center2300245745941000center300003207385DEATH RITUALS in perspective of AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION: A case study of the Bukusu Community of kenya Masters Thesis Proposal
9410036300DEATH RITUALS in perspective of AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION: A case study of the Bukusu Community of kenya Masters Thesis Proposal
14814556043930In the frame of the Master of Arts Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the University of Innsbruck
020000In the frame of the Master of Arts Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the University of Innsbruck
center9100185 Submitted by: Phyllis K. Obare Submitted to : Fabian Mayr October, 2018
9410010000 Submitted by: Phyllis K. Obare Submitted to : Fabian Mayr October, 2018
This paper examines death rituals practiced in Africa as an entity which is defined by the traditional religion and spirituality of African people. It relates to the psychological connotations these rituals have in addressing the fear of death and the perceived balance these rituals maintain between the worlds of the living dead (ancestors) and the living undead. Whether or not beliefs underlying African traditional practices in the celebration of their dead are a reality in themselves, is a mystery of superstitions subject to the perception of those who practice it. Through an Afrocentric approach, the African Traditional Religion plays a significant role in explaining the misinformed spiritual dimensions of the beliefs of African people concerning death and the afterlife. Using tenets of the African Traditional Religion set forth by African scholars, my research work aims to find meaning in the deep rooted traditional practices of death rituals and their spiritual importance in unifying the society in perspective to the Bukusu community of Kenya.
The way of life of African people is largely influenced by beliefs set by the African Traditional Religion; a native spiritual school of thought as compared to modern day Christianity and Islam. The inaccurate misconception of African religion has prejudiced the beliefs and spirituality of African people. The universality of theology has systemically disregarded African Traditional Religion and its celebration of the dead among other traditional practices observed. By the use of inaccurate definitions and derogatory labels such as paganism, idolatry, primitive religion, animism, fetishism polytheism among others (Omoregbe, 1993), Western theology imaginably has led to the slow ‘death’ of the African Traditional Religion. Nevertheless, religious traditional practices surrounding the observance of death rituals remain sacred in Africa (as well as in other world ethnic religions including the Chinese, Japanese and American Indians) and still hold high significance to the communities observing these practices.
To Mbiti (1969), African Religions and Philosophy is a systematic study of the attitudes of the mind and belief systems that have evolved in many societies of Africa and that affects the way of life of most African people. In this research, I seek to analyse the use of indigenous religious beliefs and practices in death rituals as a way of addressing fear, denial and acceptance of death as an end process. The research aims to provide an understanding of the role of death rituals in the spiritual and transcendental experiences of African people; and a further understanding of how the spiritual interdependence of the living dead and the living undead provides a phenomenal explanation of how death’s inevitability is accepted.
My Reality of Death
Death (the end of life) is a reality that is devastating, untimely, non-discriminating, unpredictable, inconsiderate and cruel. It is an experience which our humanly strength cannot overcome. The harrowing reality of death cuts across all cultures, religions, nations, race and people. Death is a rite of passage of all living beings, an inevitable ending of life.
Since childhood, I have developed a fear of darkness. I have been especially afraid of the dark that I always went to bed with the lights on, a practice I do to this day. I associate darkness with emptiness and death snares. Both darkness and death provoke similar feelings of fear and emptiness inside me. Similarly, from a religious perspective, death is compared to sleep and therefore, to be dead is to be asleep and to be asleep is to be dead thus when we are sleeping we are relatively “dead”. However, unlike normal sleep, death brings an actual physical separation and untold pain as a result of the loss of a loved one. Families of the deceased experience death as personal processes that is indescribable by third persons. Death changes people’s perception of life in different ways: giving value to life or no value at all.
My family lived in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Kenya being a country of 42 different ethnicities, we were surrounded by neighbours from different cultural orientations and spiritual denominations. On the occurrence of death in my neighbourhood, the air would be filled with sharp loud cries of anguish and people would run to the direction of the loud cry in anticipation of ‘something bad’. As a child, I did not understand the impact of death, but I could see that people in the homes where the death had occurred were especially very sad and devastated. Profound fear came with death. Mourning was shared even if the dead person was not known. At the loss of a loved one, families were left helpless and so it was common practice to assemble in the deceased person’s home for spiritual, moral and material support as the gap left by the deceased was a dark experience for the family.
