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Inyanga is often called upon to treat the area and remove the eggs. The object is then burnt. Of course the eggs are imaginary as even the inyanga himself may not see them. Even if it is an animal, it is burnt to ashes. If it is a human being, the corpse is never touched until the inyanga has treated it and the people assisting in the burial. The corpse has to be buried on the spot whether in the hut or veld.
Thunder is also regarded as a sign of displeasure by the rain-goddess and the strike will be punitive. Rain taboos therefore have to be observed if this wrath is to be averted.
Death And Burial The family is aware of death as a necessary end and looks forward to finding “joy” in communicating spiritually with their dead. An ox is slaughtered to accompany the dead man or women. The reasons for this
The meat is the dead person’s “provision” which he must offer to the • dead who will give him a “joyful majestic welcome” as he or she enters their realm.
After the burial this meat is roasted and eaten outside the home. Bones are burnt, mixed with herbs and thrown into the river water or pool. As spirits do not like salt … this meat is eaten tasteless by all attending the ceremony.
Stones are carefully collected and carried to the grave to be placed on the grave by the men. Where there are no stones in the area, tree-branches are used. A “wait-a-bit” tree is placed on the grave on all occasions and is used as a death seal.
The corpse is placed into the grave in a sitting position and facing the kraal.
Relatives throw a handful of soil on the coffin or corpse, bidding him farewell.
They spit saliva on the soil before it is thrown into the grave. The people will then sing the praises of the dead, and ask the ancestors to receive the dead person and give him accommodation.
The grave then has to be protected against witches who want to steal the corpse for witchcraft. All who attend the funeral need to wash with an herb to cleanse them from death. They will wash both their hands and head.
A Day After The Burial Another ritual will be performed where a goat is killed. The meat is mixed with herbs and a protective spell is said over it. An herbalist doctor (Inyanga) knocks the family members’ joints individually as they eat the roasted goat meat.
The goat is driven back home and later killed for the spirits. Some cut a branch and drag it from the grave into the home. Others take beer in a calabash, sip it once as they talk and pour it out on the grave … walking home they will sing a song calling the dead person to come back home.
Later that evening, an ox will be slaughtered, skinned and put in the hut for the night. The goat that was driven back from the grave is then killed, roasted and eaten the same night by the family only.
The family will drink the beer as they snuff various herbs and plants. This is a “communion service” in which every member of the family can say and ask whatever they want from the ancestors.
The remaining meat, snuff, and a calabash of beer are left in the hut for the spirits to feast and drink. In the morning, they sing and dance as they pull out the grass from the roof of the dead person’s hut. Beer is spilt on the ground.
The ox meat is now roasted and eaten … and more beer is served.
What Happens In The Spirit?
The re-admission of the recent dead person into the home in another form and capacity … as well as the sharing of the sacrificial meal secures permanent acceptance for the belief in the communion between the dead ancestors and the living.
The purpose of the various sacrifices is to express or establish a relationship of harmony and unbroken fellowship between the ancestors and the living.
The belief is that the spirits come in the night, eat and drink the beer offered them, and in return will providently look after the family and stop suffering.
The meat and beer are food for the “living dead” which they need and will expect to have at least once a year in order to maintain and renew the fellowship that is so vital to both … as such, the altar must be serviced every year.
The Spinal Cord Metamorphosis During the twelve months from burial, the dead person’s spinal cord will undergo metamorphosis of some kind resulting … in the emergence of a snake, which is the person incarnate.
[If the dead person was a king, he was often represented as a three-legged leopard.] Both the green cobra and mamba, as well as the little red house snake (which is harmless), are some of the snakes often expected to be the ancestors and are not to be killed.
To facilitate communication, the ancestral spirit is given an animal as its host, preferably a black ox.
When there is illness in the home, the head of the kraal will go to the ox very early in the morning and will talk to the spirits as he kneels besides the animal.
With all these rituals and services, the members of the family expect to receive some “blessings” from the ancestors at least once a year.
The fertility of land, livestock and also human beings is attributed to the cooperation and direction of the ancestral spirits. All that man has and possesses is ordered by the spirits’ governance.
Besides paying homage to their ancestors, African people also seek help through witch-doctors for deliverance from sicknesses, curses, financial problems, and love problems. It is common practice to receive incisions in the flesh by a witch-doctor for protection from evil. They also consult sangomas for answers from ancestors with regards to important decisions. A sangoma is the medium through which such guidance is channeled.
6For additional studies see “How Fertility Cults Devour Our Blessings”, “The Four Elements”, as well as “African Renaissance” Ancestors reside under the ground, which is why during all ceremonies that honour the ancestors, the blood of a slaughtered animal must be spilled on the ground (Xhosa – palala igazi) and then covered over afterwards.
Ceremonial beer (Xhosa – umqombothi) is spilled on the ground, and in some cases food is placed on the ground as well.
There are ancestors of a family, which is a combination of various ancestors via marriage. There are also the ancestors over an entire clan. African tribes
are divided into clans:
• Xhosa – isiduko
• Zulu – tagazela For example, as a Xhosa your surname can be Mbeki … but you are part of the Dlamini clan.
How Does A Deceased Person Become An Ancestor?
When someone dies the family sacrifices an animal – spills blood – to implore the ancestors to accept the deceased into their realm and to provide guidance for the deceased so that the dead can also graduate to becoming an ancestor.
This was explained in the previous section. After the mourning period, another ceremony is held whereby a sangoma enquires of the ancestors about the status of the deceased … whether the deceased has become an ancestor. Hence, the mourning clothes symbolizes more than the norm.
