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Viking Funeral Pyres Could Be Allowed In Maine Under New Bill

Nobody likes to ponder their own mortality, but it's a fact of life that it has to have an end point. And although what happens after that is really up to our loved ones, that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a plan in place.

Some people want to have a nice resting spot for an eternity next to the loved ones who have left before us. Some prefer to go up in a puff of smoke to rest on the mantel, or be spread around their favorite place on the planet.

There are lots of other options as well: having your ashes made into a diamond, for example, or simply being allowed to rot and have your remains return to nature. And, for another option, Maine is considering making what's old, new again.

The millennia-old tradition of funeral pyres could be making a comeback in the Pine Tree State, if the state legislature gives the practice its blessing.

At present, the open-air cremations as they're officially known are only allowed in Colorado, and even then they're only allowed at two sites, one of which isn't open to the public, the Sun Journal reported.

Missouri legislators did pass a bill allowing open-air cremations in 2019, but that state's governor vetoed the bill, citing health and safety concerns as well as whether the ceremony "fully disposes of the entire remains."

Viking-style funeral pyres have received more time in the public eye through shows like *Game of Thrones*.

Although one such funeral depicted in the show did not go according to plan, in reality, open-air cremations need not involve bows and arrows or boats at all.

At the Colorado open-air cremation site, loved ones can gather around a large, brick-lined hearth, with the remains placed on a large steel grate over top, and families can light the flames themselves — an important consideration in some faiths, the Sun Journal reported.

Under the Maine bill, nonprofits with at least 20 acres of property would be allowed to carry out such cremations, one at a time, and then scatter the ashes on the land.

And it just so happens that one of the main proponents of the bill is Good Ground, Great Beyond, a nonprofit with 63 acres at its disposal.

"The intention for the land is to become a contemplative community sanctuary, scattering garden and space for open-air cremation," the group's website reads. "Our mission is to gather minds and hearts together in ongoing and active support of making open-air cremation an option available to the community."

The group's founder, an interfaith hospice minister and Buddhist, thinks that open-air cremation is a good alternative to more common funeral practices.

Angela Lutzenberger told the Sun Journal that she's seen many families simply hand over the planning of their goodbye to their loved ones to funeral directors, and she believes that funeral pyres can instead help families come together.

A study in the U.K. also dismissed concerns about emissions from open-air cremations.

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Dr. Ivan Vince authored a study of potential health effects from funeral pyres and found that even to those gathered around, the risks would be about the same as those from attending a bonfire.

"It is difficult to conceive of any significant risks to public safety from a funeral pyre situated in open land," he wrote. "I conclude that there will be negligible health risks to the public 500m from the pyres."

What do you think? Would you like the option of being sent off Viking-style? Let us know in the comments!

h/t: Sun Journal