The recent death of my grandmother was a big blow to my family. She was the only person close to me who I had seen grow old and frail. The night she gave her last breadth although I was far from her by distance and space, my heart skipped a beat and I jumped out of bed for a nightmare that I do not remember (this was the unconscious experience of anxiety due to the loss of a loved one). She had passed away peacefully in her sleep. With 104 years, I had associated my grandmother with the perfect example of a life lived to fullness. The family had the opportunity to know her, experience her love and celebrate the memories built together. To us, she was a living ancestor; a source of joy and strength to the family and a reminder of the fulfilment of life. She was a common bond to five generations consisting of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
At my grandmother’s burial, I spent close to two hours watching her body in the stillness of death. Hot tears ran continuously down my cheeks in the moment of closure and final farewell. She looked calm in her eternal ‘sleep’. She had surely departed from us. Even at the age of 104 years, we were in denial of her demise. Our hope was that she could live with us forever and ever. How painful it was that she was no more! Her death left an empty dark painful hollowness. Every day I whisper a prayer for God to protect my family from the snares of death. May it pass far and away from my family and I, that we may live to the fullness of life as my grandmother did. Amen!
Death and Dying in African Philosophies
The mystery of death is marvelled across all cultures of the earth and the celebration of life is significant from one culture to the other. Death rituals and beliefs of the afterlife vary from community to community around the world and are systemically practiced among societies for the grieving families to come to terms with the loss of a loved.
The preservation of African traditions is a shared responsibility of both the living dead (and the living undead united by ancestral worship. The importance accorded to traditional practices of honouring the dead, dictates that indigenous African religious beliefs and practices are wholly permeated in the mainstream practice. African philosophies perceive death not as an end to life but rather a natural transition from this life into the next life. According to Mbiti (1969:158), “death is a departure and not a complete annihilation of a person.” Ties and connectedness between the living dead and the living undead continue even after one dies. Mbiti (p.158), further asserts that “many Africans believe that their beloved ones who are dead do not actually leave them but hover around and protect them.” The living dead and the living undead coexist in the same space and time and their relationship directly impacts the life of the people.
In the celebration of death, African traditional practices outdo Christian doctrines associated with afterlife beliefs. Most African communities observe deep rooted traditional practices in performing burial ceremonies and associated rituals. The power of the supernatural becomes evident in death rituals which if not followed by the book result into misfortunes and calamities. Celebration of the dead is considered a sacred practice performed in respect to the dead. Death rituals in Africa are phenomenal with reference to the beliefs and ceremonies performed before, during and after a burial and, have great significance in promoting social interactions, peace and the well-being of the everyday life of the people.
Dying is seen as a gradual process that continues for up to four or five generations with the diminishing ancestral link, until memories of the dead person finally fades away from the living undead and the living dead are finally forgotten CITATION Mbi69 l 1033 (Mbiti, 1969). The connection between these two worlds is as well justified by naming children after their dead relatives symbolic for passing life from one generation to another. African philosophies thus lack a clear distinction between the spiritual world and the physical world. Graves and lifelessness only symbolize the physical separation of a loved one and the departure of the soul from this life to the next life. Although the physical separation of a loved one is a painful experience for families, connectedness between the living dead and the living undead continues through the offering of sacrifices, rituals and memorial services. These practices facilitate meeting points between the living dead and the living undead for consultation on community matters as the living dead are believed to contain higher knowledge of the fabric of society that constitutes the wellbeing of the people.
The Influence of Christianity to My Perception of Death
As a Christian, I am conversant with religious teachings that emphasize dying of the old self, (giving up old ways) in order to follow the Messiah (Christ). This teaching resonates with the objectives of transrational peaces – on the progression of surpassing the persona by the death of the I – which is an important process for the attainment of transrational peace. One way Christianity has been able to achieve the death of the old self is through advocating for true repentance which is the ability to become aware of oneself by sincerely addressing own shortcomings and the readiness to embrace a new start of selflessness. By so doing, we are compelled to explore the inner self and come face-to-face with our own persona – the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego – until we come out of ourselves and surpass our own impulses that limit us.
