Separation

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Mossi peoples, Burkina Faso, funeral hunt. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

People come to terms with the fact of the death in a number of ways. In some societies, the possessions of the deceased, notably tools and dishes, are broken to emphasize that they will not be used again.  When a death occurs, a primary concern is to ensure the departure of the deceased's spirit from the world of the living.  The presence of an ancestral spirit within the village might cause terrible disasters, for the spirit would be constantly underfoot, spoiling all efforts of the living to provide for their own well-being.  Many of the events in African funerals seek to speed the deceased's spirit in on its way to the realm of the ancestors.  Here the men of a Mossi family return to the home of the deceased with wild game killed in a ritual hunt.  The game will be placed on the threshold of the dead man’s house where his tools and weapons will be smashed.