For Africans death stands between the world of human beings and spirits. So they conduct rituals elaborately. Rituals are repetitive routine and symbolic activity that connects us to what we consider to be the most valuable dimensions of life and it is very important to the deceased person as he is in between living and the dead. After rituals only he is believed to join the ancestral world. Thatâ€™s why bereavement rituals are very important to Africans and they bury the dead according to cultural traditional rituals.
All the ethnic groups in Africa encouraged the bereaved to preserve the connection between the deceased and the living, but each ethnic group differs in their rituals along with some common factors.
Batswana ethnic group rituals: On the day of bereavement, people slaughter an Ox named mogoga at sunrise. Meat is consumed without salt to show that there is no pleasure in consuming meat during mourning. During the mourning period, the close relatives have to put on a grass necklace and will shave their heads. The mourning period wonâ€™t last more than a year and the cleaning ceremony is lead by an uncle. The mourning process also includes giving mourners new clothing, food, and drink.
Zulu ethnic group rituals: They tend to focus on the rituals of the burial process, they donâ€™t focus much on emotional aspects. They wash hands after burial to avoid transferring pollution of death around. After that meal will be offered and the loved ones of the deceased person shave their heads and will burn the hair along with the deceased one’s clothing for purification from contamination of death. The widow of the deceased is not allowed to travel outside the home for a certain time as not to spread misfortunes. At the end of the mourning period, another cleansing ritual to purify the bereaved and the possessions of the deceased, and the widow is given cleaning herbs to purify herself.
Pedi group rituals: The widow or widower will be secluded by rituals of decontamination. A male animal is slaughtered for the funeral. The widow is the deceased is forbidden from many social activities and wears a black dress. The widower has also had restrictions but not as much as the widow.
Rituals of Venda people: This ethnic group considers wailing as a public acknowledgment of death. During the bereavement period, the widow of the deceased is considered dirty and cleansing rituals will be done to purify her by a traditional healer the day after the funeral. The whole yard will also be cleansed to prevent another misfortune.
Tsonga people: Ancestors play an important in the lives of the Tsonga group. The bereavement rituals are symbolic gestures. It has hidden significant meaning which is communicated through performance or action.
Xhosa ethnic group: In this group bereaved are expected to undergo the rituals within 12 months of mourning. During the rituals they shave their heads, perform umkkhapo ; a ritual to escort the departed to the place of their forefathers and to maintain the connection between the departed and the living. The ritual will end with the process of umbuyiso completed, a year after the deceased has passed on.
Ndebele group: Their main ritual includes hair shaving.
The Luo people: They have 14 rituals to perform during bereavement.IT differs with the gender of the deceased. All rituals will be performed when elderly men die, it also depends on the age, sex, and marital status of the deceased. The rituals include death announcement, vigil, grave digging, burial, accompanying the spirit of the deceased to the battleground, shaving, Mournerâ€™s departure to their houses, serving a meal to the deceased, going to the former battleground with the spirit of the deceased, visiting the widowâ€™s natal home, dividing articles left by the deceased, remembrance, serving a meal to the family of the deceased by affines.
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