Funeral Pyre

If you have the Viking desire for your body to be open-air cremated on a funeral pyre, hopefully you are lucky enough to live in Crestone, Colorado. Though the death ritual dates back to ancient times and is still practiced today by Buddhist and Hindu religions, it is considered taboo in the United States. 

The only funeral pyre in the US is located at the foot of the the Sangre De Cristo mountain range  as part of the Crestone End-of-Life Project. CEOLP cares for the bodies of community members and their families regardless of religion. They see death as a gate and work with families, honoring their experience. They claim no knowledge of death and "simply serve the mystery." 

Finding the site is not difficult in the small town of Crestone. A metal sign (made by a local potato farmer that also happens to be the coroner) with a flame and the word "PYRE" leads the way . The pyre itself- a grate that rests atop two slabs of white concrete- sits on a bed of sand and  is circled by bamboo wall. 

At the ceremony, the body of the deceased is wrapped in a linen sheet and surrounded by juniper branches family and friends place around the shrouded body. The torch lights the fire and the sweet smell of juniper fills the air as community circle the fire, sometimes in silence and sometimes in song. 

The CEOLP is part of Informed Final Choices, a group that believes that death is a sacred celebration. Their description of the funeral pyre ceremony: Imagine the community gathering to see the body of the beloved, wrapped in a chosen shroud, as it is placed on a pyre and covered with boughs, and with candles and items from the life of the deceased with sweets and wishes spoken or silent, a family member lighting the pyre as flames reach skyward to return the covering of the spirit to the realm of spirit, as all things return to their essence, just as rain nourishes the earth and then rises in evaporation.