From the biblical account, life is a product of dust and breath and therefore, dust without breath equals death (lifelessness). In the creation account, man was created to live forever in harmony with God in the garden of Eden. When man sinned, he was forced to go out of the garden of Eden and death was given to him as punishment for sin. Only God has immortality and it is only Him who has power over death and the grave. The bible tells us to lead a righteous life so that we can be rewarded with everlasting life at the resurrection day when Jesus will come back from Heaven to take with Him the righteous who lived by the will of God and kept His commandments. Religious teachings teach us that death is sleep. For example, in Matthew 9:24, Jesus said “Leave; for the girl has not died but is asleep.”. Similarly, 1 Kings 2:10 speaks of King David as having slept with his fathers. If death is sleep then we can claim the religious truth that the dead shall be risen from their sleep just as Jesus resurrected from the dead and with His divine power was able to raise many from their sleep. Since we are evidently mortal as humans, resurrection is a promise that we cling on as Christians by believing that death is a temporary state of our physical bodies and that life is a reward of our righteousness.
Religion as an African Heritage
Religion is an abstract feeling, act or experience associated with divinity CITATION Jam02 l 1033 (James, 1902). The philosophical concepts justifying the existence of religion lacks verifiable material objects to define what it is and thus, there lacks a universal truth of what is and what is not religion. Omoregbe (1999) defines religion as an interpersonal relationship between a person and a transcendent personal being believed to exist; whereas, according to Ekwunife (1990), religion is an awareness and recognition of a dependent relationship on a transcendent Being, the Wholly Other, nameable or un-nameable, personalized or impersonalized expressible in human society through beliefs, worship and ethical or moral behaviour. According to Mbiti (1969), religion is an integral part of the cultural heritage of the African people that has dominated the thinking and the way of life of the African people. African Religion constitutes indigenous religious beliefs and practices handed down from generation to generation.
For the Bukusu community, the topic of death raises a lot of criticisms and is subject of deep rooted superstitions associated with bad omen and tragedies. It is a taboo for the Bukusu people to openly engage in detailed analyses of death in the absence of it, yet in the community, burial practices are the most revered rituals that are performed strictly by the book as they have been given a lot of importance. These death rituals have profound impact on the life of the living undead. A dead person’s spirit is believed to not be rested in peace until all rituals have been performed.
The research is aimed to investigate the role which death rituals play in the spiritual and transcendental experiences of the living dead and the living undead; and how these spiritual interdependence promotes a unification of both worlds. To understand the significance of burial rituals from an African perspective is important for the appreciation of cultural contributions of African Traditional Religions in promoting social interactions, peace and the well-being of the everyday life of African people. Given the rich culture of the Bukusu community, I am motivated to carefully describe the burial practices of the Bukusu people by contrasting the rituals performed on the deceased against differences in age, gender and social rank.
In this study, I will limit the scope of my study to the traditional beliefs and cultural practices of the Bukusu community of Kenya. I choose to base my study on the Bukusu community of Kenya because the death rituals of the Bukusu community is not a widely researched area and also because of the wealth of experience of practice associated with the death rituals of the Bukusu community of Kenya. Although I am not Bukusu myself, I am at home with the culture and belief of the Bukusu people. My specificity of the research area is valid to avoid the error of over-generalization. In my paper, I will provide a brief history of the Bukusu community of Kenya to provide a scope of the community of study.
Justification of Study
In my study, I seek to construct an understanding of how dictates of death rituals contribute to the maintenance of peace and balance between the worlds of the living dead and the living undead. The study will mainly be centred in exemplifying why the Bukusu community has preserved its cultural practices observed in the celebration of death and how rituals performed in burials are important to the community’s wellbeing. The study anticipates providing an understanding of death and the afterlife from an African perspective in respect of the spiritual ties between the living dead and the living undead and how the living dead (as ancestors) continue interacting, interceding and protecting their families. I hope that my work will raise criticisms to inspire further research and advance knowledge on the rich tradition of the Bukusu community and how burial practices act as functional facilitators of peace and reconciliation between the living dead and the living undead. I also hope that my work will provide a basis for comparative studies of other societies that have rich traditional practices in death rituals and afterlife beliefs.
What is the relationship between death rituals and appeasing of the spirit of the dead?
What is the relationship between death rituals and appeasing the ancestors?
What is the relationship between death rituals and spirituality?
What is the relationship between death rituals, peace and reconciliation for the living dead and the living undead?
When befitting death rituals are performed for the deceased, the spirit of the dead is appeased and peace is assumed in the life of the living undead.
