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Hindu public ceremonial cremation in Bali

Cremation is the process of reducing dead human bodies to basic chemical compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high temperatures and vaporization.[1] Contrary to popular belief, the cremated remains are not ashes in the usual sense, but rather dried bone fragments that have been pulverized, typically in a device called an electric cremated remains processor (known as a cremulator -see below- or pulverization may be done by hand). This leaves the bone in a fine sand like texture and colour, able to be scattered without need for mixing with any foreign matter.[2] Their weight is appoximately 4 pounds (1.8 kg) for adult females and 6 pounds (2.7 kg) for adult males.

Cremation may serve as a funeral or postfuneral rite that is an alternative to the interment of an intact body in a casket. Cremated remains, which are not a health risk, may be buried or immured in memorial sites or cemeteries, or they may be legally retained by relatives or dispersed in a variety of ways and locations.

In many countries cremation is usually done in a crematory but others may prefer different methods. An example is the common practice of open-air cremation in India.


Modern cremation process

The cremation occurs in a crematory (or crematorium), consisting of one or more cremator furnaces or cremation retorts for the ashes. A cremator is an industrial furnace capable of generating temperatures of 870–980 °C (1,598–1,796 °F) to ensure disintegration of the corpse. A crematorium may be part of chapel or a funeral home, or part of an independent facility or a service offered by a cemetery.

Assumption Catholic Cemetery and Crematory in Mississauga, Ontario, with chimney visible

Modern cremator fuels include natural gas and propane. However, coal and coke were used until the early 1960s.

Modern cremators have adjustable control systems that monitor the furnace during cremation. These systems automatically monitor the interior to tell when the cremation process is complete, after which the furnace shuts down automatically. The time required for cremation thus varies from body to body, and in modern furnaces may be as fast as one hour per 45 kilograms (99 lb) of body weight.

A cremation furnace is not designed to cremate more than one body at a time, something that is illegal in many countries, including the U.S. Exceptions are sometimes made in extreme cases, such as of a deceased mother and her still-born child or still-born twins, but in these cases the mother and child must be placed in the same cremation container.

The chamber where the body is placed is called the retort. It is lined with refractory bricks that resist the heat. The bricks are typically replaced every five years because of thermal fatigue.

Modern cremators are computer-controlled to ensure legal and safe use; e.g., the door cannot be opened until the cremator has reached its operating temperature. The coffin or container is inserted (charged) into the retort as quickly as possible to avoid heat loss through the top-opening door. The container may be on a charger (motorised trolley) that can quickly insert the container, or one that can tilt and tip the container into the cremator.

Some crematoria allow relatives to view the charging. This is sometimes done for religious reasons, such as in traditional Hindu and Jain funerals.[3]

Most cremators are a standard size. Typically, larger cities have access to an oversize cremator that can handle deceased in the 200 kilograms (440 lb)+ range. Most large crematoria have a small cremator installed for the cremation of fetal and infant remains.

Body container

In the U.S., a body ready to be cremated must be placed in a container for cremation, which can be a simple corrugated cardboard box or a wooden casket. Most casket manufacturers provide a line of caskets specially built for cremation. Another option is a cardboard box that fits inside a wooden shell designed to look like a traditional casket. After the funeral service, the interior box is removed from the shell before cremation, permitting the shell to be reused. Funeral homes may also offer rental caskets, which are traditional caskets used only for the duration of the services, after which the body is transferred to another container for cremation. Rental caskets are sometimes designed with removable beds and liners, which are replaced after each use.[citation needed]

In the UK, the body is not removed from the coffin and is not placed into a container as described above. The body is cremated with the coffin, which is why all UK coffins that are to be used for cremation must be made of combustible material. The Code of Cremation Practice forbids the opening of the coffin once it has arrived at the crematorium, and rules stipulate it must be cremated within 72 hours of the funeral service.[4] Thus, in the UK, bodies are cremated in the same coffin as they are placed in at the undertaker's although the regulations allow the use of an approved 'cover' during the funeral service.[4] It is recommended that jewellery be removed before the coffin is sealed for this reason. After the cremation process has been completed, the remains are passed through a magnetic field to remove any metal, which will be interred elsewhere in the crematorium grounds, or increasingly, recycled. The ashes are then given to relatives or loved ones or scattered in the Crematorium grounds where facilities exist.[5]

In Australia, the deceased are cremated in a coffin supplied by the undertaker. Reusable or cardboard coffins are becoming popular, with several manufacturers now supplying them. If cost is an issue, a plain, particle-board coffin (known in the trade as a "chippie") will be offered. Handles (if fitted) are plastic and approved for use in a cremator. Coffins vary from natural cardboard or unfinished particle board (covered with a velvet pall if there is a service) to solid timber; most are veneered particle board.[citation needed]

Cremations can be "delivery only," with no preceding chapel service at the crematorium (although a church service may have been held) or preceded by a service in one of the crematorium chapels. Delivery-only allows crematoria to schedule cremations to make best use of the cremators, perhaps by holding the body overnight in a refrigerator. As a result, a lower fee is applicable. Delivery-only may be referred to in industry jargon as "west chapel service."[citation needed]

Burning and ashes collection

burning body in a crematory

The box containing the body is placed in the retort and incinerated at a temperature of 760° to 1150°C (1400° to 2100°F). During the cremation process, a large part of the body (especially the organs) and other soft tissue are vaporized and oxidized because of the heat, and the gases are discharged through the exhaust system. The process usually takes 90 minutes to two hours, with longer times associated with larger bodies, and older furnaces.

What remains after cremation are dry bone fragments, sometimes recognizable as parts of particular bones. Their color is usually light gray.

Jewellery, such as wristwatches and rings, is ordinarily removed before cremation, and returned to the family. The only non-natural item required to be removed is a pacemaker, because it could explode and damage the cremator; the mercury contained in a pacemaker's batteries also poses an unacceptable risk of air pollution. In the United Kingdom, and possibly other countries, the undertaker is required to remove pacemakers prior to delivering the body to the crematorium, and sign a declaration stating that any pacemaker has been removed.[6]

After the incineration is completed, the bone fragments are swept out of the retort and the operator uses a pulverizer called a cremulator[6] to process them into what are known as cremated remains, which exhibit the appearance of grains of sand (note that this varies with the efficiency of the cremulator used, and recognizable chips of very dry bone may be seen in some final product cremated remains, depending on origin and facility). Cremulators usually use some kind of rotating or grinding mechanism to powder the bones, such as the heavy metal balls on older models.[7] See also ball mill. The final grinding process typically takes about 20 minutes.

Bone-picking ceremony at a Japanese funeral

In a Japanese funeral and in Taiwan, the bones are not pulverized unless requested beforehand, and are collected by the family.

