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The state of Maine is contemplating allowing Viking-style funeral pyres. According to Maine’s Portland Press Herald — published on March 23, 2021 — Legislatures will be weighing whether or not to allow the ancient ritual of outdoor cremations.
This would give many people in the Pine State the ability to celebrate their lives like a Viking king or a Jedi — in a blaze of glory. For years this type of funeral pyre has been seen in numerous TV shows and movies. These depictions hold some form of truth, however, an outdoor cremation is not completely like one would see on film.
In order to perform a Viking-style funeral pyre, one will need a very high-temperature fire — 1,000 Celsius (C) or 2,000 Fahrenheit (F). Typically wood burns at a temperature of around 400 to 600C. This translates to 1,100F. If the open cremation is held on a boat — as seen on TV — the water would lower the temperature of the fire. This would prevent the wood from ever reaching the charcoal stage.
In addition, the heat for the open cremation will need to be sustained for at least two hours. This would be extremely difficult to do if the wood fire is surrounded by water. Death rituals — like the Viking-style funeral pyre — have been performed for many, many years. These rituals are generally designed to help the people left behind to come to terms with what has happened. It allows them to celebrate their loved one’s life.
Maine is not the first State to contemplate Viking-style funeral pyres. There are two sites in Colorado. Only one of these sites is open to the public. This site is limited to a maximum of 12 Viking-style open cremations a year.
A nonprofit cemetery group called Good Ground, Great Beyond — formed in 2018 — has been trying to receive permission to hold Viking-style open cremations. The Good Ground, Great Beyond plan to hold these cremations — if they are permitted — on a 63-acre forested parcel in Dresden, Maine.
If Maine’s Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee approves the bill then a nonprofit would be allowed to carry out a Viking-style open cremation. The only requirement for these types of cremations are:
- To have at least 20 acres to perform the outdoor cremation.
- These cremations are carried out one at a time.
- Then the ashes are scattered across the property.
Many people feel this type of cremation could be extremely beneficial for the bereaving family and friends. One person — Paul Connolly — tweeted, “Looks like I’ll be spending my golden years back home in Maine!” Another person — Rich Brooks — tweeted, “I’ve finally decided on how I’d like my funeral to be held. Now I just need to choose a theme song.”
Written by Sheena Robertson
Life in Norway: A Viking Funeral: Burial Rituals from the Norse Age; by Andrew McKay
Portland Press Herald: Maine may allow Viking-style funeral pyres; by Steve Collins
Featured Image Courtesy of Vladimir Agafonkin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License