They (Re)See Dead People

The Torajan people from the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, practice a morbidly endearing tradition. Every three years for the past century, they exhume the bodies of their deceased loved ones, both young and old, then clean and dress them in stylish new clothes.



The practice is part of the sacred Ma’nene Festival, or the Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses, and is considered a celebration of life, a way to strengthen their bonds with the dead. The Torajans believe that by doing this the spirits of the dearly departed will bless them for their act of kindness.

The origin of the custom is a little unclear, but it seems to have started when a hunter was trekking the mountains a hundred years ago, when he discovered a human cadaver decaying under a tree. He dressed the corpse and gave it a proper burial. He was later blessed with good fortune, which he attributed to the kind act he did for the abandoned body.

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