Notes from Viking: funerals and Abrahamic religions

In Vikings, a pre-Christian Scandinavian society is shown as burning the dead in a funeral. This is similar to how the Hindus and quite a few other cultures did it.

They even hint at how burying the dead was a sign of insulting them.

Most modern Abrahamic cultures—Christian, Muslim and Jewish—bury their dead. I’m guessing the modern, Christian Scandinavians bury their dead too. Made me wonder.

The Abrahamic religions started in the middle east in arid, often desert, land. Wood from trees must have been at a premium, so funeral by burning would’ve been expensive. Maybe that’s why they chose burial over burning.

Later, these religions spread to other areas with no paucity of wood, but the religious norm—burying not burning—went along. Even areas where there was plenty of wood, but relatively little accessible land ended up burying the dead instead of burning them.

Coming back to the Vikings, burning made sense for them. Wood was, and is, relatively plentiful in Scandinavia. Moreover, the ground would be frozen hard through long winters, making digging for a burial hard. But once Christianity came in, the new socioreligious norms quickly overturned old wisdom.

It may be the same in parts of southeast Asia where the pre-existing religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and native religions—would’ve burned their dead. Yet, after the adoption of Islam, most societies turned to burial. Despite plenty of thick tropical forests for wood, and expense of clearing land (or lack of it on islands) for burial.

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‘I’m sorry’

A tree in my neighbour’s backyard has grown over his fence, across the alley between our houses, and into my backyard. It’s been squeezing a bay leaf tree in my backyard against the garden shed. If his tree is not trimmed soon, my bay leaf tree will die. I needed to bring this up with my neighbour so he could hire a gardener and get the tree trimmed back.

I am an uber conflict avoider. The thought of asking someone to do something, with even a slight potential of conflict gives me a shiver.

I am also Indian. So the idea of people refusing to do what’s their responsibility is almost the natural default for me.

The combination of these two characteristics meant that for last few weeks I’ve been playing the encounter with my neighbour in my head. My fears and my overactive imagination meant it had gone far enough that we were filing police complaints against each other for ASBO12.

Anyway, I saw him today when we returned from the evening walk. I waved at him and approached.

Me: Hey Scott, I’m sorry, but do you have a minute.

S: Yes, of course.

Me: I’m sorry, but there’s a tree in your backyard that’s grown over into mine and is strangling one of my trees.

S: Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t notice it.

Me: No worries, it’s right at the far corner.

S: I’m sorry. I’ll get the gardener to come do something about it.

Me: No worries. Thanks.

S: Cheers. I’m sorry. See you later.

No, we didn’t end up filing ASBO complaints against each other. We just said ‘I’m Sorry’ to each other a dozen times, smiled, and carried on.

I can breathe now :)

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Hypocrisy

A van, driving towards me, dangerously overtook a cyclist. I muttered a few curses at the driver, and my dormant dislike of the van drivers came shooting up.

As the driver went past, I saw his face. I know him. He’s a lovely guy, with the friendliest dog I know – a lovely border collie named Butler.

I like the guy. I hated the van driver.

I should talk to him about the incident. I will not. We don’t talk about unpleasant things in society.

He didn’t harm anyone. He’s a pleasant guy. I really love this dog.

He didn’t hurt anyone. But he could have looked someone. Some day, he might.

I should talk to him. I won’t.

I’m ashamed. I’ll get over it.

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Oil, Islam, Addiction.

It’s not a battle between Islam and Christianity, or Islam and rest of the world, but a battle for the soul, and control, of Islam.

The scary bit is that the bad guys are backed by limitless amounts of money. Worse bit is that this money comes from us, from our addiction to oil.

And that is why it’s an addiction. We know it’s bad – bad for our health, bad for the environment and bad because that money supports the very people intent on driving Islam, and rest of us, back to the middle ages. Yet, we are powerless to do anything about it.

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