When ancestors are appeased, they protect and bless the community.
When performed successfully, death rituals act as facilitators of peace and reconciliation between the living dead and the living undead.
Aims and Objectives
To examine the relationship between death rituals and the spirit of the dead in the Bukusu community.
To investigate the relationship between death rituals and ancestors in the Bukusu community.
To investigate the relationship between death rituals and spirituality of the Bukusu community.To evaluate the relationship between death rituals, peace and reconciliation among the living dead and the living undead in the Bukusu community.
To derive meaning from the divine role death rituals practiced by African Traditional Religion play in spiritualism, one must leave the religious views held by Western Religion and go back to the native belief systems of Africanism.
1.1Limitations of the Study
Despite the numerous rich traditions and cultural practices of the Bukusu people, this study will only be focused on death rituals and the significance these rituals have in the spiritualism Given the limitation of our human capacity to determine the exact attributes of the afterlife to the living undead, it will be very difficult for this study to justify what happens after death or what happens in the world of the living dead and how the living dead impact on the life of the living undead. My discussion will be based on abstract concepts that cannot be empirically verified.
I will also base my study on the review and analysis of published work on African traditions, philosophies, religions, anthropology and history. I will use phenomenology to analyse and describe how dictates of death rituals of the Bukusu community of Kenya contribute to the maintenance of peace and balance between the worlds of the living dead and the living undead.
The target population for the study will be comprised of members of the Bukusu community. I will take time during the data collection period to live among the Bukusu people and experiences with them death rituals that may take place during my stay. For my data collection, I will carry out focused group discussions with elders, chiefs and priests of the Bukusu community in as key informants of my research work. I will also carry out a case studies of differences observed in the celebration of death rituals with regards to age, gender, marital status and social ranking. The qualitative approach will help me to gain in-depth information from respondents about the cultural practices that cannot be measured. The resource persons in the focused group discussions will represent the target population of my study and their feedback will be used as the main resource for sampling my findings. I will analyse both the descriptive and inferential data collected from the research work to summarise the sample results to the study.
To better explain phenomenology and human experiences of death, the theoretical framework will give a review of psychological theories that that provide scientific evidence of my work. The theoretical framework of my research work will utilize the perspectives of psychoanalytic, humanistic, and existential theories of psychology.
2.3 The Choice of Literature
will utilize existing researches of death from African Traditional Religion perspectives through modernity.
Bibliography BIBLIOGRAPHY Ekwunife, A. (1990). Consecration in Igbo traditional religion. Onitsha: Jet publishers.
James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature. London: Longmans, Green.
Mbiti, J. S. (1969). African religions and philosophy. London: Whitestable.
Omoregbe, J. I. (1993). Philosophy of Religion. Lagos: Joja Ltd.
Omoregbe, J. I. (1999). Comparative Religion. Lagos: Joja Ltd.
PROPOSED TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction to the Research Study
Background of the Study
Purpose of the Study
1.4.1 Research Objectives
1.4.3 Research Questions
Justification of the Study
CHAPTER TWO: Literature Review
2.2 Theoretical Framework
2.3 African Philosophies, Traditions and Religions
2.3.1 History and Culture
2.4 Perspective of Life and Death in the African Society
2.5 African Philosophies and Traditional Practices on Death Rituals
2.6 Impact of Religion on Death and Afterlife Beliefs
2.7 Impact of Modernization on Traditional Practices on Death and the Afterlife Beliefs
2.8 Legal Framing of Death by the Constitution of Kenya
2.9 International Law and the Right to Die
2.9.1 The Choice to die as a Human Right
2.9.2 Legal Constructivism on Assisted Death
CHAPTER THREE: Research Methodology
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Sampling Method
3.4 Sample Size
3.5 Target Population
3.6 Area of Study
3.7 Research Instruments
3.7.1 Focus Group Discussions (FGD)
3.7.2 Case Study Findings
3.8 Data Collection Procedure
3.9 Data Analysis and Presentation
3.10 Ethical Considerations
CHAPTER FOUR: Results and Discussions
4.2 Discussion of Major Findings
4.3 Case Studies
CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusions
5.2 Summary of Major findings
5.3 Comparison of my Findings with those of Other Researchers
5.4 Importance of Research Findings
5.5 Limitations of the Study
5.6 Observations and Conclusions
5.7 Recommendations for Further Research