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Staying Alive Into Death… EXTREME EMBALMING

Some of our earliest viral posts were about Victorian post-mortem photography — where Victorian families would take life-like photos of their deceased loved ones as a keepsake. Usually, these photos were of children who had succumbed to cholera, fevers, and the like as babies or toddlers, and the family wanted to immortalize their short time on the planet. Obviously, the practice of preserving the human body for funeral rituals goes way back in our history to Africa, where ancient Egyptians developed embalming rituals using chemical processes that have kept corpses preserved for thousands of years. Egyptian death rituals were my favorite thing to read about as a small child; I loved looking at the tools they used to remove brains and organs. I’ve always been into the ways we process death, I guess.

Although I was aware that in the 20th century, leaders like Lenin, Stalin, or Evita Peron were embalmed to such an extreme that their bodies could appear “lifelike” for as long as possible, I didn’t realize that in recent years “extreme embalming” had become a thing that ordinary folks did. It’s seen a resurgence in Puerto Rico and New Orleans, where people have been celebrating the life of their children, spouses, and siblings with embalming techniques that allow the deceased person’s body to be posed as they would often be in life. Mourners are able to take photos with the dead person and show respect to them by displaying the things they loved, like video games, poker, costumes, the sport they played, their profession, and more. Below I’ve collected some photos of people who have been embalmed in this way, and when looking through these photos, remember that they are modern examples of a tradition that goes back to antiquity.

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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