Cremating Dead Bodies on Open-Air Funeral Pyres May Soon Be Legal in Maine

Cremating dead bodies on open-air funeral pyres may soon be legal in Maine.

A bill in the state legislature would allow designated sites in the state to conduct open air cremations—a funeral ritual that dates back thousands of years but has largely disappeared from the modern-day United States.

There are actually two sites in the U.S. where open-air cremation is allowed, both of which are in Colorado, the Sun Journal reported. Only one of these sites is open to the public and is limited to conducting no more than a dozen funeral every year.

The Maine bill, if it becomes law, would allow a nonprofit corporation to conduct open-air cremations if the ritual takes place on proper of at least 20 acres that is owned or possessed by the corporation.

The act would restrict cremations to one individual at a time, while allowing the ashes to be scattered on the property or otherwise disposed of in accordance with the law.

A Maine nonprofit called Good Ground, Great Beyond, has been lobbying for permission to allow open-air cremations on their 60-acre property in the Mid-Coast region of the state.

The nonprofit, which was founded in 2018, says on its website that its land is available for individuals and communities to "contemplate, remember and engage death differently."

"The intention for the land is to become a contemplative community sanctuary, scattering garden and space for open air cremation. Our mission is to gather minds and hearts together in ongoing and active support of making open air cremation an option available to the community."

"Our cultural relationship to death and engagement with the reality of death is gradually evolving," the nonprofit says. "With this evolution comes growing awareness of our unique needs and inclinations regarding death ritual and disposition options."

Good Ground say open-air cremation is the preferred funerary ritual for many people around the world, offering "very direct and meaningful engagement with the transformations of our deceased loved ones."

According to Chuck Lakin, a member of the nonprofit's board, one of the main advantages of open-air cremations is that loved ones of the deceased can gather to watch the process, unlike standard cremations that take place in an incinerator.

"Maine is a rural state filled with people who love this land and value their independence and agency in directing their choices in life. Open air cremation will likely never become the preferred disposition option of the majority, but it should be an option for those who seek the kind of intimate ceremonial engagement it offers," the nonprofit says on its website.

Open-air cremation in India
A man stands next to the burning pyre of his son near Gurdaspur, India, on June 18, 2020. Open-air cremation is still the preferred funerary ritual for many people in some parts of the world today.