rating: 0+x

We bore the King to his fathers' place,
Where the tombs of the Sun-born stand:
Where the gray apes swing, and the peacocks preen
On fretted pillar and jewelled screen,
And the wild boar couch in the house of the Queen
On the drift of the desert sand.

The herald read his titles forth,
We set the logs aglow:
"Friend of the English, free from fear,
Baron of Luni to Jeysulmeer,
Lord of the Desert of Bikaneer,
King of the Jungle, — go!"

All night the red flame stabbed the sky
With wavering wind-tossed spears:
And out of a shattered temple crept
A woman who veiled her head and wept,
And called on the King — but the great King slept,
And turned not for her tears.

(from) The Last Suttee Rudyard Kipling

Basic Information

Cremation is the process of destruction of a corpse (or occasionally an animal carcass) by fire.

Given that most known animals have an extremely high water content, this is not as easy as it might appear, requiring a large source of high temperature heat to achieve conditions under which tissue is reliably destroyed1. Even then, bone can prove remarkably resilient and may remain largely or completely intact at the end of the process.

Depending on culture, cremation may take place in any convenient location, or may have a dedicated facility known as a crematorium (or by other language names such as shmashana2). The early medieval Scandinavians also practiced a form of maritime cremation often called the ship-funeral or Viking funeral to distinguish it from a ship burial

Into the modern era, cremation is and was accomplished with a pyre - a pile of wood (in almost all cases) onto which the body and any "grave" goods are placed to be burnt. Building a pyre is something of an artform in its own right and if done badly may end up cooking the deceased rather than cremating them. Industrialised, modern cremation tends to use gas-fired ovens for humans - animal carcasses are prone to be incinerated in the furnaces of waste-burning power stations.

Following the cremation, ashes may be collected and stored in an urn, which may in turn by placed in a columbarium. Alternatively they may be scattered, either directly from the place of cremation or later, somewhere else. In low tech methods, this may involve picking through the remains of the pyre for bone fragments - the actual ash will almost certainly be mostly wood.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • It's relatively uncommon for a culture to be neutral on cremation - it will generally either be expected or prohibited. Pre-Christian Europe preferred cremation - as does India - Christian Europe took against it for a mixture of reasons (mostly incoherent and/or spurious).
    • These sort of cultural transitions might be plot worthy in some cases - the disconnect between the Etruscan love of elaborate burial and the immediately succeeding Romans who seemed to have a horror of burial and were great cremators.
  • Where a body really needs to be got rid of for any reason, cremation can be very effective (in terms of preventing the spread of disease or undead). However, as noted above, botching the job is also quite easy if you have to do it in a hurry.
  • Speaking of grave goods being cremated with the deceased, it was not unusual for these goods, as in other funeral rites, to include other humans, either as property or relatives. The Indian custom of Suttee - as mentioned in the flavour text - includes the immolation of a wife upon her husband's pyre.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins was a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

(from) The Song Of The Strange Ascetic by G. K. Chesterton

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License