This post is actually an expository write-up on the cultural norms/beliefs that I was obligated to revere & perform right from the moment of passing of my father, some of which I never thought were in existence. Still. And more so, upheld from where I come from. At the moment, we are making preparations for the ‘final burial ceremony’ of my dad, here in Lagos where we reside. This is about three months after the actual burial in the East.
Among these beliefs, there were some which got me thinking: these people just added this, right? While some had me questioning the Christianity stand in all of it.
Below is a list of what still has a place in the Ibo tribe with reference to my own village/hometown. There’s even meanings associated to each and I will be covering that in another post.
- All female members of the immediate family of the deceased cuts their hair (wife and unmarried members): in my case, this included my mum, my sister and I. You can imagine how I felt after I was told that I would have to cut my hair as it was a ‘thing’ that must be done. I remember my sis was thinking of ways to arrange for a fake wedding (like that would ever happen. LOL!). I, on the other hand, raised arguments to prove how unnecessary and superstitious it was to cut my hair.
After much deliberation over the matter, and in fact, serious consideration, I finally came to terms with the fact that the hair had to go. To be honest, I had to give up the fight…and sooner as I was told that if I missed cutting it in the hands of a barber before travelling home for the burial, I would have to allow ‘the old women’ whose task it was, to cut my hair. So you can say, I decided to take the safer route.
2. No staying out late: this came into immediate effect after his passing. You know that time people come around to show their sympathy and all that, there were too many ‘experienced aunties’ who shared tons of Dos and DONTs with I and my siblings. This was one of the numerous ‘tips to live by after the loss of a loved one. Culture norms edition’ held among many from my village. We were told to not be found outside as soon as the sun begins to set. This was to be observed particularly from the time of passing up until he was laid to rest.
3. Yam cooking by the first female child of the deceased: this was one of the things I heard that got me wondering: but someone just died. What’s all this fuss about food? This was to be carried out by me and served to all the women in the entire family. But i didnt do this since I’m unmarried. Then again, after close observation into the argument that ensued among the ‘aunties’, I discovered that the cultural act had been so outdated that they weren’t sure if it was still a requirement. Phewww!
4. Tea preparation for the umu ada : Wonders shall never end! I never knew that the demise of a person meant having a tea party. We had to purchase stacks of tea and even went to procure loaves of bread at a local bakery which was served to the umu ada (which translates to ‘daughters of the family’). As per the custom, they consumed this at the wee hours of the burial day.
5. Uniform clothing among the children of the deceased: As children of the deceased, we had to buy and sew a uniform material which was worn on the day of the burial. So we literally stood out from the crowd which made it easier for empathizers (both the fake and genuine ones) to locate us.
6. All white everything by the wife of the deceased: Now, in the case of the widowed, she is expected to be seen in white and only in white. At all times. So my mum had to cut and sew her own ‘too unique’ material which she wore in her stay at home and whenever she received visitors.
7. The wife of the deceased must not consume anything prepared for the ceremony;
8. An official visit to the hometown of the mother of the deceased: So custom also demanded that the first son and daughter of the deceased make an ‘official announcement’ to the birth place of his mother. And it wasn’t an empty-handed visit o. We ‘announced’ with a goat, and drinks ranging from local wine (palm wine) and beer. The crazy thing about this was that a day to the visit, a number of people told me that I would have to do this crying and walking on my bare feet as I approached the place. Of course, I engaged in another argument (not so serious though) especially after my mum attested to it saying she did same when her mother passed on.
After a while, they turned around to say it was no longer a thing, and that they were just teasing. In my mind, I was like: tease all you want o, I still wouldn’t have done it if it were actually still mandatory. My brother was with me on this one.
9. Payment of outstanding home meeting levies or no rite performance: in my village, like in most, if not all, villages in the Ibo tribe, they pay levies for various purposes (which I’m not going to talk about.)You wouldn’t believe that if my dad’s levies weren’t being consistently paid, up until his passing, his family/villagers would have not shown up at the burial. in their own words: “we wouldn’t have been able to give him his rite.”
10. The eldest son must be present at the during major purchases: Now in this case, it is relative, as it is not entirely a fixed requirement. There are cases whereby the sons of the deceased may not be ‘financially available’, on their own, to cater for the burial purchases, but have daughters who have been married off. In such a case, their husbands are automatically expected to stand in for the sons and cater for the expenses. Also, if it so happens that neither of his sons have the means nor his daughters married, the eldest son must be present, regardless, during all major purchases made.
By ‘major’ I mean purchases such as the coffin, the cow…you catch the drift.
11. No confrontations over matters raised during the mourning period: A couple of people actually advised us to desist from engaging in arguments with other people especially on matters surrounding the burial preparations and while in the mourning period. I didn’t welcome this one at all. You cannot coman spill trash and I’ll let it die o. Sings in wizkids voice * plenty man shall fall that day if you cross my lane ooo eh*
12. Ego mgbaru (Condolences. In cash): So apparently, when groups of people come to pay their condolence on the burial day, they are expected to ‘drop something’ which ranged from drinks to cash, mostly cash. I guess the belief is: sha don’t come empty-handed. So on that day, there were several groups who performed this act.
13. Don’t wear clothes related to the burial ceremony to bed: This one was what mumsy told I and my siblings after the burial. And I was like: oh yeah? What now? Come on, are you sure you’re not taking this too far?
14. Observe a 6-month mourning period and consequently burn all clothing pertaining to the burial rites: I guess this is already commonplace maybe not just among the ibo tribe. During this mourning period, we were told again, not to go about activities like we used to before the death of my father. In clearer terms, things like going to the cinemas, inshort: having fun should be avoided until after.
Sheesh! The things I was told though. Like the day of the burial, during the viewing of the body, I remember an aunt asking I and my siblings to cry, and in my mind, I was like :are we here for auditions? I’ll cry if I want to. You don’t get to tell me when to.
So that’s all. For now.
What do you think about this post? Know of any other customs which were not included here? Feel free to add in the comment section.