Author Archives: Oluwatosin Adenuga

Space Burials

Aside from health purposes, burials are widely recognized as the most common and appropriate ritual to bring closure to the family and to demonstrate respect for the dead. With the advent of new technology, new methods to fulfill the aforementioned have manifested. In fact, most recently, a unique opportunity for the bereaved proves to be a viable option to memorialize the life of the deceased. Elysium Space is preparing to extend their mortuary services by launching human ashes into space. It is the hope of the company that by 2014 they will begin sending cremated human parts into space via a memorial spaceflight.

It is estimated that the cost of a space burial will be set at $2,000, much lower than the national average for burials in the United States and thus making it a more affordable option. According to Elysium Space, customers receive an ash capsule that will contain a “symbolic portion” of ashes and on which they can engrave a limited number of initials. Once the capsule arrives at the company’s launch site, they will engrave a personalized remembrance message to be attached to the spacecraft. Finally, the capsule is launched into space only to return to Earth a few months later from orbit, where it will ultimately burn up. The most captivating part about this space burial experience is that the bereaved can track their loved one’s ashes while in orbit through a mobile application. Also, when the ashes burn up while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, it will resemble a shooting star.

This is a very interesting proposal and so I look forward to seeing the success rate of such a unique mortuary experience. It is reported that there have been interests for the services of Elysium Space from people in both the United States and Japan. A concern, though, of many individuals will probably be the fact that by launching these particles into space, we would be adding to the already significant space polluting issue. Also, there will also be a number of those who think that this is another method of making money off of the dead, perpetuating  the use of practices that commercialize death. So, not all will be thrilled with such an innovation. However, space burials prove to be an economic advantage to those who cannot afford a traditional funeral service and they also provide a memorable experience that should guide the bereaved during their period of grief, but also help to facilitate the healing process. I do think that it may be wise for the company to offer cremation services in addition to the launch of the memorial spaceflight. Even so, space burials are an alternative that definitely should not be ignored.

For more information about the Elysium Space Company and space burials, follow the link below to access the Launching to Heaven: Space Burial Company to Send Human Ashes into Orbit article:

Taiwanese Funeral Strippers

Most would consider a traditional funeral service to feature mourning, commemorations, prayers, and rituals including gift-giving. Gifts may include flowers, mementos, money and things of that sort. Customs certainly vary between cultures and religious affiliations. However, if we search far and beyond we may be surprised by some of the funeral practices we discover. Let us turn our attention to say, East Asia. Interestingly enough, in the rural parts of Taiwan, a typical funeral service involves colorful lights, loud hollering and showgirls, or more commonly known as funeral strippers. Now, most would find that funerals and stripping should have no relation whatsoever. I would also assume that many would question how funeral stripping is in any way beneficial to the memory of the deceased. According to Taiwanese culture, death should encourage members of society to celebrate, rather than persistently mourn the loss of a loved one. Pole dancing and stripping in front of men, women, children, and the dead corpse, during the funeral procession, is another method of ancestral worship. Funeral stripping is a common practice used to help overcome the grieving process, honor the dead person and most importantly to “appease the wandering spirits,” the latter reason often the most quoted.

There has certainly been a considerable amount of opposition towards this Taiwanese practice, including from those who reside in the urban centers of Taiwan. There have been efforts to ban funeral stripping in Taiwan. Many claim that those who either engage in or approve of such practices are clearly struggling with the separation between sexuality and religion. The Young Turks, an online show, covered a story on this ritual practice and hosts, Ana Kasparian and Steve Oh, brought up a very good point as to why this ritualistic practice became so popular in rural Taiwan. They stated that urban centers do not need funeral strippers because plenty of sexual outlets are available to the public at their discretion. Rural areas, on the other hand, are not as developed as their counterparts and are perhaps more sexually deprived therefore it is no wonder the opportunity to include sexuality in traditional funeral customs was rapidly embraced. In fact, those who participate in funeral stripping claim that this ritual is not only an offering to gods and dead spirits but it also makes for a more entertaining  and memorable experience.

Click here for TheYoung Turk story on funeral stripping in Taiwan:

The concept of anti-structure definitely applies to this ritual performed by funeral strippers. This practice was carefully planned to take place during a very serious and traditionally structured ceremony. As we now have been informed, many cultures find that it is during this time of death and the preparation of the dead corpse, chaos and disorder, typically considered to be unacceptable, become part of the norm. Individuals do not have to seek approval to exhibit irrational behavior. The death of a person can be a very depressing and emotional period for those related to or in some way impacted by the deceased. I am certain the usual perception of mourning is not completely absent from Taiwanese funerals. However, Taiwanese funerals are more so characterized by very abnormal social conduct, or anti-structure. Although this practice is considered taboo in many communities, those who acknowledge this practice find it essential and extremely valuable to their traditional funeral rites.

Please refer to the following Huffington Post article for more details about Taiwanese funeral stripping:

Carpe Mortem: Seize Death!

“Carpe Mortem”…. reads the title of this post. It is certainly not a popular or well-received saying for that matter. The phrase definitely has its share of negative connotations, and this past week I stumbled upon an interesting comedy clip, Don’t Fear Death, that defies the typical responses to mortality and instead glorifies the concept of death!


Courtesy of Dice Productions, this twisted humor features a male narrator who boasts of the benefits of dying. The narrator claims that with death comes freedom and the lack of responsibility. His obsession with death essentially implies that the fear of death is irrational. Although he aims to present his views in a positive light, the video clip is riddled with dark imagery, which does not necessarily seem like a strategic way of convincing audiences that death is as glorious and advantageous as the narrator perceives it to be. Every scene displays human corpses, bodily fluids, and there are also multiple appearances from Grim Reaper. However, this is an animated clip, so this imagery somewhat adds to the underlying humor of the overall story. It also decreases the affect that the concept of death and this perceived glorification may have truly had on general audiences if, say instead, real humans had been cast to portray the narrative.

At one point during the clip, the narrator questions our innate fear of death, and then proceeds to answer. Humans are “wary of that bright light and scared of the unknown.” Yes. This is certainly true considering the fact that generally as a culture, death is inevitably stigmatized and talk of it can be unsettling. That being said, humans are instinctively apprehensive of what awaits them: the nature of the death process, what it does to our bodies, how it affects the survivors, as we talked about in class, and how we, as a society, perceive death from that moment forward. Humans do not have control over such a phenomenon, which, in turn, can be frightening.

The end of the clip is comical and features an unexpected twist. The viewers discover that the male voice is that of a flight attendant on a plane, full of passengers, and that the plane has actually caught on fire. When the flight attendant concludes his unusual and for all intensive purposes, disturbing banter about the wonders of death, he is met with a silent and disapproving reaction from the passengers, who are also distraught about their life-threatening situation. Frustrated, the flight attendant takes the last available parachute, and he himself escapes death and lands safely, leaving the poor passengers destitute.

I am completely certain that the flight attendant is in denial of death. It is amusing that the he had never experienced death, but interestingly enough felt it necessary to speak so highly of the concept of death.  Perhaps a logical explanation for his behavior was that he was unsure of how to confront the issue of death that soon awaited him. Maybe he wanted to convince himself to accept his fate, something he probably still feared even though he claimed otherwise. The fact that he selfishly left the passengers and escaped contradicts his entire argument that death is not the curse it once was. I believe that the writer chose to end the clip this way to reinforce this idea of mocking the public’s fear of and reactions to death. In all, the social implications of death, as illustrated by the flight passengers and ironically the actions of the attendant himself, demonstrate that culturally, there is much discomfort when dealing with and engaging in discourse concerning death.

View the clip here: