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Living Dead? Glimpses of Spain’s Annual Coffin Festival

During the celebration, devotees lay in open coffins as they are paraded down the street.

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When it comes to religion, believers often engage in activities that may sometimes appear downright bizarre to the casual onlooker. In fact, such is the nature of faith that it can go to the extent of voluntarily placing yourself in a coffin as a way to express gratitude.

The pilgrimage of ‘Santa Marta de Ribarteme‘ or ‘Near Death Experiences festival’ is held every year on 29 June, in As Neves in the province of Pontevedra, Spain. During the celebration, devotees lay in open coffins as they are paraded down the street.

This unusual funeral procession is held as a form of gratitude to Saint Marta, the patron saint of Resurrection. Those who volunteer to lay in the coffins do so because they have had a recent brush with death – a near-death experience, or a cure from an illness. As part of the tradition, the coffins are carried by the family members of the “deceased”.

Thousands of people from Spain and Portugal gather to watch the ceremony each year, which is believed to date back to the 17th century. During the procession, pilgrims sing psalms and carry candles, with some even keeping up with the procession on their knees as a mark of devotion.

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

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