Burial rites are important part to Africa traditional societies where the dead are accorded to dignity and treated with respect and the care they deserve.
This is so because many believe when a person dies, his burial is like his last wedding on earth and if he or she is not granted the required respect, their spirits might come back to haunt the living.
While some people choose how they want to be buried and what should be done to them when they die. Others choose to be cremated, buried in expensive coffins, buried in their cars, best clothes, buried with their expensive things they own such as watches, shoes, gold chains, etc.
Unlike the Egyptians who believed the journey to the afterlife was long, and so buried their departed ones with food, water and wine to help them on their travels, kings were buried with their jewelries a norm wich among the luhya community was termed as a taboo that could lead to seveare consequenses.
According to mzee David Khalukhana of the kabras community, burying someone wearing jewelery was a serious offense to an extent of forcing the community members to exhume the body remove the jewelery before re-burying the departed’s remains.
“It has severe consequences, the spirit of the deceased saul could haunt the living of the said community, A person was to be burried as he was born or else he/ she wont be accepted by the gods of the second world,”Said Khalukhana.
The belief was so intense to an extent where dead people were buried without some inner clothes such as pants and bras which according to the Luhya community if buried with could cause a curse to his generation that would render his children burren.
“A woman is buried with no inner pants and bra, she was dressed in a long kamisi and a white dress, if necessary a loosened cloth is placed in his head to cover her hair which must be unplaited,” He added.
“To men, his tie and belt would be taken off, his shirt is unbuttoned while his trouser is unzipped. Like the woman he too was buried with no inner pants,” Said Mary Lusiola.
Mzee Maina says that it was hard for mourners to note the adjustments as they were done at the last minute before the buring the deceased.
“Elderly men and women of more than 70 years who belonged to the deceased community were contracted to do the adjustments respectively to the deceased gender,” she added.
Furthermore, the deceased is to be buried wearing spotless clothes, a man was to be buried wearing a white shirt and black trousers while a woman is dressed in a white dress.
“A spotless color symbolized purity, he/she was to go to the second world as pure as he was born”, he said.
The tradition was that serious failure to adhere to it would cause the deceased spirit to haunt the living which will result in premature deaths, sudden illnesses, and calamities.
Similarly, midnight to the burial, the deceased members of the church would sing and dance to traditional songs while surrounding the coffin. These songs were believed to awake the ancestor’s spirit who would welcome the spirit of the deceased to the second world.
“Spirits of the ancestors were believed to come out of their graves as from 12 am to 4 am, at this time the songs are intensified to call out to the ancestor’s spirit, by doing this they believed the spirit of their partner would not come back to bother them,” he said.
However, with the advent of modern technology such as cremating dead bodies and chopping up dead bodies into pieces, and fed to waiting vultures as the Tibetan community of east Asia do has resulted to an effect of most of our traditions and hence its decline.
“As a measure to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, many of the communities nowadays bury bodies of their dead in town cemetries where the bodies are handled with less experienced people”, he said.
Lusiola has related the advent of the new technology as the result of sudden deaths and illness haunting the comunity members.
“According to the Luhya community, after a person dies, his spirit hovers around for 40 days before going into the second world, this period is referred to as Luvego among the luhya community, at this period sudden deaths, illnesses, and calamities will be witnessed if the person wasn’t accorded the rightful burial, ” he said.
He now calls on the Ministry of Education to come up with a method that will enable them to include culture and tradition in the normal lessons as a way to ensure some of these tradions don’t go into extinct.