10 Sad Facts About the Hindu Custom Sati, in Which Women Practice Self-Immolation

Every culture has its own way of dealing with death, and exactly how they do it often comes down to that culture's views on the afterlife. Or in some cultures' cases, "before-life." Here in the West, we might see other cultures' funerary practices as morbid or unthinkable. But they might well say the same of us. That sort of cultural relativism does apply to most practices. Except for that one we always have a problem wrapping our minds around: human sacrifice

The custom of sati, a widow killing herself following a husband's death, seems fairly barbaric in some ways. Prehistoric, almost. And it is, on both counts. But is this really so different from what we see in something like Romeo and Juliet? Two people deeply in love, entering the hereafter together? 

Depending on your age and views of the afterlife (or in India's case, reincarnation), the idea of Sati may be either very easy or very difficult to understand. But there is some beauty to be found in the notion. Just ask Juliet.