Cannibalism isn't quarantined to one single ethnicity. The practice goes back to the dawn of man, and there's evidence that our slower hillbilly cousins the neanderthals participated in ritual cannibalism. Regardless of the subset, the reasons for cannibalism outside of starving are pretty much the same- it comes from the belief that eating a part of the dead- be it the heart, liver or brain- will result in the mourner gaining the deceased's wisdom and/or courage. Some cultures only cannibalized enemies, some only loved ones, some both. There are conflicting reports on whether it's still practiced today, with the Wari of the Amazon and Korowai of Papua being the more famous examples. No one's sure if they truly continue to eat their dead or if they're just really good at attracting the more fearless backpacking tourists.
Buddhism in the extreme! In an obvious game of one-upmanship, a couple of dozen Japanese Buddhist priests have won the self-denial award by successfully mummifying themselves. The process takes years, but begins with the monk taking part in a diet and exercise regimen to burn away all body fat. Then they slowly poison themselves to induce vomiting and diarrhea to empty the body of bodily fluids. Then, the monk crawls into a box and remains in the lotus position until death, when the box is sealed. When the container of horror is reopened, you get a perfectly mummified Buddhist priest- in theory. Many, many people have tried to mummify themselves unsuccessfully. The practice is now outlawed in modern Japan, and thankfully no Buddhist sect advocates Sokushunbutsu.
Family get-togethers are awesome, right? Especially when a relative you haven't seen in a while shows up. That may not be the case when the relative has been dead for a few year. Famadihana is new-ish tradition in Madagascar, where it's believed the soul does not fully leave the body until it's decomposed- a process that may take a few years. The purpose of the ceremony is to re-wrap the body in fresh shrouds. That part being over with, the family then dances around the burial tomb with newly wrapped grandma like it's her birthday. The practice has declined in recent years, partly because of the rising cost of silk burial cloths and partly because of the encroachment of evangelical Christianity, which frowns on the practice of dancing a jig with the bones of your long-dead relative.
For those of us who really hate the world and everything it represents, there's always a space burial. The practice is still in its infancy, with only one company providing services and as few as 250 people taking part of their cremains being shot into orbit by a firey rocket. The burial doesn't actually fling your stiff carcass into the cold, lifeless vacuum of deep space, but a small lipstick tube-sized capsule filled with a minor portion of your cremated body can be loaded onto a rocket as a secondary payload and sent far enough into the atmosphere where you'll encircle Earth for a couple of hundred years before you spiral back to the planet and scare the crap out of the inhabitants of the Atlantic Ocean in a couple hundred years. The more famous participants of space burial include Gene Roddenberry and Timothy Leary.
- - Hanging Coffins of Bo: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_9RVJkm5tbD8/SwsGeZdowoI/AAAAAAAABIk/W03AvIFKizw/s1600/sag-006-sagada-hanging-coffins2.jpg
- - Sati: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2002/08/09/images/2002080900090901.jpg
- - Sky Burial: http://www.mccullagh.org/db9/10d-17/vulture-carass-gnawing.jpg
- - Ritual Cannibalism: http://media.smithsonianmag.com/images/korowai_388.jpg
- - Sokushunbutsu : http://i158.photobucket.com/albums/t119/ilkeryoldas/mumonk.jpg
- - Famadihana : http://cogitz.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/famadihana-06-tm.jpg
- - Space Burial : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/LPnosunm.jpeg
- - Hanging Coffins of Bo: http://www.china.org.cn/english/culture/55407.htm
- - Sati: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_%28practice%29
- - Sky Burial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_burial
- - Ritual Cannibalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibalism
- - Sokushunbutsu : http://www.thethinkingblog.com/2007/07/self-mummified-monks-of-japan.html
- - Famadihana : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famadihana
- - Space Burial : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_burial