Funerals rituals

Saturday 29 November 2008 by Florence

Traditional ceremonies linked to death take a very important place all the more since the belief of the next world. Whereas the body dies, the spirit and the soul live on and are seen as continuing to surround the living, who are menaced by their jealousy aroused by their death, a vital force which must be seized and channelled through dancing for the benefit of those who remain on earth. This is not without danger but the mask protects the dancer who wears it as a safeguard against attack by the dead man’s spirit. Among the Punu of Angola, the members of the Moukouji society wear during the funerals of one of their members a mask which supposedly represents ancestors faces.

Some other rites prepare the wandering souls for their new existence and make their entry easily to the kingdom of their ancestors. The Mahafaly inhabiting the South of Madagascar celebrate the entry of the death to his second house. They can scarify an entire life to offer the deceased a house good enough for his new rank. As soon as the dead is shaved, cleaned and wears his most beautiful clothes, he is enveloped by a silk (lambamena) or a cotton cloth for the poorest. The body is then exposed on the corner ancestors of the house during sometimes one month according to the area.

Then come the transportation of the body in his tomb, its buried and a last speech (kabary) where the oldest talks to the dead and says praises to him. These ceremonies are followed by songs which describe the life of the dead, dances, zebus sacrifices, lamentations, screams, laughs and cries. The sepulchres are also decorated by some sculptured totem poles (aloalo) representing zebus, carriages, people and different other elements of the life of the deceased. Other ones are decorated by sacred birds (ibis mijoa), a common figure in the funerary art and symbol of fecundity.

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