With Halloween just around the corner, the subjects of horror, death, and the mysterious are all over the place like a putrid gelatinous goo seeping up through the gutters.  For those who didn't know, this is one my favourite times of year!  All the ghouls and dark corners make my insides wiggle with glee.  So, I've decided to bring you something a bit on the macabre side today, all the way from Tibet.  Be warned, this is not for weak stomachs.

Once a person hits their expiration date, those still fresh are left with the means of disposing of their late companion.  Here in the West, burial, cremation, or sea-burial are the most common means of accomplishing this goal.  In Tibet however, there is a much more interesting practice known as "Jhator", or "Giving Alms to the Birds".

The family gathers around to watch as the body of the deceased is pinned to the earth, and cut into pieces by Rogyapas ("body-breakers") with a ceremonial knife.  Vultures then descend to promptly begin devouring the corpse.  The Rogyapas do not carry about their grim work with a solemn attitude at all, but rather talk and make jokes as in any other type of labour.

After the Vultures have worked at the body for a good while, the Rogyapas return to the body to continue working.  If the stomach is still intact, it is split open, and the Rogyapas take a moment to step back and let the smell recede.  Afterwards, any remaining bones (save the skull) are gathered up, placed on a flat stone, ground up, smashed, and mixed with flour and yak butter for flavour.  Again, the Vultures continue to eat away at the remnants of the corpse, which now tastes phenomenally better!

The top of the skull is saved, and sometimes used to make enlarged tea-glasses.

Happy Halloween!

Image Courtesy of FishOil at en.wikipedia

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