Viking funeral on Lake Superior Need answer...

…not fast, but accurate would do.

Here’s the situation: Our housekeeper tells us that her father, who’s getting on in years (well, he’s a hale and healthy 73), has decided what kind of send-off he wants after he kicks the bucket.

He’s already constructed a scale model of a Viking ship. I haven’t seen it, but she describes it as being about the size you would make a tabletop centerpiece. Maybe three and a half feet long. And it has a recess into which a crowd of bereaved loved ones hopped up on akvavit could pour a container of human ashes. And a pair of recesses fore and aft, which can be filled with a fluid such as ink, in case his soul wishes to write someone a letter from Valhalla, or perhaps kerosene, for if someone decides to umm, bring a supply of kerosene to a stranded camper on the other side of the lake. Or something.

You probably see where the old guy is going with this. The idea is that when his personal Ragnarök arrives, his remains will be cremated; the ashes will be flown to a state on which Lake Superior has a shoreline, and loaded into the longship. The wells will be filled with kerosene. The ship will be sent across the water with the kerosene wells alight, and his mortal remains will light the northern sky as he sails into the Great Beyond.

Is there ANYWHERE on the lake where activities such as this would be carried out without violating state, federal, or Canadian laws (can’t rule out Canada as a point of embarkation, in case they’re more sympathetic to the tradition than other authorities)?

Thanks very much for any information you can offer me.

Chance this would judged fully legal if you tried to obtain permission beforehand: very low.

Chance this would lead to unpleasantness if done discretely: also quite low.
For comparison: Scattering ashes from an airplane is by no means rare - but what’s the chance this is fully legal in many places?


It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission in this case IMHO anyway.


Just don’t do it in sight of shore or general shipping lanes.

Probably not legal.

However, Lake Superior is huge and there’s plenty of remote spots. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too hard to do this without being caught.

I do, however, wish that maybe you could find something other than kerosene. No need to pollute our Lake!

Personally, I’ve expressed a wish to be dumped whole into the lake when my time comes. No cremation for me! I highly doubt this will happen, but a girl can dream.

Perhaps some of that akvavit would do the trick?

He should check out Realities of Viking funerals to see what real vikings got when they died.

It’s not like what he’s planning.

Speaking as a resident of the Great Lakes shoreline, I’d really prefer fewer human corpses in our lakes.

Not to mention flaming flotsam & jetsam.

You could use Turpentine, it’s distilled from pine trees.

Thanks for the information, Dr. Mercotan; I’ll be sure to pass along the straight dope to her. Perhaps she can use it to persuade her dad that what he’s really trying to plan for is a Hollywood set piece.

As for the question of fewer corpses in the lakes, I hope I made it clear that the cargo aboard the replica would be already-cremated ashes.

He’s bitchin’ at me, not you. I’ll do him the favor of staying out of HIS Lake and leave my corpse in my own. :smiley:

YOUR lake never gives up its dead. Mine sometimes does.

Thank you for your consideration.


Since this involves legal questions, let’s move it to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Can we be confident you’re less toxic than a small quantity of burning kerosene?

Stuffing the wells with loosely bunched newspaper dipped in a light vegetable oil would probably work adequately - either that, or use something that is very volatile and any unburned residue would evaporate.

I admit I do not know, but probably not, as authorities in general have no sense of fun or pageantry.

Your housekeeper should just resign herself to giving her late father’s ashes one final boat-ride, instead.

It would be damned shame if said boat caught fire …

You’d have to deal with the Coast Guard, as a gloriously aflame boat could be considered a hazard to navigation. Oh yeah, they deal with pollution too.

Lighting anything on fire and setting it adrift is probably a no-no. I don’t believe the presence of human cremains will make it any worse in most states of the US. I read a book about burial and cremation laws once. The cremation itself counts as “final disposition” of the body except in two states (California and Indiana if memory serves). After cremation in the other 48 states, there is no more regulation on what you can do with the remains than there would be on, say, wood ashes.

It took me a while to track it down, but the book was Caring for the Dead by Lisa Carlson. It was published about 17 years ago so may be out of date now.

Maybe bury the boat and the ashes in a barrow of some kind? That would be more authentic.