The appearance of cremated remains after grinding is one of the reasons they are called ashes, although a non-technical term sometimes used is "cremains",[8][9] a portmanteau of "cremated" and "remains". (The Cremation Association of North America prefers the word "cremains" to not be used for referring to "human cremated remains." The reason given is that "cremains" is though to have less connection with the deceased, whereas a loved one's "cremated remains" has a more identifiable human connection.[10])

After final grinding, the ashes are placed in a container, which can be anything from a simple cardboard box to a decorative urn. The default container used by most crematoriums, when nothing more expensive has been selected, is almost always a hinged snap-locking box of plastic.

An unavoidable consequence of cremation is that a tiny residue of bodily remains is left in the chamber after cremation and mixes with subsequent cremations.

Ash weight and composition

Cremated remains are mostly dry calcium phosphates with some minor minerals, such as salts of sodium and potassium. Sulfur and most carbon is driven off as oxidized gases during the process, although a relatively small amount of carbon as carbonate may remain.

The ash remaining represents very roughly 3.5% of the body's original mass (2.5% in children). Because the weight of dry bone fragments is so closely connected to skeletal mass, their weight varies greatly from person to person. Because many changes in body composition (such as fat and muscle loss or gain) do not affect the weight of cremated remains, their weight can be more closely predicted from the person's height and sex than from their simple weight.

Ashes of adults can be said to weigh from 4 pounds (1.8 kg) to 6 pounds (2.7 kg), but the first figure is roughly the figure for women and the second for men. The mean weight of adult cremated remains in a Florida, U.S. sample was 5.3 lb (approx. 2.4 kg) for adults (range 2 to 8 lb or 0.91 to 3.6 kg). This was found to be distributed bimodally according to sex, with the mean being 6 pounds (2.7 kg) for men (range 4 to 8 lb or 1.8 to 3.6 kg) and 4 pounds (1.8 kg) for women (range 2 to 6 lb or 0.91 to 2.7 kg). In this sample, generally all adult cremated remains over 6 pounds (2.7 kg) were from males, and those under 4 pounds (1.8 kg) were from females.[11].

Not all that remains is bone. There may be melted metal lumps from missed jewellery; casket furniture; dental fillings; and surgical implants, such as hip replacements. Large items such as titanium hip replacements (which tarnish but do not melt) or casket hinges are usually removed before grinding, as they may damage the grinder. (If they are missed at first, they must ultimately be removed before grinding is complete, as items such as titanium joint replacements are far too durable to be ground). Implants may be returned to the family, but are more commonly sold as ferrous/non-ferrous scrap metal. After grinding, smaller bits of metal such as tooth fillings, and rings (commonly known as gleanings) are sieved out and may be later interred in common, consecrated ground in a remote area of the cemetery. They may also be sold as precious metal scrap.

Methods of keeping or disposing of the cremated remains

Cremated remains are returned to the next of kin in a rectangular plastic container, contained within a further cardboard box or velvet sack, or in an urn if the family had already purchased one. An official certificate of cremation prepared under the authority of the crematorium accompanies the remains, and if required by law, the permit for disposition of human remains, which must remain with the cremated remains.

Cremated remains can be kept in an urn, stored in a special memorial building (columbarium), buried in the ground at any location or sprinkled on a special field, mountain, or in the sea. In addition, there are several services in which the cremated remains will be scattered in a variety of ways and locations. Some examples are via a helium balloon, through fireworks, shot from shotgun shells, or scattered from an airplane (this is not illegal in most jurisdictions, in part because laws prohibiting it would be difficult to enforce). One service sends a lipstick-tube sized sample of the cremated remains into low earth orbit, where they remain for years (but not permanently) before re-entering the atmosphere. Another company claims to turn part of the cremated remains into synthetic diamonds that can then be made into jewellery. Cremated remains may also be incorporated, with urn and cement, into part of an artificial reef, or they can also be mixed into paint and made into a portrait of the deceased. Cremated remains can be scattered in national parks in the U.S., with a special permit. They can also be scattered on private property, with the owner's permission. A portion of the cremated remains may be retained in a specially designed locket known as cremation jewellery. The cremated remains may also be entombed. Most cemeteries will grant permission for burial of cremated remains in occupied cemetery plots that have already been purchased or are in use by the families disposing of the cremated remains, without any additional charge or oversight.

The final disposition depends on the personal wishes of the deceased as well as their cultural and religious beliefs. Some religions will permit the cremated remains to be sprinkled or kept at home. Some religions, such as Roman Catholicism, insist on either burying or entombing the remains. Hinduism obliges the closest male relative (son, grandson, etc.) of the deceased to immerse the cremated remains in the holy river Ganges, preferably at the holy city of Triveni Sangam, Allahabad,or Varanasi or Haridwar, India. The Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus immerse the remains in Sutlej, usually at Sri Harkiratpur. In southern India the ashes are immersed in the river Kaveri at Paschima vahini in Srirangapattana at a stretch where the river flows from east to west, Depicting the life of a human being from sunrise to sunset. In Japan and Taiwan, the remaining bone fragments are given to the family and are used in a burial ritual before final interment (see Japanese funeral).

Reasons for choosing cremation

Cremation allows for very economical use of cemetery space.

Apart from religious reasons (discussed below), some people find they prefer cremation for personal reasons. It is because they are not attracted to traditional burial. The thought of a long, slow decomposition process is unappealing to some;[12] many people find that they prefer cremation because it disposes of the body immediately.[13]

Other people view cremation as a way of simplifying their funeral process. These people view a traditional burial as an unneeded complication of their funeral process, and thus choose cremation to make their services as simple as possible.

The cost factor tends to make cremation attractive. Generally speaking, cremation is cheaper than traditional burial services,[13] especially if direct cremation is chosen, in which the body is cremated as soon as legally possible without any sort of services.

Cremated remains can be scattered or buried. Cremation plots or columbarium niches are usually cheaper than a traditional burial plot or mausoleum crypt, and require less space. Some religions, such as Roman Catholicism, require the burial or entombment of cremated remains, but burial of cremated remains may often be accomplished in the burial plot of another person, such as a family member, without any additional cost. It is also very common to scatter the remains in a place which was liked by the deceased such as the sea, a river, a beach or a park, following their last will. This is generally forbidden in public places but very easy to do. Some persons choose to have a small part of their ashes (usually less than 1 part in 1000, because of cost constraints) scattered in space (known as space burial).

