Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at ancient Iranian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about ancient Greek funeral traditions and Iranian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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New Year’s Eve Death Rituals
Ancient Iranian death rituals revolved around the new year. On New Year’s Eve, they believed spirits returned to visit their old homes and then left on New Year’s Day.
They also had many rituals during the first year after someone’s death. After someone died, they believed their spirit stayed on Earth for three days before going to the afterlife. Their living family members performed rituals and offerings to ensure the deceased’s spirit had a safe journey.
During the first year after their loved one’s passing, they prayed, fasted, and made blood sacrifices. They performed the rituals every day for the first thirty days after the death. Then, they did the rituals every 30 days during the first year after their death. After the first year was up, they just performed the rituals annually on New Year’s Eve.
Ancient Iranian Funeral Customs
Like Iranian funeral customs today, some ancient Iranian people buried the deceased in simple graves. However, an ancient Iranian funeral for Zoroastrian Iranians had different burial practices. (Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and it’s still practiced by some Iranians today.)
Zoroastrian Iranians didn’t bury their deceased because they believed it was bad for the environment and not respectful to the deceased. Instead, they washed the body and placed it in a large and round stone tower with a flat top. This was like an early type of green burial because they left the bodies in the tower to be exposed to vultures. The tower had separate areas for men, women, and children.