In the misty highlands of Central Sulawesi, Tana Toraja keeps alive the most sacred of its animistic rituals: the funeral.
…Encircled by the towering family tongkonan, each intricately carved with curved, sweeping roofs of split bamboo, laid the casket. The women chewed sweets while the men chain-smoked kreteks and sipped arak. A dozen or so pigs lay squealing before the huts, strapped with bamboo and paralyzed on the grass. All awaited the funeral’s climax.
Finally, one of the buffaloes was dragged into the muddy courtyard. Leashed to a stake in the ground, its entire body squirmed as its throat was was slit, the huge torso collapsing onto the grass. With its last breath, it raised its head high into the air, the gash across its neck stretched wide open and gushing. Finally the bull’s head lowered to rest against the wet ground. It was at this moment, according to the old animists of Toraja, that the deceased had finally passed on to Puya, the land of souls.