By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)
The notion of death as a transition involving three phases is a conceptual model that, like all models, is limited. The nature of the phases varies across cultures and the phases are often interrelated in such a way that they cannot be considered individually nor ordered chronologically. Categorizing some cultural expressions of death into phases may be unhelpful. Yet, the three-phase model is useful in differentiating the practices and traditions associated with burials, funerals, and ancestor worship (van Gennep 1909 and Turner 1984: 22). This ancestor figure from Songo peoples in northern Angola incorporates a hole in the cap that may have permitted it to be worn by a descendant to acquire the spiritual protection of the deceased.