Disposition Options

Cremation by Funeral Pyre

Cremation by funeral pyre or "open-air cremation" is now available for a few people in the United States.

A funeral pyre is one of the world's oldest cremation traditions. A body is placed upon a structure packed with flamable materials and ignighted. The pyre is designed to burns at a very hot temperature in order to reduce a human body to a few pounds of ashes. Pyres are used for the cremation in Hinduism & Sikhism. Vikings disposed of their dead with funeral pyres.

A group in Crestone, Colorado, the Crestone End of Life Project, has done the research, obtained the necessary legal permissions and created a permanent cement pyre structure to perform around 12 "open-air cremations" a year.

A video tape of a cremation by outdoor funeral pyre shows a dignified procession of people placing a shroud wrapped body on top of a pyre. One by one, individuals placed juniper branches on top of the body. They approached the body similar to the way people do at a viewing. With somber deliberation each stepped forward to say good bye to their loved one by placing the juniper branch on top of the pyre. Some placed flowers on the heaping pile of juniper. At the conclusion of this procession, a huge pile of greenery and flowers rested on top of the cement pyre.

When lit, the pyre burst into flames. The group sang Christian songs and prayed; sometimes a cantor sang. As the sun set, the group remained to witnessed the pyre burn for hours. Some members occasionally placed additional wood on the fire.