- In many African communities, it is said to be caused by:
- Witchcraft - Sorcery
- Curses - Evil magic
- Diseases - Evil spirits
- Old age - Breaking of taboos/binding oaths
- Death is feared and resented. The dead continue to be part of the family and they are remembered through naming of children after them.
- The importance of the funeral rite is determined by the status, sex and the age of the person being buried e.g.
- Young children and unmarried people are simple and attended by few people
- For leaders, the rich and heroes in the community it will be elaborate and attended by many people.
- Normal duties are disrupted on the burial day so as to allow many people to attend such funerals.
DEATH RITES IN AFRICAN TRADITIONAL SOCIETY (A.T.S)
- In some communities, the corpse is washed using water and herbal medicine in order to preserve and send it clean to the spirit world.
- In some communities, the dead are buried with their belonging e.g. food, animals, bows, arrows. They believe that the dead will need those things in the spirit world.
- Pregnant women and children are not allowed to touch or come in close contact with the corpse so that misfortunes do not befall them.
- -The dead are buried in a carefully selected place in the ancestral land so that the spirits continue to be close to the family.
- The body is carefully placed in the grave facing an appropriate direction according to the customs of the people.
- In some communities the bodies are properly dressed before disposal while others e.g. among the Abagusii the dead are buried naked in the belief that they will be reborn in the spirit world.
- -The grave is respected by being protected and made a family shrine particularly in cases where the dead were the head of the family. People avoid walking over the grave.
- - Before and during burial, the members of the family and all relatives enter a period of mourning. Normal activities are temporarily halted in some communities this period is marked by people smearing their bodies with white clay; others stop washing their bodies, stop eating or refrain from sexual intercourse.
- During this period there is singing and dancing of mourning songs as a way of expressing sorrow and sending off the departed to the next world.
- In some communities there is feasting and beer drinking.
- After burial, close relatives shave their hair as a sign that one of their members has been separated from them and for cleansing impurities. The new hair grown shows that life continues after death.
- Sacrifices are offered to introduce the deceased to the spirit world.
- Most communities pour libation to their dead ancestors.
- In some communities a symbolic fire is lit near the grave and the graveyard is guarded by the mourners.
- A widow’s inheritance is divided by the husband’s kinsman.
ROLE OF DEATH IN CREATING MORAL VALUES
- Creates co-operation since the whole community is involved.
- All mourners are given food supplied by the family of the deceased or outsiders also help in providing and promoting hospitality and sharing.
- Africans are careful to follow all the funeral rites so as to promote obedience.
- In some communities, the affected are not supposed to indulge in sexual intercourse encouraging chastity and self control.
- Members of the deceased mourn and have to come to terms with their grief promoting perseverance.
- By following all the wishes of the dead person, death encourages respect.
- The dead body is carefully disposed of to avoid any haunting and the grave is respected promoting respect.
- When the society takes care of the widows and orphans, they show love.
- Children, pregnant women and witches are not allowed near the corpse and this shows responsibility.
Reasons why death is feared in Traditional African Communities
- It disrupts the rhythm of humanactivity / life.
- It is irrevocable/ inescabable.
- It brings impurity to the family.
- It deprives the community of members.
- It involves too many rituals.
- It comes unannounced.
- Seperates one from the loved ones/ end of life on earth.
- Nobody knows about the after liofe.
- It may cause misunderstanding in the community.
- Death rites reveal people’s characteristics.
- It may bring poverty to the family.
Practices in T.A.C that show their belief in life after death
ii. Invoking the names of the dead during problems./ inviting them to important occasions.
iii. Burrying the dead with some property.
iv. Offering sacrifices to the dead.
v. Pouring libation to the living-dead.
vi. Taking care of their graveyards.
vii. Fulfilling the wishes / will of the dead/ carrying out the demands of the dead.
viii. Talking of the dead as having gone for a walk.
ix. Washing the dead body/ oiling/ giving a descent burial to the dead.
x. Holding commemoration ceremonies.
xi. Burrying the dead in a particular position/ direction/ in ancestral land.