Environmental impact

Cremation might be preferable for environmental reasons. Burial is a known source of certain environmental contaminants, with the coffin itself being the major contaminant.[14] Another concern is contamination from radioisotopes that have entered the body before death or burial, although cremation does not seem to be advantageous. For example, one possible source of isotopes is radiation therapy, although no accumulation of radiation occurs in the most common type of radiation therapy involving high energy photons. However, cremation has no effect on radioisotopes other than to return them to the environment more rapidly (beginning with some spread into the air).[15]

Yet another environmental concern, of sorts, is that traditional burial takes up a great deal of space. In a traditional burial, the body is buried in a casket made from a variety of materials. In America, the casket is often placed inside a concrete vault or liner before burial in the ground. While individually this may not take much room, combined with other burials, it can over time cause serious space concerns. Many cemeteries, particularly in Japan[16] and Europe as well as those in larger cities, have run out of permanent space. In Tokyo, for example, traditional burial plots are extremely scarce and expensive,[17] and in London, a space crisis led Harriet Harman to propose reopening old graves for "double-decker" burials.[18]

However, there is a body of research that indicates cremation has a significant impact on the environment as well.[citation needed] The emissions from crematories include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, hydrofluoric acid (HF), hydrochloric acid (HCl) in addition to persistent organic pollutants (POP).

Religious views on cremation

Indian religions

Burning ghats of Manikarnika, at Varanasi, India
Crematorium in Bangkok, Thailand
The funeral pyre for Chan Kusalo at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Burning ghats in Kathmandu, Nepal

The Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism, mandate open-air cremation. In these religions, the body is seen as an instrument to carry the soul. As an example, the Bhagavad Gita. According to Hindu philosophy the human body is a combination of five basic natural elements (Sanskrit — tattva), namely agni (fire), jala (water), vayu (air), prithvi (earth) and akasha (space/aether). When one dies, fire (agni tattva) ceases, and that living form is sent to its original state of creation. Fire (in the form of cremation) is used to complete the fifth element.

According to Hindu traditions, the reasons for preferring to destroy the corpse by fire, over burying it into ground, is to induce a feeling of detachment into the freshly disembodied spirit, which will be helpful to encourage it into passing to "the other world" (the ultimate destination of the dead).[19] Hindus have 16 rituals (Sanskars); i.e. A Hindu undergoes 16 rituals during his lifetime, like Naming ceremony, Thread ceremony: beginning of student life, Marriage, etc., and the last being cremation. Cremation is referred to as antim-samskara, literally meaning "the last rites." At the time of the cremation or "last rites," a "Puja" (ritual worship) is performed. Hindus believe that the cremation ceremony is not just a disposal of the dead body, but the union of Atma (Soul) with the Paramatma (The universal spirit). The holy text of Rigveda, one of the oldest Hindu scriptures, has many Ruchas (small poems) related to cremation, which state that Lord Agni (God of Fire) will purify the dead body, also known as the Parthiv. Therefore, the Parthiv is given over to him.


Balinese Hinduism is widely divergent from the Indian Hindu orthodoxy. As such, most practices of the Indian Hindu "mainstream" are ignored and abandoned, especially regarding the use of butter. Balinese Hindu dead are generally buried for a period of time, which may exceed one month or more, so that the cremation can occur on an auspicious day in the Balinese-Javanese Calendar system ("Saka"). Additionally, if the departed was a court servant, member of the court or minor noble, the cremation can be postponed up to several years to coincide with the cremation of their Prince. The purpose of burying the corpse is for the decay process to consume the fluids of the corpse, which allows for an easier, more rapid and more complete cremation.


In Christian countries and cultures, cremation has historically been discouraged, but now in many denominations it is accepted.

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church's discouragement of cremation stemmed from several ideas: first, that the body, as the instrument through which the sacraments are received, is itself a sacramental, holy object;[20] second, that as an integral part of the human person,[21] it should be disposed of in a way that honours and reverences it, and many early practices involved with disposal of dead bodies were viewed as pagan in origin or an insult to the body;[22] third, that in imitation of Jesus Christ's burial, the body of a Christian should be buried; and fourth, that it constituted a denial of the resurrection of the body.[23] Cremation was forbidden because it might interfere with God's ability to resurrect the body, however; this was refuted as early as Minucius Felix, in his dialogue Octavius.[24]

Cremation was, in fact, not forbidden in and of itself; even in Medieval Europe, cremation was practised in situations where there were multitudes of corpses simultaneously present, such as after a battle, after a pestilence or famine, and where there was an imminent fear of diseases spreading from the corpses, since individual burials with digging graves would take too long and body decomposition would begin before all the corpses had been interred.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, and even more so in the 18th century and later, rationalists and classicists began to advocate cremation again as a statement denying the resurrection and/or the afterlife,[25] although the pro-cremation movement more often than not took care to address and refute theological concerns about cremation in their works.[26] Sentiment within the Catholic Church against cremation became hardened in the face of the association of cremation with "professed enemies of God."[26] Rules were made against cremation,[27] which were softened in the 1960s.[23] The Catholic Church still officially prefers the traditional burial or entombment of the deceased,[28] but cremation is now permitted as long as it is not done to express a refusal to believe in the resurrection of the body.[29] Some Catholic priests, particularly those sufficiently traditionalist to offer the Latin Mass, remain wholly opposed to cremation. Other Catholic priests will countenance it if the deceased's relatives specifically wish it to occur.

Current[30] Catholic liturgical regulations requires that, if requested by the family of the deceased, the cremation must not take place until after the funeral Mass. This way the body may be present for the Mass so that it, symbolizing the person, may receive blessings, be the subject of prayers in which it is mentioned, and since the body's presence "better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those (funeral) rites (or Mass)."[31] Once the Mass itself is concluded, the body could be cremated and a second service could be held at the crematorium or cemetery where the cremated remains are to be interred just as for a body burial.

Although "The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites,...Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the body to be present for the Funeral Mass. When extraordinary circumstances (emphasis added) make the cremation of a body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised...."[32] In other words, cremation is discouraged and Funeral Masses with cremated remains present should be kept rare and only permitted if cremation prior to the Church service is absolutely unavoidable.

In 1997 the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments granted an indult to allow for "...the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy, including Mass, in the presence of the cremated remains[33] being made less rare, although still not preferred, in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America. In order for it to be allowed certain qualifications must be met. These qualifications include: 1) the cremation has not be inspired by motives contrary to Christian teaching such as respect for the body or the resurrection of the body.[29] 2) the local "...bishop (judges) it is pastorally appropriate to celebrate the liturgy for the dead, with or without Mass, with the ashes present, taking into account the concrete circumstances in each individual case, and in harmony with the spirit and precise content of the current canonical and liturgical norms."[34] In other words, in the USA there is no guarantee that in every case of a cremation prior to the Church service taking place will receive a Funeral Mass. This indult does not mention other rites, dioceses, or nations.

When a Funeral Liturgy is to be celebrated with the cremated remains present they must be in worthy vessel and placed on small prepared table or stand located in the space normally occupied by the coffin.[35] The usual funeral prayers and practices are to be adapted suit the occasion, for example prayers which explicitly refer to the body present under normal circumstances would need to be changed.

Regardless of the location and Funeral Liturgy, or lack thereof, the Church still specifies requirements for the reverent disposition of ashes, normally that the ashes are to be buried or entombed in an appropriate container, such as an urn (rather than scattered or preserved in the family home). Catholic cemeteries today regularly receive cremated remains, and many have columbaria.


