It’s time for another word of the month. And today’s word is ‘Excarnation’. You may have heard of excarnation but if not, it does go by another name which ‘defleshing’. I know, I know. Why? Why would I even bring this up?
What is Excarnation?
A quick search reveals that “in archaeology and anthropology, the term excarnation refers to the practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial.”
Again, you’re asking yourself, why would you do this, Annette, why do we need to know this? And ‘need’ is possibly a strong word. But there are two reasons it is my word of the month.
Firstly, because I think it’s interesting. It’s always good to broaden your vocabulary. (Sidenote: if you can find a way to slip ‘excarnation’ into everyday conversation then do let me know because I would love to hear how you do that!)
Secondly, and a little more seriously, excarnation is something that we don’t practice anymore. As given away by the terms ‘anthropology’ and ‘archaeology’, it’s something we associate with our long lost past.
A Disconnect With Our Past
I do believe that there may be some communities around the world now who still practice excarnation and you need look no further than the animal kingdom to see that it happens all the time.
It’s actually a very natural and very environmentally friendly process. But we don’t practice it anymore, not where I am and probably not where you are if you’re reading this.
I’m aware that it’s something that many people would kind of squish their noses up at. And I think it’s interesting that something that is natural – and something that was practised for a long period of time – is now not something we identify with, resonate with, or recognise.
Modern Day Relevance
If we take it to the modern-day era, it’s 2021, we don’t practice excarnation, but traditionally you have one of two options available to you: burial and cremation.
And those words can elicit a similar reaction because we are so uncomfortable talking about death and associated matters.
But there are ways to do it. And using terms and terminology that perhaps we’re not familiar with; that seem far removed from our day-to-day lives, is one way of introducing ourselves to a conversation we may not otherwise have.
So there you go: excarnation – essentially leaving your body out in the open to have the flesh picked off you prior to burial. I know there are some people who very much wish that that option was available to them now.
And I’d be interested to know. Firstly, again, if you managed to get the word into a conversation…
But if not, what do you think of excarnation? Knowing what it is, how does it make you feel and how comfortable are you with it, especially relative to terms like ‘burial’ and ‘cremation’? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time, take care.