A recipe for cremation

A recipe for cremation

Barlow Bonsall, Cook @ 1700 to 1800 degrees for 2 to 3 hours

This is the text of a tattoo surrounded by a yellow and orange flame. It belongs to Army veteran and cancer survivor Russell Parsons, who was quoted in NBC News as saying, “It’s a recipe for cremation.”

Barlow Bonsall, the addressee of the tattoo, is the name of the Funeral Home and Crematorium that will carry out the cremation.

This unusual form of will or epitaph ensures that Parsons’s corpse itself will communicate directions for a proper disposal to the crematorium staff. The tattoo doesn’t mention what will happen to his remains after his cremation, rather the words describe the process of cremation that will perish during the cremation process.

Why this piqued my interest:
As part of my MA, I’m doing some research into death rituals and in particular, how helpful Van Gennep’s theory of ‘rites of passage’ is in understanding the evidence for ancient practices surrounding death. Thinking about Parsons’ tattoo made me think about how a living body might be “branded” (tattooed) with a symbol of an individual’s mortality that allows the living to interpret wishes for the handling and disposal of the body after death.