Cattle in a field

 

Written by Jenny Goldade

 

Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.

 

But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.

 

This article looks at Banyankole tribe of southwestern Uganda funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Croatian funeral traditions and Algerian funeral traditions, among others.

 

Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.

 

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Traditional Banyankole Funeral Beliefs

Traditionally, the Banyankole didn’t believe in naturally-occurring deaths. They attributed deaths to some sort of sorcery. They took the bodies to witch doctors to determine the cause of death and who to blame. However, they believed that God controlled death by old age.

 

Preparation of the Body

To prepare the body for burial, the deceased’s family washes the body and closes the deceased’s eyes. They wait for all the extended family to arrive before having the burial. Then everyone lines up to view the body and remember the deceased. If you don’t attend, then there might be a suspicion that you’re involved in their death — although this is more of a traditional belief than a modern one.

 

There also are village committees that have funds and resources for funerals, such as dishes and chairs. They also coordinate food and drinks for the funeral meal.

 

Banyankole Burial Traditions

Burials typically are in the afternoon. They bury the bodies in the ground facing east. They place men on their right side and women on their left side, so married couples can face each other. Their family also might bury the deceased with various objects to prevent them from haunting them — especially if the deceased died while still holding a grudge against someone.

 

They may hire professional mourners for the funeral. Women also may weep loudly and roll on the ground during the burial.

 

Mourning Period

The mourning period lasts for at least four days. They slaughter cattle to feed the mourners. Everyone may stay and sleep at the deceased’s home. During this time, they can’t do manual labor because they believe a hailstorm will ruin their crops.