Some Countries Have Attempted to Prohibit Death

by M-Gillies
Torii Shrine Itsukushima Japan floating on water.

No one has died on the Island of Itsukushima since 1878 and people facing imminent death are transported to communities away from the Torii Shrine as the Delphic Oracle prohibited death near the shrine.

“Death, the one appointment we all must keep, and for which no time is set.” – Charlie Chan

During the 5th century, the island of Delos was seen by the Greek as a holy sanctuary – a place fit for the proper worship of the gods – but in order to maintain its sacred purity, the tyrant Peisistratus of Athens ordered all graves within sight of the island’s temple be exhumed and relocated beyond the perimeter. This decision was based on the instruction of the Delphic Oracle, the most prestigious and authoritative oracle among the Greeks. Since the order was given, Peisistratus has gone down as the first person to ever prohibit death to occur on an island, in an attempt to keep its land pure.

Since then, it hasn’t been the first time that leaders and representatives have attempted to prohibit death from occurring, and in fact, it has been appearing in modern 21st century as a satirical response to the governments’ failure to approve expansion on municipal cemeteries.

Places where it is illegal to die:

Japan

Similar to Delos, the Japanese Island of Itsukushima has long been held as a sacred place in Shinto belief. It is here, where neither death or birth are permitted to occur, in part to the Shinto worship where purity is of utmost concern. The Torii Shrine’s priests have attempted to keep the island free of death and have done so since 1878. Located 20 km southwest of Hiroshima City, the island is the home of several Buddhist temples, with the first being constructed in 593 AD.

However, it was in 1555, immediately after the Battle of Miyajima (the only battle to be fought on the sacred island), when the victorious commander, Mori Motonari ordered all the bodies of the fallen troops (roughly 4,700) be removed from the island to the mainland. It was after the bodies had been removed that the battlefield was to be cleansed of the blood spilled – to the point where buildings were scrubbed and blood-soaked soil was removed from the island.

France

In Sarpourenx, France, located in Bordeaux region, the mayor, Gerard Lalanne, has not only made it illegal for his citizens to die but has further threatened residents with severe punishment if they do in fact die.

“The first dead person to come along,” Lalanne said. “I’ll send him to the state’s representative.”

Harsh words for a phenomenon that is physically impossible to avert. However, it was a drastic measure the mayor was forced to take after an administrative court in the nearby town of Pau ruled in January 2008, that the acquisition of adjoining private land to extend the cemetery could not be justified.

Similarly, two other settlements in southern France have prohibited death, beginning with the mayor of Le Lavandou, who outlawed death in 2000. It was after his requests for a new cemetery was turned down due to environmental concerns that the mayor enacted what he described as “An absurd law to counter an absurd situation. But it’s working; no one’s died here since it was passed, and I hope it stays that way.”

Taking inspiration from the Le Lavandou incident, the village of Cugnaux also prohibited death in 2007 for similar reasons, soon followed by Sarpourenx in 2008.

Norway

For over 70 years, no one in the town of Longyearbyen in Norway has been interred into the local graveyard. In fact, this has been an enforced rule for the world’s most northerly town, where because of the cold climate and underlain permafrost, it was discovered back in 1930s, that bodies in the town cemetery did not naturally decompose.

Due to this revelation, it has become a common practice for people living in the community who fall gravely ill to be evacuated by air or ship to the Norwegian mainland, where they can be buried should they die. However, if an incident occurs, whether due to accident, sudden illness or other misfortunate that leaves a resident dead, their body is buried elsewhere – generally on the mainland.

Italy

In Falciano del Massico, Italy an order was put into place an order which has “forbidden residents to go beyond the boundaries of earthly life; to go into the afterlife.” An order enacted by the cities mayor in March 2012. The reason for such an ordinance arose after the commune’s cemetery had become full, forcing all deceased to be buried in the nearby town of Mondragone. However, for an unspecified amount of time Falciano del Massico has been in a long standing feud with Mondragone, due in part to the town forcing citizens from Falciano del Massico to pay significantly more for a cemetery plot there.

While the mayor, Giulio Cesare Fava understands that death is an inevitable force, he has requested that the citizens “make every effort not to die until a new cemetery is built for the municipality.” However, despite being quoted as saying “The ordinance has brought happiness (to the villagers)” the mayor has noted that: “Unfortunately, two elderly citizens disobeyed (the order).”

 

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