Protestant churches were much more welcoming of the use of cremation and at a much earlier date than the Catholic Church; pro-cremation sentiment was not unanimous among Protestants, however.[36] The first crematoria in the Protestant countries were built in 1870s, and in 1908, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey—one of the most famous Anglican churches—required that remains be cremated for burial in the abbey's precincts.[37] Scattering, or "strewing," is an acceptable practice in many Protestant denominations, and some churches have their own "garden of remembrance" on their grounds in which remains can be scattered. Other groups also support cremation. These include Jehovah's Witnesses[38] and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Eastern Orthodox and others who forbid cremation

On the other hand, some branches of Christianity oppose cremation, including some minority Protestant groups and Orthodox.[39] Most notably, the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches forbid cremation. Exceptions are made for circumstances where it may not be avoided (when civil authority demands it, or epidemics) or if it may be sought for good cause, but when a cremation is willfully chosen for no good cause by the one who is deceased, he or she is not permitted a funeral in the church and may also be permanently excluded from liturgical prayers for the departed. In Orthodoxy, cremation is a rejection of the dogma of the general resurrection, and as such is viewed harshly.[40][41]


In past decades, leaders of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) have said that cremation is discouraged but not expressly forbidden. In the 1950s, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie[42] wrote that "only under the most extraordinary and unusual circumstances" would cremation be consistent with LDS teachings. More recent LDS publications have provided instructions for how to dress the deceased when they have received their temple endowments (and thus wear temple garments) prior to cremation for those wishing to do so, or in countries where the law requires cremation.[43]

Minister Roger R. Keller has stated "In the end, however, we should remember that the resurrection will take place by the power of God, who created the heavens and the earth. Ultimately, whether a person’s body was buried at sea, destroyed in combat or an accident, intentionally cremated, or buried in a grave, the person will be resurrected."[44]


Cremation is disapproved of by Islam, which has specific rites for the treatment of the body after death.


Judaism traditionally disapproved of cremation in the past (it was the traditional means of disposing the dead in the neighboring Bronze Age cultures). It has also disapproved of preservation of the dead by means of embalming and mummifying,[45][46] a practice of the ancient Egyptians. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, as the Jewish cemeteries in many European towns had become crowded and were running out of space, cremation became an approved means of corpse disposal amongst the Liberal Jews. Current liberal movements like Reform Judaism still support cremation, although burial remains the preferred option.[12][47]

The Orthodox Jews have maintained a stricter line on cremation, and disapprove of it as Halakha (Jewish law) forbids it. This halakhic concern is grounded in the upholding of bodily resurrection as a core belief of traditional Judaism, as opposed to other ancient trends such as the Sadduccees, who denied it. Conservative Jewish groups also oppose cremation.[48][49]

Some secular Jews may reject cremation perhaps in reaction to The Holocaust, in which the Jewish victims of Nazi genocide were disposed of by cremation at the death camps. At many former Nazi death camps, mounds of ashes are present beneath a shallow layer of dirt.

In Israel there were no formal crematories until 2007 when B&L Cremation Systems Inc. became the first crematory manufacturer to sell a retort to Israel. In August 2007, the predominantly orthodox ZAKA members in Israel were accused of burning down a secret crematorium.[50] ZAKA spokespersons denied any involvement, but its founder, Yehuda Meshi Zahav, applauded the act of arson, calling the existence of the crematorium a "desecration of the dead" and that the crematorium was "destined to disappear in flames".[50]


Traditionally, Zoroastrianism disavows cremation or burial to preclude pollution of fire or earth. The traditional method of corpse disposal is through ritual exposure in a "Tower of Silence," but both burial and cremation are increasingly popular alternatives. Some contemporary figures of the faith have opted for cremation. Parsi-Zoroastrian singer Freddie Mercury of the group Queen was cremated after his death.

Religions that permit cremation

Ásatrú, Buddhism, Christianity (containing Church of Ireland, Church in Wales, United Church of Canada, Lutheranism, Methodism, Moravian Church, Salvation Army, Scottish Episcopal Church, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses), Hinduism (mandatory except for sanyasis, eunuchs and children under five), Jainism, Shinto, Sikhs, Society of Friends (Quakers), Scientology , and Unitarian Universalism all permit cremation.

Other religions that forbid cremation

The Bahá'í Faith forbids cremation, except when required by law. Neo-Confucianism under Zhu Xi strongly discourages cremation of one's parents' corpses as unfilial. In Egyptian Reconstructionism, it is believed the Ka will be killed with cremation, but it is not forbidden—and during ancient times, was a practice of disposing of criminals who were executed in order for them to be deprived of an afterlife. Islamic law also forbids cremation.



Bronze container of ancient cremated human remains, complete with votive offering

Cremation dates to at least 20,000 years ago in the archaeological record with the Mungo Lady, the remains of a partly cremated body found at Mungo Lake, Australia.

Alternative death rituals emphasizing one method of disposal of a body—inhumation (burial), cremation, and exposure—have gone through periods of preference throughout history.

In the Middle East and Europe, both burial and cremation are evident in the archaeological record in the Neolithic. Cultural groups had their own preference and prohibitions. The ancient Egyptians developed an intricate transmigration of soul theology, which prohibited cremation, and this was adopted widely among other Semitic peoples. The Babylonians, according to Herodotus, embalmed their dead. Early Persians practiced cremation, but this became prohibited during the Zoroastrian Period. Phoenicians practiced both cremation and burial. From the Cycladic civilisation in 3000 BC until the Sub-Mycenaean era in 1200–1100 B.C., Greeks practiced inhumation. Cremation appearing around the 12th century B.C. constitutes a new practice of burial and is probably an influence from Minor Asia. Until the Christian era, when the inhumation becomes again the only burial practice, both combustion and inhumation had been practiced depending on the era, and area.[51] Romans practiced both, with cremation generally associated with military honours.

In Europe, there are traces of cremation dating to the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2000 B.C.) in the Pannonian Plain and along the middle Danube. The custom becomes dominant throughout Bronze Age Europe with the Urnfield culture (from ca. 1300 B.C.). In the Iron Age, inhumation becomes again more common, but cremation persisted in the Villanovan culture and elsewhere. Homer's account of Patroclus' burial describes cremation with subsequent burial in a tumulus similar to Urnfield burials, qualifying as the earliest description of cremation rites. This is mostly an anachronism, as during Mycenaean times burial was generally preferred, and Homer may have been reflecting more common use of cremation in the period in which the Iliad was written centuries later.

Criticism of burial rites is a common aspersion in competing religions and cultures, and one is the association of cremation with fire sacrifice or human sacrifice.

Hinduism and Jainism are notable for not only allowing but prescribing cremation. Cremation in India is first attested in the Cemetery H culture (from ca. 1900 B.C.), considered the formative stage of Vedic civilization. The Rigveda contains a reference to the emerging practice, in RV 10.15.14, where the forefathers "both cremated (agnidagdhá-) and uncremated (ánagnidagdha-)" are invoked.

