What’s Hiding In The Hollows Of These Trees Is Morbid, Yet Strangely Beautiful

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In the remote South Sulawesi region of Indonesia lives a small group called the Toraja. This tiny community appears to have the most elaborate funeral ceremonies on the planet. From the intricate embalming process that preserves bodies for weeks (sometimes even years) to the tree burials of deceased newborns, it seems the Toraja don’t fear death, but instead revere it as a necessary and beautiful part of life.

When a member of the Toraja people dies, their bodies aren’t buried into the ground. They are instead put into elaborate cave tombs dug into the mountain. Before this can happen, there is the Rambu Soloq, a series of funeral ceremonies that lasts for several days.

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The ceremonies don’t take place immediately after death. First, the body undergoes an intricate embalming process that keeps it preserved until the family raises sufficient funds for a funeral party.

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This can often take several weeks, sometimes years. In fact, until the body is buried, the person isn’t considered dead. It is dressed in clothes and lives with the family in the home.
The ceremony begins with a mass slaughtering of animals. Tens of buffalo and hundreds of pigs are killed, all while young boys catch blood into bamboo sticks as a game.

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The cave tombs are then dug into the mountainside. This process can take months to finally finish.

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If the rock is too dense, wooden platforms like these are suspended from the cliffs.

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Then a “Tau Tau,” a wooden effigy of the deceased, is placed on a cave wall along with those of their ancestors.

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The Toraja villages are brimmed with these dolls.

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Infants are not buried in caves, but are instead buried inside the hallows of trees.

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As the tree heals over its hole, it is believed that the baby is absorbed into it, giving it strength.

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