The Tower of Silence

No this isn’t a movie, it’s a tradition in Zoroastrianism, and a structure they used for excarnation. I do not intend to cause harm, misinformation, or any negativity during this blog. I hope that you all read this with an open mind and a desire to learn more about other cultures that share this planet with us. The information shared here is by no means inclusive, and I won’t attempt to explain in detail a religion that has been practiced for over 4000 years. It doesn’t do the religion and practices justice, nor will it provide you with any real knowledge. Please reach out to the Zoroastrian community with more specific questions.

Zoroastrianism, is one of the worlds oldest, continuously practiced religions. Based on the teachings of Zoroaster, the belief has a dualistic cosmetology of good and evil. The religion exalts and uncreated and benevolent deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) as its supreme being. The religion states that active and ethical participation in life through good deeds formed from good thoughts and good words is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay.

One of their traditions considers cut hair, nail clippings, human and animal corpses to be unclean, and potential pollutants. They also had rules against graves and raised tombs. Enter the Tower of Silence.

Modern towers are fairly uniform, they have an almost flat roof, and its divided into three concentric rings. The bodies of men are arranged around the outer ring, women around the second ring, and children in the innermost ring. The remains of the bodies are left in the open are to be consumed by vulture or other scavengers. Once the bones of the deceased have been bleached by the sun and wind, usually taking up to a year, they are collected in an ossuary pit at the center of the tower and assisted by lime they gradually disintegrate and any remaining material, including rainwater run-off, runs through multiple coal and sand filters and then eventually returned to the sea. Only special pallbearers handle this process.

In the past the community planned to keep these rather sacred towers outside of populous cities, but with growth, cities have expanded and the towers are closer to the cities, or inside them completely now. This has potentially invited vandalism, and corpse desecration, something that is devastating to the practitioners and family members.

Recently upon great reflection and consideration many Zoroastrianism communities no longer use the Tower of Silence, even though the towers remain, the deceased are now entombed in graves that are sealed with rocks and cement so that the bodies do not touch the ground.

Originally this post wasn’t going to be about this unique practice, but I came across and it and realized I learned something new, and hope I shared with you all something new as well. The more you know, the more you can share.

Stay curious my friends!

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