Liminality / Mourning

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Asante peoples, Ghana, funeral procession. Photo by Karen Terpstra.

Shortly after the death of an individual begins a period of liminality or suspension.  This period is characterized by mourning and preparations for the funeral. Mourning is a period in which the routines of life are suspended out of respect for the dead.   Among Kongo peoples, mourning consists of a week of inactivity.  This time is spent resting and recovering from the trauma of the death.  It is also a time to empathize with the deceased, for it is believed that the deceased spends this week adjusting to the afterlife.  Mourners may be prohibited from bathing, speaking, and engaging in sexual activity.  Among Asante peoples of Ghana, people wear clothing colored black, brown or dark red to make all those who see them aware that they are in mourning.