Drinking To The Departed

The Uape Indians, who live in the Amazon, mix the ashes of their recently cremated relatives with alcohol, then all members of the family drink the mix with fond memories of the deceased.

A lot of interesting customs exist around the world, having to do with potable beverages that are used in honoring the dearly departed. In Ancient Egypt, vessels of wine were placed in pyramid tombs along with food, so the spirit of the dead wouldn’t feel peckish or thirsty on their trip to the underworld. Many cultures host some variety of the Irish “wake”, in which food and drink are consumed, hopefully with fond memories and good wishes to speed the newly dead on their way to …wherever.

The Uape Indians, who live in the Amazon, mix the ashes of their recently cremated relatives with alcohol

That’s a far cry from actually consuming the dead. Because that’s exactly what the Uape Indians of the Upper Amazon do. When someone dies, they are cremated with whatever burnable material is at hand. Meanwhile, someone has brewed a batch of cassiri, the local drink. The beer, made from the fermentation of the cassava root, has a deadly kick of its own unless cured or cooked in some way. The raw cassava contains cyanogenic glucosides, and if not fermented thoroughly, imbibers will be next in line for roasting and toasting.

Once the deceased’s body has been completely consumed by fire, the ashes are then mixed with cassiri, and the resulting drink is passed around amongst their immediate family and other kin, to be enjoyed along with tales of the departed’s life and accomplishments.

No anthropological researchers who come across gems like this has ever commented on whether the process affects the taste or potency of the beer.

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