Somehow I don’t think that when Thomas Browne wrote ‘Urn-Burial’ he was thinking of the situation in Germany. You can be cremated here but after that you have to be buried!

bq. Great princes affected great monuments; and the fair and larger urns contained no vulgar ashes, which makes that disparity in those which time discovereth among us.

An interview in Focus indicates that Saxony-Anhalt is considering relaxing this legislation. (So does that mean that the law of burial, like that of translators and interpreters, is a matter for the Länder?)

bq. Sachsen-Anhalt plant eine Novelle des Bestattungsrechts. Dabei ist vorgesehen, den Friedhofszwang für Feuerbestattungen in bundesweit bislang einzigartiger Weise zu lockern. Hinterbliebene könnten demnach die Urne mit der Asche ihres Angehörigen mit nach Hause nehmen und ins Bücherregal stellen oder im Garten vergraben.

I love the way they say people will be able to put their next of kin’s ashes on the bookshelf. This is a sort of stereotype idea of how weird it would be not to bury the ashes.

A representative of the Evangelische Landeskirche fears ‘Bestattungstourismus’ (a word that gets me 62 ghits).
(Via Handakte WebLAWg)

11 thoughts on “Hydriotaphia

  1. You can be cremated here but after that you have to be buried!

    Er… you don’t have to bury the urn in other countries? Like, the people who mention keeping grandma on the mantlepiece were actually serious?

  2. Sorry for double-commenting (and thanks for unblocking the e-mail address)… I just realised how much I fall into a German stereotype. That’s really rare for me.

    OTOH, AFAIK you can get sea “burials” and a few other types, too. And I’m not sure you are required to claim the ashes when you have someone’s body cremated.

  3. Well, I don’t think many people actually do want to put an urn on the mantelpiece – that’s just the way it’s satirized. I think they just don’t want to be forced to pay money for (part of) a plot of land as a result of the belt-and-braces approach.
    Is burial at sea the burial of ashes? I can’t imagine it’s very cost-effective. I’m sure you can leave your body for medicine. As for not reclaiming the ashes, I will have to investigate that. Certainly that is normal in Britain – we didn’t reclaim my parents’ ashes and scatter them off Margate pier! It looks as if Friedhofszwang means you really do have to bury the ashes. At http://www.postmortal.de it is suggested there is a loophole in the 2003 NRW statute (“darf ausgehändigt werden”).

  4. Well, just in practical terms, what are they going to do if you don’t reclaim the ashes? Send a police officer around with a crematorium-issue urn and a fine slip?

  5. No, they won’t do that, because you wanted to have the ashes anyway. They will bury them at minimum costsand make sure you pay, or at least, I imagine so. If I see anyone who was bereaved in the not too recent past, I will see what I can find out. There is a picture at the site I mentioned of a tin, a bit like a tin for espresso beans, with information stamped on it, that precedes any urn. It occurs to me that the urban legend of the package from America containing Grandma’s ashes that is mistaken for coffee is a particularly German idea.

  6. Here in Canada, you don’t have to bury the ashes (in hallowed ground), but you are not free to do whatever you want with them. For one thing, I do believe it is illegal to scatter the ashed on the wind.
    A friend of mine will be burying her father’s ashes in three places (including by a lake, near his best friend). David Suzuki buried his mother’s ashes (with no urn) in his garden, where flowers now grow.
    I don’t know anybody who actually kept the ashes, although my mother-in-law kept her daughter’s ashes at her home for a while (can’t have a winter burial here) and that was wierd.

  7. I couldn’t find anything quite so specific for Britain. Apparently you can keep the ashes, scatter them in a garden of remembrance, or scatter them in a ‘favourite spot’ subject to the landowner’s permission. You can bury them in a cemetery, but presumably if you can keep them, there’s nothing to stop you burying them in your garden. In films, people are shown scattering the ashes on the wind.

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