Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Weird Burial Customs, Tibetan

"Their first encounter with the 'real' Tibet was the sky burial of a high lama. Schäfer and Dolan watched fascinated as the dead man was wrapped in linen and laid out on a platform of stones. Prayer flags fluttered all around and priests burnt juniper wood. Men in white aprons, the tomden or yogin-butchers - members of Tibet's outcasts the ragyapa - weilding big whetted cleavers, approached and unwrapped the corpse, which they quickly and expertly sliced from head to toe, exposing flesh and bone. All the while, big restless vultures were gathering, their wings rattling as they flew down. They were kept at bay by men with long poles, though ot for long, because they were important participants in the ritual. After the tomden had removed the corpse's viscera, he shouted 'Shey! Shey!' ('Eat! Eat!') and the formidable birds, with their two-metre wingspans, descended on the corpse , covering it in a threshing mass of feathers. The tomden assisted their feasting by wading in to dismember the legs and arms. After just fifteen minutes, the vultures had completed their frenzied meal - or at least their main course. For the final dish, the tomden crushed the skull with a stone mallet, mixed the brain matter with tsampa flour and urged the birds to feast again. 'The ceremony would have been impressive', Dolan noted, 'but for the odour of the body which had evidently been buried for some time and exhumed on the appropriate day.'"
--Christopher Hale, Himmler's Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race.