Painting of Viking funeral pyre
Maine may soon legalize Viking-style funeral pyres.

The state of Maine is considering a measure that would allow residents to forgo a traditional casket burial and instead opt for an “open air cremation” – also known as a funeral pyre.

If you’ve seen “Game of Thrones”, you’re familiar with the concept: Lay the honored dead out on a stone slab and light them ablaze.

Typically reserved for kings, great warriors, and, yes, Jedi Knights (which you can become), it’s a tradition nearly as old as time itself. However, it is currently outlawed in most of the United States (only some place in Colorado allow it).

Who's pushing for this, and will Maine residents really be able get a Viking-style send off to the next world?

Blaze of Glory

It all started with a nonprofit cemetery called Good Ground Great Beyond. They want to turn their 63-acre estate into the state’s first location for funeral pyres.

The group's founder, Angela Lutzenberger, says that open-air cremations can help us think about death in whole new ways:

“It allows a different kind of deep and acute contemplation of what death is, and what it means to let go... Good Ground Great Beyond is this very natural intersection of earth and sky, seen and unseen.”

Advocates for funeral pyres just want people to have options. If someone wants to go out in a (safely monitored) blaze of glory, why shouldn't they be able to? 

The law up for debate would allow any local nonprofit with at least 20 private acres to carry out the ceremonial outdoor burnings, so long as the ashes are scattered on the property.

A Growing Movement

Maine isn’t the first state to consider funeral pyres in recent years. Missouri lawmakers actually passed a measure in 2019 legalizing open-air cremation, only for it to be vetoed by Governor Michael Parson.

“Without more thorough vetting to ensure that outdoor cremations can be conducted in a manner that fully disposes of the entire remains while also addressing the health and safety concerns of individuals who may be impacted nearby, I am not comfortable with allowing these types of ceremonies to be conducted in our state,” he stated.

Those concerns may be entirely unfounded. A report commissioned by the UK’s Ministry of Justice found that the safety hazards are no more than one would expect from a bonfire and that there would be “negligible health risks” to the public.

Burials Fit For a Viking

There may be a religious reason to allow funeral pyres as well. Open-air cremation is still practiced among some faith groups, primarily amongst some Buddhist and Hindu cultures.

But in popular culture, it is probably most closely associated with the traditional Viking ‘burial’. Pyres were common for early Vikings, who were Pagan. They built funeral pyres as large as possible, believing that the smoke would carry the deceased to the afterlife. Certainly some modern Pagans would consider the option, were it legally available to them.

Given the negligible environmental impact and religious significance in some faith groups, it’s hard to see an argument against allowing funeral pyres, so long as they follow certain environmental and safety regulations. Still, given that it’s currently only allowed at two sites in one state, it’s still clearly a big cultural taboo in America.

What do you think? Should Maine allow these types of ceremonies? Would you consider a funeral pyre for yourself?

36 comments

  1. Mark Hannon's Avatar Mark Hannon

    Who gets to eat the heart and brain to get the fighting spirit of the dead warrior?

  1. Rob Duff's Avatar Rob Duff

    I plan to be composted and feed the flowers.

    1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      I plan to be cremated and have my "ashes" mixed with soil and have a yew tree planted therein. Am trying to find a non-denominational cemetery near or in my hometown where this can be done, whaich also will allow the cremains of my cats to be with me.

  1. Kevin Joseph Kervick's Avatar Kevin Joseph Kervick

    Seems fine to me. Anything that honors our European Pagan spirituality should be allowed.

    1. Robin Marie Chernault's Avatar Robin Marie Chernault

      Well put and agreed. I’m a Celtic pagan and proud of it

  1. robert's Avatar robert

    Well since ones soul is no longer upon this plane and gone to the next level why not? Seems religious views are or may be in the way of making this so

    1. Robin Marie Chernault's Avatar Robin Marie Chernault

      Agreed

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    So, who's going to stop me? And what's penalty for going out that way - a delay in arriving in Valhalla?

    Burning human flesh stinks, by the way - nothing like a good burger or a rack full of wings.

  1. The Right Reverend D. Batch's Avatar The Right Reverend D. Batch

    Comment removed by author.

  1. The Right Reverend D. Batch's Avatar The Right Reverend D. Batch

    It almost passed in Missouri in 2019, but was vetoed by the Governor.

  1. Cindy M's Avatar Cindy M

    I think it's a GREAT IDEA. If I had the opportunity to do it I would

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    It’s illegal? No need to keep it underground. As Christianity continues to be on the decline in the United States we no longer have to follow Christian traditions. Maine was founded by anti-Christians.

    1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

      Declines? Conspiracy theory

  1. robert's Avatar robert

    Comment removed by author.

  1. Linda weeks's Avatar Linda weeks

    Sounds like a good idea. Can think of a lot of ways this can go wrong. People need to actually be prepared for the reality of doing this. Who is responsible to make sure everything is burned? Don’t want anyone to be traumatized.

  1. Linda weeks's Avatar Linda weeks

    Sounds like a good idea. Can think of a lot of ways this can go wrong. People need to actually be prepared for the reality of doing this. Who is responsible to make sure everything is burned? Don’t want anyone to be traumatized.

  1. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

    I think this is good. We are running out of land as it is. Soon people will have to be buried like in New Orleans, above ground. Not got especially if you are in line of severe storms.

  1. Barry Weisenbach's Avatar Barry Weisenbach

    As long as a properly trained person conducts The ritual. Also,you don't want a body that's not Completely consumed by the fire lying there Being picked on by birds.

  1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

    I have actually done this for many beloved animal companions through my life. I actually use the same simple stack construction as seen by Luke when he cremates his father at the end of ROTJ.