Cremation remained common, but not universal, in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. According to Cicero, in Rome, inhumation was considered the more archaic rite, while the most honoured citizens were most typically cremated—especially upper classes and members of imperial families.

Christianity frowned upon cremation, both influenced by the tenets of Judaism, and in an attempt to abolish Graeco-Roman pagan rituals. By the 5th century, the practice of cremation had practically disappeared from Europe.

In early Roman Britain, cremation was usual but diminished by the fourth century. It then reappeared in the fifth and sixth centuries during the migration era, when sacrificed animals were sometimes included with the human bodies on the pyre, and the deceased were dressed in costume and with ornaments for the burning. That custom was also very widespread among the Germanic peoples of the northern continental lands from which the Anglo-Saxon migrants are supposed to have been derived, during the same period. These ashes were usually thereafter deposited in a vessel of clay or bronze in an "urn cemetery." The custom again died out with the Christian conversion among the Anglo-Saxons or Early English during the seventh century, when inhumation of the corpse became general.[52]

In the Middle Ages

Throughout parts of Europe, cremation was forbidden by law, and even punishable by death if combined with Heathen rites.[53] Cremation was sometimes used by authorities as part of punishment for heretics, and this did not only include burning at the stake. For example, the body of John Wycliff was exhumed years after his death and cremated, with the ashes thrown in a river,[54] explicitly as a posthumous punishment for his denial of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.[55] On the other hand, mass cremations were often performed out of fear[56] of contagious diseases, such as after a battle, pestilence, or famine. Retributory cremation continued into modern times. For example, after World War II, the bodies of the 12 men convicted of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials were not returned to their families, but were instead cremated, then disposed of at a secret location as a specific part of a legal process intended to deny their use as a location for any sort of memorial.[57] In Japan, however, erection of a memorial building for many executed war criminals, who were also cremated, was allowed for their remains.[58]

The modern era

In 1873, Paduan Professor Brunetti presented a cremation chamber at the Vienna Exposition. In Britain, the movement found the support of Queen Victoria's surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson, who together with colleagues founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874. The first crematoria in Europe were built in 1878 in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany, the first in North America in 1876 by Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne in Washington, Pennsylvania.[59][60] The second cremation in the United States was that of Charles F. Winslow in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 31, 1877. The first cremation in Britain took place on 26 March 1886 at Woking.[61]

Cremation was declared as legal in England and Wales when Dr. William Price was unsuccessfully prosecuted for cremating his son;[62] formal legislation followed later with the passing of the Cremation Act of 1902 (this Act did not extend to Ireland), which imposed procedural requirements before a cremation could occur and restricted the practice to authorised places.[63] In 1885 the first official cremation took place at Woking. Ten cremations then took place in 1886. In 1892 a crematorium opened in Manchester, followed by one in Glasgow in 1895 and one in Liverpool in 1896.

Some of the various Protestant churches came to accept cremation, with the rationale being, "God can resurrect a bowl of ashes just as conveniently as he can resurrect a bowl of dust." The 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia was critical about these efforts, referring to them as a "sinister movement" and associating them with Freemasonry, although it said that "there is nothing directly opposed to any dogma of the Church in the practice of cremation."[64] In 1963, Pope Paul VI lifted the ban on cremation,[23] and in 1966 allowed Catholic priests to officiate at cremation ceremonies.

Australia also started to establish modern cremation movements and societies. Australians had their first purpose-built modern crematorium and chapel in the West Terrace Cemetery in the South Australian capital of Adelaide in 1901. This small building, resembling the buildings at Woking, remained largely unchanged from its 19th century style and was in full operation until the late 1950s. The oldest operating crematorium in Australia is at Rookwood Cemetery, in Sydney. It opened in 1925.

In the Netherlands, the foundation of the Association for Optional Cremation[65] in 1874 ushered in a long debate about the merits and demerits of cremation. Laws against cremation were challenged and invalidated in 1915 (two years after the construction of the first crematorium in the Netherlands), though cremation did not become legally recognised until 1955.[66]

New Technology

The technology in crematories has improved a lot over the years. Dr. Steve Looker owner and CEO of B&L Cremation Systems Inc. invented a new system called the "Hot Hearth" in the early 1980s. This systems allows the hearth or the base of the machine to heat up from the hot gases running underneath the hearth. This allows the machine to maintain higher temperature which saves gas and reduces the impact on the environment. Dr. Looker also introduced many other new ideas to the cremation industry. He came up with the design for a separate remains removal door, located on the side of the unit. This enables the operator to push the remains to the rear of the chamber and remove the remains there. By doing this the heat loss is reduced in the machine and therefore saves energy. Crematories used to run on timers (some still do) and one would have to figure out the weight of the body, then figure out how long the body has to be cremated and then set multiple timers. Now there are crematories that are fully automated with PLC (Programmable logic controller) touchscreens, where the weight and the name of the deceased have to be entered before a 'start'-button is pressed.

Negative experiences with cremation in recent history

World War II

In addition to the atrocity of mass murder, the remains of Jews were thus disposed of by the Nazis in a manner deeply offensive to Orthodox Judaism, because Halakha, the Jewish law, forbids cremation and additionally holds that it is painful to the soul of a cremated person. This is because the soul of recently dead person is not fully aware that they died, and they experience seeing their body burnt (this is also one of the reasons autopsies are forbidden under normal circumstances). In a normal burial, as the body decays, slowly the soul moves "farther" from it. Since then, cremation has carried an extremely negative connotation for many Jews.

The Tri-State Crematory Incident

A recent controversial event, known as the Tri-State Crematory Incident, involved the failure to cremate. In early 2002, in the state of Georgia in the United States, 334 corpses that were supposed to have been cremated in the previous few years at the Tri-State Crematory were found intact and decaying on the crematorium's grounds, having been dumped there by the crematorium's proprietor. Many of the corpses were beyond identification. In many cases, the "ashes" that were returned to the family were not human remains; they were made of wood and concrete dust.

Eventually Ray Brent Marsh—who was the operator at the time the bodies were discovered—had 787 criminal charges filed against him. On November 19, 2004, Marsh pleaded guilty to all charges. Marsh was sentenced to two 12-year prison sentences from both Georgia and Tennessee, which he is serving concurrently. Afterwards, he will be on probation for 75 years.

Civil suits were filed against the Marsh family as well as a number of funeral homes who shipped bodies to Tri-State; these suits were ultimately settled. The property of the Marsh family has been sold, but collection of the full $80-million judgment remains doubtful. Families have expressed the desire to return the former Tri-State crematory to a natural, parklike setting.

