I enjoyed this blog post from an American woman living in Paraguay. Her husband is some sort of religious minister. Here’s the custom out there:
In the jungle, among the Ye’kwana tribe, burials also had to be done quickly. If the family was christian, the dying person would be allowed to remain in his hammock and home to die. If not believers, the ailing one would be taken off and left alone in the jungle to perish, away from the community, so as not to bring evil spirits into the village. Once known, or hoped, to be dead, another tribe would be paid to retrieve the body and bury it in a place unknown to the Ye’kwanas.
And here is a Paraguayan open-air cremation. This delight Richard Martin over at Scattering Ashes:
The first time I experienced this was at the invitation of the family of a Sanema woman. I walked across the log which was the foot bridge between our two villages, I climbed a muddy bank and was led to the clearing in the center of their small village where a large pyre of wood had been laid.
The elderly women were already writhing in grief, moaning and swaying to and fro. It was as if their hearts were ripping open and a wounded animal sound was gushing out from their very soul. The children roamed around confused and bewildered, the men stood stoically by, and the shaman was painted and covered by a jaguar skin making inhuman sounds and growls.
I sat on a bit of log taking in the sights and sounds around me. I felt the despair, I heard the anguish, I was chilled to the bone by the actions of the shaman as he danced and waved his rattle fiercely, seemingly, in my direction. Do not judge me, for you were not there!
Then, the body, wrapped in a tattered old hammock was slung onto the fire. A new sound emerged, a cracking, popping sounds, and a new smell filled the air. It takes a long time to burn a body. More logs needed to be added to the fire every so often. People fainted. Others went into drug induced dazes. Some wept until they had no more tears.
When the fire was allowed to extinguish itself and was left to cool, the entire tribe seemed to have been given new energy. I watched in amazement as the women ran to the cooling embers and began frantically digging with their hands and sifting through the ashes. I noticed they were placing things into a blackened cooking pot. Finally, the shaman came over and prodded the dying fire with his big toe and then nodded to the women who ran off with the pot and its contents.
I saw as they began to use a simple mortar and pestle to grind the fragments in the pot. I saw as they added this fine powder to a prepared banana drink. I saw the family members of the deceased line up.
I saw them drink the bones.