Ancestral Mourning In Greater Detail In most cases, only two sets of mourning clothes are made in order that one can wash the other set when the first is dirty. The day your elders take off (ba go tlhobola) the mourning clothes, they buy a new set of clothes and burn the old set. It is believed that bad luck (sefifi) comes with death, which must be destroyed by fire.
Once the mourning clothes have been burned, the family can start a new life.
After the burning of the clothes, the hair of the chief mourner, or family, is cut.
This hair is put into a container and burnt. Then the traditional doctor prepares muti to cleanse chief mourners.
A woman is not to have intercourse during mourning period. In some cases, if a woman does sleep with any man, that man can get makgome. This is the swelling of the genital parts of a man.
(When AIDS/HIV was first experienced, many Africans believed it to be “magma”. I believe, the rituals that some families perform during lobola and the marriage ceremony, are linked to this.) If the man gets swollen genitals, he will have to go to the woman-inmourning’s in-laws and beg them to cure him. They will then get their house or traditional doctor to cure the man. However, he must pay a heavy fine … one cow. If he does not do this, he will die.
Common Elements In All African Ceremonies That Seek To Invoke The Ancestors The ancestors are honoured for their provision and/or appeased for safekeeping. Tribes might differ in types of celebration, but they practice a common way in which the ancestors are honoured or implored. Two elements are
An animal • – usually a sheep, goat, or cow – is slaughtered for blood to be spilled into the ground Beer is brewed … the outcome of the fermentation is a sign of • either the ancestors’ approval of the ceremony or not. If the beer did not ferment properly, the process must be repeated as successful fermentation is a vital sign indicating the go-ahead for the ceremony. Should a second fermentation process fail, the ixhwele – or witch-doctor, which is not a sangoma – will be called in to identify the problem and to correct it. The problem might be a curse from jealous people, ancestors’ dissatisfaction with the family, and so forth. At the beginning of a ceremony, some beer is spilled into the ground for the ancestors.
At birth and death ceremonies, all the meat of the sacrificed • animal must be boiled and eaten and no meat can be taken away.
All the bones will be burned as well. This is to retain the blessing for that particular household only. It is believed that you will be cursed if you take away the meat prepared for such occasions.
Who Facilitates The Ceremonies In Honour Of The Ancestors?
The elder – the oldest male family member – is always the person who facilitates the ceremonies in honour of the ancestors. In the Xhosa culture for instance, only a ndota – a male who has been through the initiation rite – can slaughter an animal for ceremonies and speak to the ancestors. Generally, in all tribes, most all the males who had been through a recognized tribal rite of manhood have such authority.
Facilitators In More Detail In the Sotho groups – Batswang, Bapedi and South Sothos – old grandmothers can talk to the ancestors. However, the slaughtering is still done by the men.
Birth Ceremonies When a child is born a dedication ceremony is held to thank the ancestors for the child and to ask for the child’s protection. The child’s umbilical cord is buried in the grounds of the homestead … usually the grandparents’ family home. The traditional explanation for burying the umbilical cord in the homestead ground is so that an African person will always have a homestead to belong to and would never have to be a wanderer. Ironically, history shows that Africans have always experienced the worst cases of being homeless and dispossessed.
The burial of the umbilical cord is a ceremony in which the umbilical cord is given to the ancestors who reside under the ground … this is so that the ancestors have access to manipulate the person.
The baby dedication ceremony includes the two important elements:
Spilling of blood by the slaughtering of an animal • And the fermenting of beer as the approval sign.
• The gall bladder of the slaughtered animal – seen as a life element – is also wrapped around the child for a number of days for protection.
At this ceremony all the meat must be eaten at the venue … no meat can be carried off, so that the blessings for the particular household stay with the household.
An elder of the family officiates over such a ceremony.
First Birthdays For a child’s first birthday, a ceremony is held to thank the ancestors for sparing the child and to ask for further protection and prosperity.
Once again, an animal is slaughtered and blood is spilled into the ground, and beer is fermented for the sign of approval from the ancestors … some beer is also spilled into the ground. A family elder officiates over the slaughtering.
Sunday Times journalist Fred Khumalo writes in his column of 8 January 2006, that he and his wife held a traditional ceremony to celebrate their son’s first birthday over the festive season. Referring to the part where the animal was slaughtered, he says it was ‘to spill blood to appease the ancestors’.
All Thanksgiving Ceremonies Ceremonies held to thank the ancestors for prosperity – a new car, new job, new house, and so forth – yet once again, all include the spilling of the blood of a slaughtered animal on the ground to appease, as well as the traditional beer as a sign of approval. The elder family member slaughters the animal and addresses the ancestors.
However, excess meat can be taken away by guests.
An animal must be slaughtered to request the ancestors to accept the deceased, and to guide the deceased into the afterlife. This is also done to protect the family of the deceased from curses.
Meat cannot be taken away by guests … and the bones of the slaughtered animals must be burned to obviate a curse.
For example, the Ndebele tribe has an initiation at the age of ten years when ear marking takes place.
Both boys and girls undergo this rite which is a symbol of acceptance and entry into the society.
After the service, the initiates line up and parents and friends shake hands with them as they welcome them into the Ndebele community as full members of the clan and tribe as a whole.
Where, why, what, and how it is done?
Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] is a destructive, invasive procedure that is usually performed on girls before puberty. Part or the entire clitoris is surgically removed. This leaves them with reduced or no sexual feeling.
Orgasms are sometimes impossible to experience later in life. Many health problems result from the surgery.
FGM originated in Africa. It was, and remains, a cultural, not a religious practice.