Maine is considering a bill that would allow its citizens to go out in a literal blaze of glory. Yes, any residents of Maine who want their funeral to involve an awesome Viking funeral pyre may soon have the ability to do so.
The actual term up for debate is “open air cremations.” While the practice is almost as old as mortality itself, it’s only legal in two spots in the United States and, yes, both of them are in Colorado. This new law would allow such pyres on nonprofits with at least 20 private acres, provided that they only do one at a time and scatter the ashes on the property.
“The intention for the land is to become a contemplative community sanctuary, scattering garden and space for open-air cremation,” says just such a nonprofit called Good Ground, Great Beyond on its website. “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.”
GGGB owns 63 private acres in Dresden, Maine and is run by an interfaith hospice minister named Angela Lutzenberger, who says she got tired of seeing the families of the deceased lose control of what happens to the remains of the people they love. She thinks this is a good way to keep what happens next out of the hands of funeral directors.
Other states have considered allowing such practices but only Colorado has given it even a tentative allowance. Missouri actually passed a law that would have allowed open air cremations in 2019, but Governor Michael Parson vetoed it, saying “I am not comfortable with allowing these types of ceremonies to be conducted in our state.”
Parson said he was concerned about health and sanitation, but research shows that there’s no reason for him to be. A study in the UK found no adverse health or environmental effects of open air cremations.