What Is It?
Self-immolation (or Suttee) was a traditional Hindu ritual practiced in India, whereby a grieving widow will voluntarily lie by her husband's side on his funeral pyre, where she's burned alive next to the corpse.
Suttee had been practiced throughout India for centuries, before it was outlawed by the occupying British in 1829 (though occurrences have persisted until present day, causing it to be banned again in 1956, and again in 1981--some people just don't listen).
As you can imagine, once the flames got going it was common for widows to decide this wasn't such a great idea and try to run the hell away. This was considered highly dishonorable, so bystanders would helpfully jab the widow with bamboo canes or even tie her down to keep her on the fire.
In one 18th century incident, when a widow got beyond the pokers and doused the flames in a nearby river, helpful onlookers threw her back on, remembering first to break her legs and arms to save her from future indignities.
Dear God, Why?
Back in the day, widows in India were way, way down on the social ladder. Everything about a widow was considered impure, from her touch and her voice to her very presence. She was something to be shunned and abhorred, which must have reduced the husband's funeral to a lot of cursing and spitting. Apparently they didn't think the grief of losing a husband was quite enough.
Apparently at some point in history, when the widows asked what they could do to redeem themselves someone said, "Why don't you just set your fucking self on fire? How about that?"
Though it was also believed that the husband and wife could be reunited after death, which is why sometimes the husband's most cherished possessions were burnt so that he could use them in the afterlife or trade them on the Indian afterlife's thriving black market.
Buddhist Self Mummification
What Is It?
Self-mummification was practiced until the late 1800s in Japan, by people who thought being a mummy looked so awesome they couldn't wait until actual death to be one. It's been outlawed since the early 1900s, and when we describe how it works, you'll see why. Just wrapping yourself up in bandages and waiting for the Grim Reaper doesn't seem to cut it.
No, to mummify yourself properly, you'll need over 2,000 days of preparation. Here's how to do it, the Buddhist priest way:
First we've got to get all of the fat off of your body. They did this by changing their diet to just nuts and seeds. The priest could eat nothing else for 1,000 days.
Next, we need to remove as much moisture from your body as possible. Since your body is mostly moisture, this may cause you some discomfort. The priests would eat only a small amount of bark and root from pine trees, for another 1,000 days. Then they'd drink a special tea (and by "special" we mean "incredibly poisonous") made from the sap of an urushi tree.