An Ubud cremation ceremony in 2005

A pyre (Greek: πυρά, pyrá, from πυρ, pýr, fire), also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon the pyre, which is then set on fire.




The funeral pyre of Chan Kusalo (the Buddhist high monk of Northern Thailand) at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Traditionally, pyres are used for the cremation of the deceased in the Hindu and Sikh religions, a practice which dates back several thousands of years.[1] Funeral pyres were also used in Viking culture, typically on floating boats, as well as by the Romans.[2]


Pyres and bonfires are used in celebrations and remembrance in services. Examples of these are Guy Fawkes Night in the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth countries, where the 'Guy', either seen as an effigy of Guy Fawkes or the Pope, is burned.

Funeral pyres were used by the Nazis to cremate the bodies of 1,500,000+ Jews in Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps, as opposed to the crematoriums used in other camps. Pyres have also been used to dispose of large quantities of livestock in agriculture, particularly those infected with disease.[2]

Western world and legality

Whilst funeral pyres are still used in several cultures, they are very uncommon and even illegal in some cultures, particularly in the Western World.[2] Despite cremation being commonplace, open air cremations in the United Kingdom were thought to be unlawful under the Cremation Act 1902 - although in recent years, some have taken place amongst immigrant communities.[2] In February, 2010, a court of appeals in the United Kingdom ruled that a cremation on an open pyre would be legal inside of a building with an open roof, well away from roads and homes.[3] In the US, a group in Crestone, Colorado has done the research, obtained the necessary legal permissions and created a permanent cement pyre structure to perform around 12 “open-air cremations” a year.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Norfolk, Andrew (July 13, 2006). "'Illegal' funeral pyre burnt in secret". The Times (London). Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d Fernando, Shehani (14 July 2006). "The question: Why are funeral pyres illegal?". The Guardian (London:,,1820024,00.html. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Taylor, Matthew (10 February 2010). "Hindu man wins court battle for open-air cremation pyre". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ Moreno, Ivan (January 31, 2011). "Funeral Pyres An Option In Crestone". CBS Denver (Denver). Retrieved May 4, 2011. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pyre — Pyre, n. [L. pure, Gr. ?, fr. ? fire. See {Fire}.] A funeral pile; a combustible heap on which the dead are burned; hence, any pile to be burnt. [1913 Webster] For nine long nights, through all the dusky air, The pyres thick flaming shot a dismal …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pyre — [paıə US paır] n [Date: 1600 1700; : Latin; Origin: pyra, from Greek, from pyr fire ] a high pile of wood on which a dead body is placed to be burned in a funeral ceremony ▪ a funeral pyre …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • pyre — 1650s, from L. pyra, from Gk. pyra a hearth, funeral pyre, from pyr (gen. pyros) fire, cognate with O.E. fyr (see FIRE (Cf. fire) (n.)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • pyre — [ paır ] noun count a high pile of wood for burning a dead body in a funeral ceremony …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • pyre — ► NOUN ▪ a heap of combustible material, especially one for the ritual cremation of a corpse. ORIGIN Greek pur fire …   English terms dictionary

  • pyre — [pīr] n. [L pyra < Gr < pyr, FIRE] a pile, esp. of wood, on which a dead body is burned in a funeral rite …   English World dictionary

  • pyre — di·pyre; pyre; pyre·tog·e·nous; …   English syllables

  • pyre — n. a funeral pyre * * * [ paɪə] a funeral pyre …   Combinatory dictionary

  • pyre — UK [paɪə(r)] / US [paɪr] noun [countable] Word forms pyre : singular pyre plural pyres a high pile of wood for burning a dead body in a funeral ceremony …   English dictionary

  • pyre — noun Etymology: Latin pyra, from Greek, from pyr fire more at fire Date: 1587 a combustible heap for burning a dead body as a funeral rite; broadly a pile of material to be burned < a pyre of dead leaves > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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