Traditional Zulu Burial

Friday, 29 July 2011

If the correct funeral rites are not observed, the deceased may come back to trouble the living relatives. Usually an animal is killed in ritual, although this also serves the practical purpose of providing food for the many guests. Personal belongings are often buried with the deceased to assist in the journey. Various other rituals follow the funeral itself. The Nguni people kill an ox at the burial to accompany the deceased.

The most important elements to the traditional Zulu funeral are the Ox, i.e. if the deceased is umnumzane (the man/head of the house) or a goat, insense (impepho) in order to communicate with ansestors and traditional brew (ukhamba). The idea is that the attendees must feast and celebrate to wish the deceased a good journey to abaphansi (deceased relatives).

Like most African tribes, the Zulus pay tribute to the souls of the dead, in Zulu they are called 'abaphansi' (roughly translated to mean, those in the ground) or 'amadlozi' (ancestors). In western terms, one could compare them to guardian angels. Those 'left behind' go to great lengths to keep them happy by making sacrifices and offerings to them; they also ensure that the souls are brought back from the place where the body died to the family home. They are given a special place to 'live' in the hut, this place is called 'emsamo', and this is where one goes to talk to and communicate with them and any sacrifices and offerings are placed there for them.

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