Outdoor Cremation – the Funeral
Pyre of a mountain town in Colorado
The funeral pyre is perhaps
best connoted in culture by references to the ancient Vikings. It
is still a death ritual practiced today amongst Buddhist and Hindu religions,
although it is considered quite taboo in the United States.
||Crestone, Colorado is the
location of the only outdoor human cremation facility in the United States.
Some may consider it an archaic tradition, but the facility in Crestone
will perform a funeral pyre for anyone, regardless of their religion.
Funeral industry professionals
say that this facility is the only one of its kind in the U.S. where family
can participate in the outdoor cremation of a loved one. The funeral
pyre is constructed from a concrete and brick-lined hearth topped with
a steel grate. A body is ordinarily wrapped in a simple linen cloth,
and then surrounded by juniper logs and branches. If they so wish,
the family can place the torch to the funeral pyre, a ritual that is significant
in some religions.
With a move away from tradition
in modern funeral rituals, and with the rise in a more ‘natural’ and ecological
approach to the disposition of the dead, maybe outdoor funeral pyres may
become more commonplace across the modern world.
The funeral pyre actually
dates back to references in the Christian and Hebrew Bibles that likens
the rising smoke from the pyre with the ascent of the soul.
It takes about four to five
hours for a body to burn completely, and as there is no way to separate
the human ashes from the wood ash, the family receive about five gallons
||The cremations in Crestone
are performed by the nondenominational Crestone End of Life Project, a
volunteer group who assist families by coordinating the cremation service.
The project asks for a donation of $425 for each cremation, this helps
to cover permits, and enables the group to offer grief counseling, repose
the deceased prior to the cremation and prepare the kindling for the funeral
Currently the service is
only offered to the local community. This decision was made out of
respect for local residents who did not want their community over-run with
outsiders wanting ‘novel’ cremations. The project is also only geared
to handle a limited number of ceremonies per year.
The type of ceremony depends
entirely on the wishes of the family. It can be anything from a very
simple service, a quiet and private moment, to a more elaborate ritual
with eulogies, music and singing. The setting at the foot of the
Sangre De Cristo mountain range make it the perfect place to absorb a sense
of the natural aspect of a life celebration.
For more information on the
project visit their web site at www.crestone-end-of-life.org
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