The Indian Ocean tsunamis

The magnitude 9.0–9.3 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake triggered a series of lethal tsunamis on December 26, 2004 that killed almost 300,000 people, making them the deadliest tsunamis in recorded history. The tsunamis killed people over an area ranging from the immediate vicinity of the quake in Indonesia, Thailand, and the northwestern coast of Malaysia, to thousands of kilometers away in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and even as far as Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania in eastern Africa.

Authorities had difficulties dealing with the large numbers of bodies, and as a result, thousands of bodies were cremated together out of fear that decaying bodies would be a vector for disease. Many of these bodies were not identified or viewed by relatives prior to cremation. A particular point of objection was that the bodies of Westerners were kept separate from those of Asian descent, who were mostly locals. This meant that the bodies of tourists from other Asian nations, such as Japan and Korea, were mass cremated, rather than being returned to their country of origin for funeral rites.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Matthews Cremation Division (2006). Cremation Equipment Operator Training Program. pp. 1. 
  2. ^ "Pulverizer for Cremated Remains". November 11, 1986. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  3. ^ Carlson, Lisa (1997). Caring for the Dead. Upper Access, Inc.. p. 78. ISBN 0-942-679-210. 
  4. ^ a b retrieved 26 November 2009
  5. ^ retrieved 26 November 2009
  6. ^ a b In the Netherlands this is also done by either the undertaker or the hospital where the person died. Green, Jennifer; Green, Michael (2006). Dealing With Death: Practices and Procedures. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. pp. 112. ISBN 1-843-103-818. 
  7. ^ Davies, Douglas J.; Mates, Lewis H. (2005). "Cremulation". Encyclopedia of Cremation. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 152. ISBN 0-754-637-735. 
  8. ^ Carlson, p. 80
  9. ^ Sublette, Kathleen; Flagg, Martin (1992). Final Celebrations: A Guide for Personal and Family Funeral Planning. Pathfinder Publishing. pp. 52. ISBN 0-934-793-433. 
  10. ^ "Cremation Association of North America - Who is CANA?". 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  11. ^ Warren, M; Maples, W (1997). "The anthropometry of contemporary commercial cremation". Journal of Forensic Science 42 (3): 417–423. PMID 9144931. 
  12. ^ a b Aiken, Lewis R. (2000). Dying, Death, and Bereavement. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 131. ISBN 0-805-835-040. 
  13. ^ a b Sublette & Flagg, p. 53
  14. ^ Spongberg, Alison L.; Becks, Paul M. (January 2000). "Inorganic Soil Contamination from Cemetery Leachate". Water, Air, & Soil Pollution 117 (1-4): 313–327. doi:10.1023/A:1005186919370. ISSN 0049-6979. 
  15. ^ Reinhard, Urban (2002). "Umweltbelastung, Bodenkontamination und Gesundheitsgefährdung bei Erdbestattung?" (in German). Wasser und Boden 54 (11): 25–30. ISSN 0043-0951. 
  16. ^ Shimizu, Louise Picon; Maruyama, Meredith Enman; Tsurumaki, Nancy Smith (1998). Japan Health Handbook. Kodansha International. pp. 335. ISBN 4-770-023-561. "Not only is cremation of the body and internment of the ashes in an urn a long-standing Buddhist practice, it is also a highly practical idea today, given the scarcity of burial space in crowded modern Japan." 
  17. ^ Furse, Raymond (2002). Japan: An Invitation. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 73. ISBN 0-804-833-192. "[L]and prices so high that a burial plot in Tokyo a mere 21 feet square could easily cost $150,000." 
  18. ^ Land, John (2006-05-30). "Double burials in UK cemeteries to solve space shortage". Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  19. ^ Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2001). Living With Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Culture. Himalayan Academy. p. 750. ISBN 0-945-497-989. 
  20. ^ Davies & Mates, "Cremation, Death and Roman Catholicism", p. 107
  21. ^ St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, specifically rejected the notion that the human person is merely the soul "trapped" in a body. Robert Pasnau, in the introduction to his translation of Summa Theologiae, says that Aquinas is "quite clear in rejecting the sort of substance dualism proposed by Plato [...] which goes so far as to identify human beings with their souls alone, as if the body were a kind of clothing that we put on," and that Aquinas believed that "we are a composite of soul and body, that a soul all by itself would not be a human being." See Aquinas, St. Thomas (2002). Summa Theologiae 1a, 75-89. trans. Pasnau. Hackett Publishing. p. xvii. ISBN 0-872-206-130. 
  22. ^ Prothero, Stephen (2002). Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America. University of California Press. p. 73–74. ISBN 0-520-236-882. "To the traditionalists, cremation originated among "heathens" and "pagans" and was therefore anti-Christian[.]" 
  23. ^ a b c Kohmescher, Matthew F. (1999). Catholicism Today: A Survey of Catholic Belief and Practice. Paulist Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-809-138-735. 
  24. ^ In which he said, "Every body, whether it is dried up into dust, or is dissolved into moisture, or is compressed into ashes, or is attenuated into smoke, is withdrawn from us, but it is reserved for God in the custody of the elements. Nor, as you believe, do we fear any loss from sepulture, but we adopt the ancient and better custom of burying in the earth.". The full text of Octavius is available online from See also Davies & Mates, p. 107-108.
  25. ^ Prothero, p. 74-75
  26. ^ a b Prothero, p. 74.
  27. ^ "The 1917 Code of Canon Law forbade the practice, and this prohibition continued until 1963.""Cremation". Immaculate Heart of Mary's Hermitage. 
  28. ^ Davies & Mates, "Cremation, Death and Roman Catholicism", p. 109
  29. ^ a b See Article 2301 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  30. ^ Contribution to article made December 2008 based on research involving slightly older, yet still current, Vatican instructions.
  31. ^ "Liturgical Norms on Cremation" by the Congregation for Divine Worship: Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix 2, "Cremation," article #413
  32. ^ "Liturgical Norms on Cremation" by the Congregation for Divine Worship: Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix 2, "Cremation," articles #413 and #415
  33. ^ "Liturgical Norms on Cremation" by the Congregation for Divine Worship: Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix 2, "Cremation," article #426
  34. ^ "Liturgical Norms on Cremation" by the Congregation for Divine Worship: Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix 2, "Cremation," articles #426a and #426b
  35. ^ "Liturgical Norms on Cremation" by the Congregation for Divine Worship: Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix 2, "Cremation," article #427 and #415
  36. ^ Prothero, p. 77.
  37. ^ Davies & Mates, "Westminster Abbey", p. 423.
  38. ^ van Gent, Jacob. "Religious Needs of Patients in Sickness Dying and Death". Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
  39. ^ Cloud, David. "CREMATION: What does God think?". Way of Life Literature. Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  40. ^ "On Cremation". Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  41. ^ Grabbe, Protopresbyter George. "Cremation". Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  42. ^ McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine, A Compendium of the Gospel, 1958
  43. ^ Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1 (2006). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pp 81,183-84.
  44. ^ Roger R. Keller, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, August 1991, 62–63
  45. ^ Schulweis, Harold M.. "SHAILOS & TSUVAS: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS". Retrieved 2007-02-21. "Judaism is a tradition which affirms life. It has struggled from its inception against concentration on death and the deification of the human being as exemplified in the Egyptian concern with mummification and the preservation of the body after death." 
  46. ^ Bleich, J. David (2002). Judaism and Healing: Halakhic Perspectives. KTAV Publishing House. pp. 219. ISBN 0-881-257-419. 
  47. ^ Rothschild, Rabbi Walter. "Cremation". Retrieved 2007-02-03. "[W]e have no ideological conflict with the custom which is now popularly accepted by many as clean and appropriate to modern conditions." 
  48. ^ Shapiro, Rabbi Morris M., Binder, Rabbi Robert (ed.) (1986). "Cremation in the Jewish Tradition". The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. "The subsequent weight of opinion is against cremation and there is no convincing reason why we should deviate from the sacred established method of burial." 
  49. ^ Rabow, Jerome A.. A Guide to Jewish Mourning and Condolence. Valley Beth Shalom. Retrieved 2006-02-03. "It should be emphasized that cremation is un-questionably unacceptable to Conservative Judaism. The process of cremation would substitute an artificial and "instant" destruction for the natural process of decay and would have the disposition of the remains subject to manipulation by the survivors rather than submit to the universal processes of nature." 
  50. ^ a b "'Arson' at Tel Aviv crematorium". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  51. ^ Ταφικά Έθιμα (Greek)
  52. ^ S.J. Plunkett, Suffolk in Anglo-Saxon Times, 1-62.
  53. ^ von Döllinger, Johann Joseph Ignaz (1841). A History of the Church. C. Dolman and T. Jomes. pp. 9. "The punishment of death was inflicted on the refusal of baptism, on the heathen practice of burning the dead, and on the violation of the days of fasting[...]" 
  54. ^ Peach, Howard (2003). Curious Tales of Old North Yorkshire. Sigma Leisure. pp. 98. ISBN 1-850-587-930. 
  55. ^ Schmidt, Dr. Alvin J. (2004). How Christianity Changed the World. Zondervan. pp. 261. ISBN 0-310-264-499. 
  56. ^
  57. ^ Matus, Victor. "On the Disposal of Dictators". Policy Review (134). Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  58. ^ "Where war criminals are venerated". Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  59. ^ "The LeMoyne Crematory". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  60. ^ "An Unceremonious Rite; Cremation of Mrs. Ben Pitman". New York Times. 1879-02-16. Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  61. ^ The History Channel. "26 March - This day in history". Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  62. ^ Harris, Tim (2002-09-16). "Druid doc with a bee in his bonnet". Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  63. ^ "Cremation Act, 1902". Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  64. ^ "Cremation". Catholic Encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia Press. "In conclusion, it must be remembered that there is nothing directly opposed to any dogma of the Church in the practice of cremation, and that, if ever the leaders of this sinister movement so far control the governments of the world as to make this custom universal, it would not be a lapse in the faith confided to her were she obliged to conform.". 
  65. ^ Dutch, Vereniging voor Facultatieve Lijkverbranding
  66. ^ Groenendijk, Paul; Vollaard, Piet (2006). Architectuurgids Nederland. 010 Publishers. pp. 213. ISBN 9-064-505-73X. 

