Igbo Funeral Rites

Topics: Funeral, Burial, Ritual Pages: 10 (340 words) Published: April 20, 2015
Igbo Funeral Rites
Kaila Jacobson

Among the people of the Igbo tribe in southeastern
Nigeria, death is usually a highly ritualized event
filled with deep mourning. There are usually two
funerals, whose intention is to safely escort the
deceased from the realm of the living to the spirit
world. Only after a successful second funeral can
the deceased pass the line of “ita okazi”, a period
of torment, into a state of peace.

Immediate Preparations
When an elderly man or woman dies, they are
immediately sponged with camwood dye to
mark them as sacred. Shortly after, they are
then laid down in their living room with their feet
facing the entryway. If it is a woman, though,
they are usually seated upright. Women are
also always carried to their ancestral village for

The Wake
Once the body has been prepared for its passage
into the spirit world, a “wake” is held. The eldest
son of the person who is deceased welcomes the
community into their home with kola nuts and palm
wine. Prayers are spoken to awaken ancestral
spirits to help escort the spirit of the deceased. The
wake usually goes on all night, and gunshots are
fired in the morning to signal to other tribes that
there has been a death.

First Burial
After the wake, the deceased is immediately
buried in the living room. Also enclosed in the
grave are large amounts of cloth and some of
the deceased’s most valued possessions. Men
are often buried with their tools, gun, or fishing
gear, while the women are usually buried with
their pots and dishes.

Second Burial
Several months or even a year after the first
funeral, a second is held, but it is accompanied
by feasting and merrymaking rather than
mourning. Visitors dress in their best attire and
they sing & dance to alert the community of the
event that will be held. After the second funeral,
the deceased is said to have been sent off to
take up a new place in the land of the dead.

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