dwindling cormorant population will boosted by this important food source.”

Mel Stewart, landlady of the Bon Repos boarding house, told the GFG, “This town has been on its backside (actually she said arse) for years. When the Olympics are over, what will there be for us? I’m doing a complete ethnic refurb and re-naming my place Memories of Mecca. I’m advertising my full Zoroastrian breakfast and funeral teas. These people are going to be a shot in the arm for the local economy.”

Local police chief,  Inspector Richard Honeysett, told us: “We are seeking permission from the ZCGB to detain unconscious drunks and drug addicts on the tower overnight. When they come round and find themselves surrounded by dead bodies it’s going to be a wake-up call for them. “

Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of the ancient empire of the Medes and Persians until it was displaced by Islam. Its devotees found a safe haven in India. The 2010 Census revealed that the number of worshippers in the UK stands at roughly 350,000. 

Weymouth was made famous by King George III, who holidayed there throughout his reign. It is distinguished by its fine Georgian and Regency architecture, and by its public lavatory, which still sports a cannonball fired into it by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army.

The town is held in low esteem by its rugged and dynamic neighbours, the inhabitants of the Isle of Portland, who have never reconciled themselves to their local government partnership with Weymouth, and are holding themselves aloof from the tower initiative.

A salt-caked island fisherman commented, “This tower they’re all talking about — they’re clutching at straws, aren’t they? I’ll tell you what I think of the council. It’s a council of despair.” 

Ahura Massada, a spokesperson for the ZCGB, said, “We have been searching for a site for a Tower of Silence for many past years. On every occasion we have come eyebrow to eyebrow with prejudice. But the people of Weymouth have enfolded us in their bosom, and we thank them from our hearts.” 

In July and August this year, Weymouth will host the Olympic 2012 sailing events. The Tower of Silence is planned to open on 1 April 2013.


British Zoroastrians inspect plans for their new Tower of Silence



A Viking funeral for ashes

Friday, 16 March 2012

Over at Scattering Ashes, here, Rich has been trialling his prototype Viking longship for the fiery water burial of cremains.

What do you think?

She went to glory!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Some reflections here by Guardian commenter StoPeriyali on the way we do cremation in the UK:

Having been to several (far too many) crematorium services, I have always felt the moment when the curtain closes and they start to hoosh you all out ready for the next one, is utterly dismal, flat, anti-climactic, unsatisfying. You have to leave knowing the box is still just right there, behind a bit off curtain, and it feels like you’re abandoning the person right at the last bitter moment, and doesn’t feel any kind of closure, unlike if you could see the white heat and the coffin ignite.

When it’s me I would like to be put in old family dinghy with all my favourite treats and sentimentally valued stuff, set alight with something spectacularly flammable, and pushed off with sails set towards the Western horizon at sunset.”

This dismal process was what was putting me off cremating one of my late cats. Belize, a splendid Siamese, was the cat of my prime but she finally died during weather like the present and I couldn’t face digging a grave in the slushy mud. I took her to pets’ crematorium and the experience was quite the opposite from the standard human crematorium. I got to lay her out as if she were asleep – all curled up – and surrounded her with flowers. Then she was placed on a sheet of metal and slid into the cremation area (not so much an oven, more open). And then – by now H and S kicked in and this was being seen on a screen – she was seen to burst into flames. It was magnificent and I thought of Patroclus’ funeral pyre in the Iliad. She went to glory!

The kindness of the crematorium staff towards the owners of the pets was exemplary and the day which started out so sadly ended with the feeling I’d done the right thing by a well-loved pet. I think we probably need to actually see flames consuming the coffin to achieve the sense of closure (can’t think of a better expression but appreciate it’s become hackneyed )


A Viking funeral for ashes

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


We sometimes have good ideas here at the GFG, but we rarely make them happen. In life there are starters and there are finishers. We have little of the latter about us. 

One of our better ideas was a model Viking longship for launching ashes in. We urged this on our good friend Richard Martin over at Scattering Ashes. 

He’s done it. Ain’t it lovely? Too nice to burn?

As we said when we thought of it:

The flames rise (vertically) to the heavens as the wind fills the longboat’s sails and it journeys (horizontally) to the horizon in a way which mirrors the words of the Christian prayer: “But as thou didst not lose them in the giving, so we do not lose them by their return. For not as the world giveth, givest thou, O Lord of souls: that which thou givest thou takest away: for life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only the horizon, and the horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

There is compelling emotional and spiritual appeal in this imagery, of journeying, transition, transfiguration and consummation (deliberate pun). The spirit rises as the craft moves over the face of the waters; that which is earthly is subsumed by the sea. All the elements are present: earth, air, fire, water. And there is an inexorable dynamic.




Find Richard’s ideasy, info-packed website here






Saturday, 10 December 2011


This music video may interest you. Here’s some text from Consequence of Sound

Everyone deals with death in their own personal way, but psych-rock outfit Crystal Antlers offers a unique perspective on the topic in their music video for “Dog Days”. In said clip, a group of friends commemorate a dead friend by carrying around his/her ashes in various cups and cookie jars, as if said friend is still “one of the guys.” For a final tribute, they channel the Vikings by setting up a funeral pyre and spreading the friend’s ashes throughout the woods.

The song is called Dog Days. Find Crystal Antlers’ website here.

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