We’ve cycled through cultural periods where zombies were the big entertainment draw, and other times when it was all vampires… or pirates. Is it finally the mummies’ turn? After all, The Mummy from 1999 barely scratched the surface of a genre that was sparked by the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun‘s tomb. If so, perhaps history will trace the impending mummy craze to popular discussion of the burial rites of Tana Toraja because this is ripe for a horror film!
The Toraja are a people who live in mountainous South Sulawesi in Indonesia, and their society rests on a sturdy foundation of animism, the belief that a spiritual essence pervades all things, living and unliving, including animals, plants, trees, and rocks. Tana Toraja means “the land of Toraja.” One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Toraja are their funeral rites, which last several days and often occur many weeks after the star of the show has shuffled off his or her mortal coil. The rituals include tree burials for infants who died before teething as well as the parading of actual mummies.
Since funerals are such an elaborate affair for the Toraja, the bereaved family members very often lack the funds for the ritual at the appropriate time, so sometimes the funeral has to wait months or even years until the requisite capital is accrued. In the meantime, the deceased is embalmed and stored in the same house as his or her family. Here’s the amazing bit: Until the funeral ceremonies are completed, the person is not considered to be dead but merely suffering an illness.
Amusing Planet explains the astonishing rest:
Toraja tribe members are rarely buried in the ground. They are either placed in caves dug out in the rocky side of a mountain, or in wooden coffins that are hung on a cliff. The grave is usually expensive and takes a few months to complete. A wood-carved effigy, called Tau tau, representing the deceased is usually placed in the cave looking out over the land. The coffins are beautifully decorated, but over time the wood begins to rot and the bleached bones of the deceased often drop to the bottom of the suspended burial ground.
Babies are not buried in caves or hung from cliffs but buried inside the hollow of living trees. If a child dies before he has started teething, the baby is wrapped in cloth and placed inside a hollowed out space within the trunk of a growing tree, and covered over with a palm fibre door. The hole is then sealed and as the tree begins to heal, the child is believed to be absorbed. Dozens of babies may be interred within a single tree.
The burials are completed, the guests have feasted and returned to their homes, but the rituals are not over. Every few years, in August, a ritual called Ma’Nene takes place in which the bodies of the deceased are exhumed to be washed, groomed and dressed in new clothes. The mummies are then walked around the village like zombies.
Without further ado, here are several stunning pictures of infant tree graves, wooden effigies of the deceased, hanging coffins, and mummies taking part in a Ma’Nene celebration.
Photo credits: Reuters, AP, Wikimedia Commons user mattjlc, and Flickr users Cordelia Persen, Axel Drainville, Matt Paish, & Kars Alfrink
via Amusing Planet
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘50 Foot Woman’ cult actress found mummified in Los Angeles home
Mummified vampire heart for sale on Ebay