The Sagada region, in the Philippines, has one of the oldest and most curious funeral practices in th world: the “hanging coffins”. It is a pagan burial ritual, practiced in this mountainous region for almost 2000 years. The “Igorot”, a name which refers to different ethnic groups located in these islands, created wooden coffins suspended on the limestone walls of the Echo Valley, made this unusual cemetery, still visible today.
This locacion along the mountain walls is due to various reasons. Certainly, one of the main ones was the protection of deads from floods or attacks by wild animals. Then, according to tribal deliefs, placing the coffin up high, allowed an easier passage to the afterlife, bringing the deceased person closer to heaven and ancestral spirits. At last, in the prehispanic period, in this place there were lots of bloody trival wars and it was therefore feared that tombs of loved ones could be desecrated by head hunters.
The lowest coffins are located at about 4 meters high, so think about how far you can get higher!
A particularity is that the ritual provided that the coffins were self-built by those who had to rest there. It was then the family memebrs who took care of the arrangement as high as possible along the wall. The higher the coffin was, the more important the dead person was to the family.
The body was buried in a fetal position, since the Igorots believed that a person should leave the world in the same way he came entered it: for this reason the size of the chest looks quite small, about a meter in lenght. It is not unusual to notice bamboo or wooden made chairs next to the coffins. On these, the deceased eas left to sit for a while, before the funeral. The tradition only allowed those who died of natural causes to be places inside those coffins. Instead, it was thought that those who died as childs or for illness would bring bad luck if put in those coffins.
Although slowly on the verge of extinction, the custom has not copletely disappeared and it is still practiced today. Similar rituals can be noted in other indigenous peoples of China and Indonesia.