Cremation by funeral pyre, now available in the USA

Cremation by Funeral Pyre in Crestone, Colorado

Cremation by Funeral Pyre in Crestone, Colorado

Cremation by funeral pyre or “open-air cremation” is now available for a few people in the United States. We’ve just added an article on it in our Disposition Resource Center.

A funeral pyre is one of the world’s oldest cremation traditions. A body is placed upon a structure packed with flamable materials and ignighted.  The pyre is designed to burns at a very hot temperature in order to reduce a human body to a few pounds of ashes.  Pyres are used for the cremation in Hinduism & Sikhism. Vikings disposed of their dead with funeral pyres.

A group in Crestone, Colorado, the Crestone End of Life Project,  has done the research, obtained the necessary legal permissions and created a permanent cement pyre structure to perform around 12 “open-air cremations” a year.  At this time you must be a member of their community in order to proceed with an open-air cremation.  For more information contact the founder of the Crestone End of Life Project, Stephanie Gaines at (719) 588-7415.

A video tape of a cremation by outdoor funeral pyre shows a dignified procession of people placing a shroud wrapped body on top of a pyre. One by one, individuals placed juniper branches on top of the body. They approached the body similar to the way people do at a viewing. With somber deliberation each stepped forward to say good bye to their loved one by placing the juniper branch on top of the pyre. Some placed flowers on the heaping pile of juniper. At the conclusion of this procession, a huge pile of greenery and flowers rested on top of the cement pyre.

When lit, the pyre burst into flames. The group sang Christian songs and prayed; sometimes a cantor sang. As the sun set, the group remained to witnessed the pyre burn for hours. Some members occasionally placed additional wood on the fire. It was  a beautiful heart felt ceremony.

There is some controversy on how green this type of cremation is. There was a lot of smoke when the pyre was first ignighted. The narrator explained that this was caused by the fresh juniper branches.

Could funeral pyres be the next “hot” new thing in the funeral industry? Could they compete with green burial?  Probably not, I wonder how many people choose to witness a cremation at a regular crematory? I understand that there is more interest in witnessing this procedure and some crematorys have developed spaces for the family to observe the cremation. But I’d be surprized if there is much demand for this.

The more funeral options the better. I’m glad to hear that cremation by funeral pyre is happening in the USA and hope it becomes available in more locations  throughout the USA. It’s certainly not for everyone but for some it’s the perfect send off.  People should be allowed to honor their loved ones however they like.
-AC

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10 Comments »

  1. Liz Leon said

    I love this ceremony and I think it’s a beautiful and sacred way to send our loved ones and our self into spirit world. Is this being done in California?

  2. Anna said

    Nope. Only the Crestone End of Life Project has obtained the legal permission necessary to carry out open-air cremations. They must use their facility located near Crestone, Colorado for all the cremations.

    Although, in talking with Barbara, one of the members of the Crestone End of Life Project, there is interest in creating more approved facilities for open-air cremation and I believe she said one was interested group was located in California.
    – AC

  3. symbiant said

    This is an incredible piece, and I thank you so much for taking an interest in the topic of send-offs. Funerals, are not an easy conversation for most. I know when I talk about wanting this done, my family and friends don’t welcome this subject matter all to well. But, this is my wishes, however, selfish this may seem.

    • Susan said

      Be Well In All Things…Follow your guidance. A Zen master once said to a women whose practice was strong, family not quite so, that like the jetstream behind the semi-truck on the highway, eventually your family will come along… Often it looks selfish, but we do these things for everyone, not just ourselves.

  4. This has been done in Boulder Colorado also, e.g. for Ricky Weiser’s cremation in 2002:

    http://archive.boulderweekly.com/041102/waynesword.html

  5. KEYLARGO721@CHARTER.NET said

    I THINK THIS A GREAT FUNERAL! I WOULD WANT THIS! OUR COUNTRY THE USA IS TAKING OUR RIGHTS AWAY! WHO VOTED ON MAKING THIS PRACTICE ILLEGAL? THAT LAW IS WRONG…… WE THE PEOPLE ARE BEING LED LIKE BLIND SHEEP BY OUR LAW MAKERS. THEY HIDE THESE THINGS IN OTHER LAWS AND IT GOES UNDER THE RADAR. I WOULD LIKE SOME ANSWERS! PRAISE BE TO GOD!!! THANK YOU LARRY

  6. Judith said

    I am interested.

  7. Marco said

    Good to hear about California. Somewhere far out in the desert might be a good place. It could help stimulate an economy in an otherwise barren area while serving the final desires of disposition of many people. Not a pleasant topic to be sure, but that’s how I’d like to be sent off. I would certainly feel better knowing there’s an option like this available.

  8. Sarah said

    is there an update? like do more states have this available?

  9. Anonymous said

    This is what I’ve been thinking about, being released into the world. I do not want to be in the ground or in a jar, and spreading someone’s ashes is done but with lots of red tape and permissions. Let my spiritual domain be opened and let my spirit seek its own peace.

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