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The long funeral feasts of the Balts. When the Teutonic Order carried the Christian religion to Prussia and Lithuania with fire and sword, in the thirteenth century, they were amazed at the elaborate attention paid by their Indo-European cousins living there to the burial of the dead. It was the custom when a person died for relatives and friends to feast for a month or more. Certain tribes knew how to freeze the corpse so that an even longer period could elapse before cremation. Such mortuary practices date back to remote times’, as the signs of fly larvae having fed on Bronze Age skeletons in Central Europe indicate, but we know that the Balts were concerned to ensure a proper departure for the land ‘beyond the hill … where the sun is’. The souls of the deceased, however, were also thought to transmigrate into trees, flowers, animals, and birds. Hence the prohibition which is still sometimes found on pruning trees and mowing the grass in old cemeteries.

Subjects: Religion.

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