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—Biblical Data:

The act of burning the dead. Cremation was not the prevailing custom among the ancient Hebrews, as it was among other contemporary nations (see J. Grimm, "Kleine Schriften," ii. 226). It was, however, not unknown to them, and was occasionally practised. The Pentateuch prescribes burning as the punishment in certain cases of unchastity (Lev 20:14, xxi. 9; Gen 38:24). In Josh 7:15, 25, and perhaps 1 Kg 13:2, and 2Kg 23:20, the burning of the corpse is added to the death penalty. From this it may be concluded that the burning of the human body was looked upon with horror. In exceptional circumstances—for instance, in the case of an epidemic—cremation may have been resorted to. This at least is inferred from Amos 6:10. From the unusual word there employed (missing hebrew text) , held to be a dialectic variant for (missing hebrew text) , many have concluded that in Amos' time cremation was far from being repugnant to the feelings of the people, and the care that the body should be properly burned became a sacred duty, devolving upon the nearest of kin—in the passage quoted, upon the uncle or the mother's brother, who therefore was designated as the (missing hebrew text) (see Ḳimḥi's Com. ad loc., and his (missing hebrew text) , s.v. (missing hebrew text) ).

However, the evidence in support of this contention is very weak, (missing hebrew text) probably meaning the maternal uncle without reference to an assumed obligation to direct the process of incinerating the bodies of his kinsfolk. Amos 6:10 does not necessarily imply that the "bones of the dead" about to be removed from the house were burned. In a Karaite document by Jephet ben Ali (Felsenthal, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 133 et seq.), (missing hebrew text) occurs as "maternal uncle." Ibn Ezra, ad loc., quotes Ibn Ḳuraish as authority for the meaning "maternal uncle," saying that it is unsupported; Abu al-Walid, in "Kitab al-Uṣul," ed. Neubauer, p. 494, mentions this meaning. The passage in Jer 34:5 has nothing to do with cremation. A. V. renders it "so shall they burn odors for thee," a rendering accepted by Graf ("Der Prophet Jeremias," Leipsic, 1862) and Giesebrecht ("Der Prophet Jeremiah," in "Kurz. Hand-Comment. zum A. T." Göttingen, 1894). Nor can 1Sam 31:12 be interpreted to imply that the corpses of kings were cremated, and that this constituted one of the royal prerogatives. It is far more likely that in order to guard the bodies from insult on the part of the Philistines, the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead burned them, and for this received praise.

To the author of Chronicles the cremation of royal remains appeared so offensive that he changed itinto a regular burial (1Chr 10:12). He states the occurrences as follows: "And [they] laid him [King Asa] in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art; and they made a very great burning for him" (2Chr 16:14). "And his people made no burning for him [King Jehoram] like the burning of his fathers" ("2Chr 21:19).

The custom of making "a very great burning" at the funeral of great men continued for several centuries. The Talmud ('Ab. Zarah 11a) records that at the funeral of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder (c. 117 C.E.) Aquilas, the proselyte, made "a very great burning."

—In Talmudic Literature:

No mention is made of cremation in Talmudical literature. Both Oh. ii. 2, where the question is discussed whether the ashes of those who were burned are to be considered clean or unclean, and Niddah 27b, where a similar question is raised in regard to a burned corpse, the skeleton of which has been preserved, refer to cases of accidental burning. The Tosafot Ta'an. 15b, s.v. (missing hebrew text) , and 16a, s.v. (missing hebrew text) , are of the opinion that the ashes strewn on the reading-desk and on the heads of all that attended the service on fast-days were those of burned human bones. But (missing hebrew text) does not signify the ashes of burned bodies, but the ashes of the hearth. Nor does the Talmud contain any suggestion that cremation was once practised by the ancient Hebrews.

