WANJALA: Why the Bukusu cannot bury the dead without the head
The Bukusu, the largest tribe of the Luhya nation and like many other tribes in Africa, believe in life after death.
According to their elders and the custodians of their tradition, this group believes that when a kinsman dies, it is their body that dies but not the soul and mind.
While the dead are valued and honoured across many cultures, the Bukusu really value the head of the deceased.
This is evident in that whenever the pallbearers are lifting the coffin of their dead kinsman, the head of the dead must be lifted facing the front, to symbolize him leaving the household.
After the body is outside, the pallbearers change position to have the legs of the dead face forward, to symbolize that the deceased is being aided to walk to his grave which will be his permanent home.
Notably, the Bukusu have their graves dug in front of houses and ensure that the head of the deceased is placed facing away from the house.
This they say is to enable the dead guard the compound and houses of the family members left behind.
Further, the Bukusu believe that a dead person without a head is like a person who died after being struck by lightning. Such a body is never taken into the house.
They believe that the human in him is still out there in the wilderness and since they do not understand under what circumstances it could be in, it is therefore of no value.
The Bukusu also believe that a dead kinsman keeps guard on those that are still living and has powers to avert bad things from happening.
This is the reason why in their conversations, lamentations or incarnations the say: “nandi okhwimileyo, omwana yuno wamenyakakho,” (You could intercede for us to allow this child to live) as they petition the deceased or ancestors especially when a child dies not long after the death of eitheir parent.
They also believe that head should never face the house because this then will force the deceased to return to the house to haunt the living family members.
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