Open air cremation of the English poet Shelley (Painting by Louis Edouard Fournier 1889)
I am happy to learn that after many years of repeated refusals, permission has finally been given for open-air cremations here in Britain.
It means that Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Vaishnavas will be able to conduct funerals as per their religious requirements: outdoors and under the sky.
It also means that we stand a chance in this country to look at death, rather than hiding it away – or hiding away from it. And if we do that we might begin the discussion, once again, on what comes after life.
Open air cremations, where the remains of the deceased are consumed by flames from a wooden pyre, are not actually as foreign to these islands as we might think. Stonehenge certainly holds urns of cremated human remains; the Vikings were partial to setting fire to an entire ship at some funerals; the poet Shelley left orders that he was to be cremated in the open on the shore of a lake; and in 1915 no less than 53 such open cremations took place in Sussex, England. They were all Indian soldiers who had returned wounded from the European war, and died in Brighton.
So the new legislation is welcome, and will be a great relief for those of us who have had to be heavily compromised whenever we perform funerals.
You can read more about it here.