—In Modern Times:

The question whether, from the point of view of Jewish law, cremation may be allowed, has been extensively discussed in modern times. It is generally agreed that there is no express law to be found in the Bible demanding the burial of the human body; and though the Shulḥan 'Aruk (Yoreh De'ah, 362) contains the statement "Burial in the earth is a positive command," a position assumed also by Maimonides ("Sefer ha-Miẓwot," p. 261), this command is merely deduced from (missing hebrew text) ("Thou shalt surely bury him") in Deuteronomy (xxi. 23; compare Sanh. 46b). It seems uncertain whether it was ever a custom in early times to burn the bodies of kings and nobles. Referring to such a burning, the Mishnah ('Ab. Zarah i. 3) says, "Every death which is accompanied by burning is looked upon as idolatry"; and the fact that Saul's body was burned (1Sam 31:12) is said to have been the cause of the three years' hunger at the time of David (Yeb. 78b; Rashi to 2 Sam 21:1). Funeral pyres of costly clothes and other articles, to which reference is made (Tosef., ed. Zuckermandel, 119, 3, and parallels) in the case of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, were also not unknown in Hasmonean times (Josephus, "Ant." xv. 3, § 4). According to the Shulḥan 'Aruk (348, 1) this is expressly forbidden in the case of ordinary people. Yom-Ṭob Lipmann Heller even tries to prove that the cases of burning mentioned in the Bible are to be explained as "embalming," by means of which all but the bones was destroyed (Tosafot to Pesaḥim, iv. 9).

On the other hand, it has been asserted by some authorities that burial is merely a custom ("minhag"), and that no serious objection can be brought against cremation. In proof of this the following citation has been adduced from Midr. Wayasha' (Jellinek, "Bet ha-Midrash," i. 37): "Isaac begged his father on Mount Moriah: 'Burn me completely, and bring my ashes to my mother that she place them in an urn in her own room, and that whenever she enters the room she may remember me with tears.'" The same idea is referred to in a number of liturgical pieces. It is further asserted that (missing hebrew text) can not be construed as opposed to some other form of disposing of the dead, since it simply means that a Jew should be careful so to dispose of the dead as to bring the body as quickly as possible into contact with mother earth. Many authorities went so far as to permit calcium to be strewn over the body in the grave, in order to hasten the process of decomposition (Solomon b. Adret, Responsum No. 369; Moses Isserles to Yoreh De'ah, 363, 2). This custom became general among the Portuguese Jews. On dogmatic grounds, it is further asserted, no opposition can be entertained against cremation (Maimonides, "Yad," Teshubah, viii. 2, 3); and Joseph Albo ("'Iḳḳarim," iv. 30) criticizes Abraham ibn Daud and Naḥmanides for opposing the practise. Some Italian cabalists were opposed to cremation on the ground that according to their system the soul was supposed to go from the house of the deceased to the grave and back again during the seven days following death "Il Vessillo Israelitico," xxx. 105).

Recent Declarations.

Orthodox Jewish authorities have as a rule opposed cremation on the ground that it is not in consonance with the spirit and traditions of Judaism. The Italian rabbinate made a declaration in this sense (ib. xxiii. 12). Zadok Kahn, grand rabbi of France, has decided that in the case of cremation the religious ceremony should precede incineration; that the rabbi should then retire and not be present during the act of cremation; and that the "Hashkabah" should be recited at the home. Herman Adler, chief rabbi of Great Britain, considers cremation a violation of Jewish law and custom; but he permits the "Lewayah" at the burying of the remains (ib. xliii. 394). The late haham of the Portuguese community in London, B. Artom, preached Nov. 7, 1874, a sermon on cremation, in which he asserted that it was opposed to the spirit and history of Judaism ("Jewish World," June 15, 1874; compare "Il Vessillo," xxiv. 294, 327). This position was also maintained by J. Hildesheimer in Berlin, Kohen in Inowrazlaw, and others. But Moses Israel Tedeschi, rabbi of Triest, published a responsum in 1890 in which he not only tried to prove that cremation was not opposed to the spirit of Judaism, but asked that at his death his own body should be disposed of in this way ("Monatsschrift," 1890, pp. 149, 153). In 1895 the rabbis of Württemberg declared cremation contrary to Jewish law because that law, with rare exceptions, forbids us to mutilate a corpse (see "Rev. Et. Juives," xxxii. 276).

One of the foremost advocates of cremation was Rabbi A. Wiener of Oppeln, who not only contributed articles to the "Flamme," but also became a member of the Gesellschaft für Feuerbestaltung. In 1892 the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolved"that in case we should be invited to officiate as ministers of religion at the cremation of a departed coreligionist, we ought not to refuse on the plea that cremation is anti-Jewish or irreligious" ("Year Book," 1892, p. 43).

Bibliography: Küchenmeister, Die Todtenbestattungen der Bibel und die Feuerbestattung, Stuttgart, 1893; Perles, Die Leichenverbrennung in den Alten Bibelversionen, in Monatsschrift, xviii. 76; Hamburger, Realencyclopädie des Judenthums, iii., Supplement, iii. 38 et seq.; S. A. Weissmann, (missing hebrew text) , in Ha-Boḳer Or, 1877, ii., iii.; El Educatore, xxii. 139, 292; Il Vcssillo Israelitico, xxx. 105, xliii. 493; Rahmer, in Jüdisches Litteraturblatt, 1879, p. 37; 1886, p. 32; 1887, pp. 127 et seq.; Die Moderne Reform und die Todten Verbrennung, in Israélit, 1887, p. 861; Stössel, in Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1894, Nos. 32, 33; Wiener, ib. No. 38, and in Die Flamme, 1885, No. 19; Israel. Wochenschrift, 1886, 1887; Elijah Benamozegh, Ya'aneh he-Esh, Leghorn, 1866; M. Klotz, in Bloch's Wochenschrift, 1901, No. 25, p. 423.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
This article needs to be merged with Cremation (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Simple English

Cremation is the act of burning a body after it has died. Cremation is a popular option to dispose of (get rid of) a body instead of burying it. The place where cremations take place is called a crematorium or crematory.


Ways of keeping or disposing of the cremated remains

Cremated remains (also called ashes) are returned to the person's family. The family then has a few options of what to do with the remains. Sometimes the cremated person has thought about what they want to be done with their remains and have shared their desires with their family.

Cremated remains can be kept in a container called an urn, thrown into the air or water of a place that was special to the cremated person, or buried in the ground. These are the most popular choices of what to do with remains. There are also other, less common, options of how to dispose of the remains. Some examples of ways to scatter the remains are: through fireworks, shot from guns, or dropped from an airplane or hot air balloon. Remains can even be sent into space or turned into a diamond. The latter can be done because humans and diamonds are both made largely from carbon.

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