    My only issue would be that it takes a lot of wood to even burn a medium sized dog to be even mostly ash, and I suspect many might find it less then thrilling when they learn bone even burned for many hours. Skulls especially tend to endure at least abit.

    I am a big supporter of natural burials, and highly encourage all to check out the youtube channel Ask a Mortician, as she has many videos discussing legal low cost natural burial options to help people avoid being gogued by the motuary industry.

    Honestly embalming is terrible for nature. look at how a flood in a major cemetary like in New Orleans ahs seen the ground water tainted likely for centuries to come after the corpses acted as embalming fluid tea bags and soaked tons of those toxic chemicals into the ground during the flood.

  1. Christian's Avatar Christian

    Well, certainly - allow it. But the funeral must follow pollution guidelines - they can't burn corpses just any old place.

    The smoke must also not blow on to people, so most likely it should be burned far away from city schools, hospitals, housing, and public spaces - out in the wilds, and flames completely under control.

    They must have fire control and equipment to prevent a forest fire. The whole ritual must be monitored from start to finish and flames put out with Zero risk of starting forest fires - like in California.

    Perhaps the ritual grounds sprayed down for 50 meters radius to prevent sparks?

    Burial at sea may be done far out in the ocean, but the container and corpse must be weighted to sink deep into the ocean, to ensure the client remains Do Not wash up on the beach a week later.

    Also, on land, when the rites are completed, all residue must be cleaned up, just as if they were burning rubbish... leave nothing behind. No trash, no bones, no ash. All cleaned up like it was never there. EPA brownfields laws should be checked for proper compliance. Any contaminated soils also removed if polluted with burning flesh or fuels residue.

    The client corpses may need to be fully organic, zero toxic embalming fluids. Burning embalming fluids is VERY Toxic.

    USA has guidelines for everything from chemical weapons disposal to nuclear waste storage... no problem.

    Just be certain new regulations for burning funerals protect the community, the environment, and the dignity of the clients remains.

    And may their gods bless them with peace and joy, in this life and the next !

    :-)

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    As long as it does not violate EPA regulations then what is the big deal

  1. Robin Marie Chernault's Avatar Robin Marie Chernault

    I’m planning on being cremated. My ancestors were cremated this way. It’s a rite of passage into the next life. I think it would be wonderful.

  1. Thomas Downs's Avatar Thomas Downs

    I would definitely do it! Just think of how much it would save your family from spending thousands of dollars at these funeral homes. Funeral homes play on your grief and guilt and upsale everything, I decided long ago I just wanted to be cremated, so a Viking Funeral for me would be the way to go and quite the celebration.

  1. JT of the plains's Avatar JT of the plains

    This seems like a religious freedom issue. If one's religion has a set of standards for disposal of remains, AND it can be done in a manner that does not infringe on the safety of others, I see no problem with it. But again, if a fire is set, it must be done safelty so that other people or property is not damaged.

  1. Johnny Wicapi West's Avatar Johnny Wicapi West

    Yes! This is the most dignified an sensible form of disposing the body cuickly anf fully back to nature, freeing the spirit from the latest incarnation and to send off a loved one in a beautiful and historical multicultural way. It is my dream to be sent off this way and lowed ones were it legal. So hopful such possibilities are underway and it should be the future in every part of the globe. Wonderful!

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    SEND ME INFO, YES, ITS the ONLY WAY to GO, BURIALs are KILLING MOTHER NATURE, OVERCROWDING the EARTH for NOUGHT !

    1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

      🤔 But, if a person is morbidly obese, cremation releases all the carbon they have stored in their body into the atmosphere, which is also bad for the environment.

  1. Makayla Ayn Harris's Avatar Makayla Ayn Harris

    This is how I want to go out and have wanted to for years due to my religion being Norse pegan... I already got denied some things because of state laws and my and my husband's religion we weren't allowed to get married in our religious ceremonial way because our marriage wouldn't have been considered legal where we lived so we had to get married at the court house by a judge. We need to start allowing religious beliefs, ceremonies, and rights to be honored instead of stopping it causing issues of religious discrimination

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    Going out in a blaze... what a way to go.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    I read a little while back, that given that there are so many religions in the world and only one is true, logic would dictate that none are true. That said, to hedge my bet just in case the Norse religion is true and the Valkyries carry me across the Rainbow Bridge to Valhalla, I have made a pole arm to be buried with me. I will have something to fight the Ice Giants in the afterlife.

  1. John Casillo's Avatar John Casillo

    BRINGS NEW MEANING TO GETTING "FIRED UP" AS WELL AS "LIGHT MY FIRE"......MORRISON WOULD BE PLEASED.....BUT THIS CAN NOT BE.....SECOND HAND SMOKE HAS BEEN PROCLAIMED UNHEALTHY......POSSIBLY TOXIC ON WHAT THE DECEASED ATE BEFORE THEIR DEMISE ;).......REV JOHN

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    A third world war would settle the debate.

  1. Govannon Thunorwulf's Avatar Govannon Thunorwulf

    I am in contact with the organization responsible for this development. The first state hearing took place and they are receiving an abundance of support and I submitted a letter of support prior to the first hearing. I informed them that I may be able to give physical support if all goes well.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    This is cremation.....right? It’s been done for millennia.

    🦁❤️

  1. Patrick Lewis Schieving's Avatar Patrick Lewis Schieving

    yes I would very much like to be sent off to Valhalla in that fashion and I hope that it become legal in all states. Sincerely P Lewis Schieving Druid Priest.

  1. Floyd Michael Taylor's Avatar Floyd Michael Taylor

    Personally, I would like to be turned in to a slurry, added to a few thousand gallons of growth medium and nutrients, and sprayed over some marshland.

    Actually, that is my second choice, first being frozen and shot in to deep space.

    Don't think either will actually happen.

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