What Religions Say About Burial At Sea
Religions across the world generally express no major objection to burial at sea. Most that address the topic directly in their various official texts and teachings indicate that, while their preference is for burials to be done on solid ground, there is nothing inherently bad, either for the individual or humanity, about burial at sea. The reason ground burial is preferred has, mostly, to do with memorials. Having a permanent spot in which mourners can return for ceremonies every year (or just visit as the emotional need permits) can be an emotional boon for those who want to remember their friend or relative in style. While this may be a valid point, it is fortunate that the leaders of the world’s great religions – Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam – also recognize that a permanent memorial such as a headstone, monument, or even a simple plaque can be just as effective as a full grave site for the ceremonial purposes of memorializing a beloved friend, colleague or relative.
Burials at sea are a tradition steeped in history. But it is also a tradition open to more than just sailors and those who have spent their lives on the water. Burial at sea is available to people of all walks of life , and it is done in a wide variety of ways. In some cases, the sea burial is done using cremation ashes and a specially made biodegradable urn; in others a weight is attached to the foot of a shrouded body which is then ceremonially dropped overboard from a ship; and still in others, a body is placed in a very heavy casket and lowered into the water from a boat. And, while famous celebrities such as Robin Williams and Dick Clark have indeed been buried at sea, the tradition is open to anyone. A special attraction to sea burial for many people is that a funeral director need not necessarily be involved and, in fact, so long as a certified ship captain is aboard, the burial need not meet any special requirements. In cases in which cremation ashes are scattered over a body of water, even the requirement of a captain is not necessary in most jurisdictions. The scattering can be based on a shoreline, even, making use of a boat unnecessary. We have assembled a brief list of topics that will be of interested in burial at sea.