When something as natural and inevitable as death is banned, it does seem a tad illogical. You would be surprised to know that there actually are quite a few places on Earth where death has been forbidden, and deemed illegal. In fact, it seems that this is actually an age-old practice; the earliest known instance of the prohibition of death was in the 5th century BC, when dying wasn’t allowed on religious grounds at the Greek island of Delos. Each place has a reason of its own, varying from religious beliefs to environmental factors.
We’ll take a look at four places where death is forbidden in today’s world:
Itsukushima - Japan
According to the Shinto belief, the Japanese island of Itsukushima is a sacred place, and the maintenance of its purity is of utmost concern. So in an attempt to keep up the sanctity of the island, the shrine’s priests have worked pretty hard to make sure no deaths occur there. Since the year 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near the shrine. Pregnant women nearing the date of delivery aren’t allowed there, nor are the elderly or the terminally ill.
The only battle that ever occurred on Itsukushima was the Battle of Miyajima in 1555, after which the victorious commander ordered the bodies to be removed to the mainland immediately. The entire island was cleansed of the blood that was spilled, blood-soaked soil was thrown away from the island, and even the buildings were scrubbed new. Well, isn’t that cheating? Because no matter how much they cleaned it, the deaths clearly did happen. Still, nowadays dying is not allowed on Itsukushima.
Photo by Bernard Gagnon
Longyearbyen - Norway
The Arctic town of Longyearbyen in the Svalbard Islands of Norway has a similar rule. Death is forbidden, and the town has only a small graveyard that stopped accepting new burials over 70 years ago. The reason – the bodies never decompose. It was discovered that the bodies buried in Longyearbyen were actually perfectly preserved by permafrost. Scientists even removed tissue from a man who died there and found intact traces of the influenza virus that he died from during the epidemic in 1917.
People who are gravely ill or expected to die soon are dispatched by air or ship to a different part of Norway, where they would spend the last days of their lives.
Photo by Bjorn Christian Torissen
Falciano del Massico - Italy
At Falciano del Massico, a small town in southern Italy, the story is kind of different. People aren’t allowed to die, not because of the environment or religious beliefs, but simply because there isn’t any space left for the dead to be buried. The mayor issued an order earlier this month that stated, “It is forbidden for residents to go beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to go into the afterlife.” Ever since local boundaries were redrawn in 1964, Falciano del Massico has been in dispute with a neighboring town over rights to the old cemetery. The mayor has decided to now build a new cemetery, but until then, people have been ordered to hold off their deaths. Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from the Indonesian Toraja villagers, and have their dead walking about town.
Photo by Digri
Sarpourenx - France
A decree prohibiting people from dying was again issued by the Mayor of Sarpourenx, a picturesque village in the southwest of France. The decision came after a French court refused planning permission to extend the town’s existing graveyard. But Mayor Gerard Lalanne has actually taken it a bit further, he’s not only banned death, but those who dare to die will be severely sanctioned. Although, it’s not yet clear what the sanctions will be. After all, how could you punish the dead? A coffin with no lining? Or perhaps, one that’s lined with nails. The mayor’s decision has gotten the residents of Sarpourenx worried. “What will happen to me if I die,” they ask. Well, don’t we all want to know that now?
Photo by France64160