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Ibo Funeral Ceremonies

The Ibo funeral and burial customs are very complex and elaborate, particularly for the chief of a clan or village. The purpose of the Ibo funeral ceremonies are intended to provide a good afterlife. And for those who are undeserving may not receive a rightful burial and ceremony, and thus may not have an afterlife. The Ibo tribe shares simlar funeral and burial customs as other African tribes such as the Ijaw and the Kalabari.

An Ibo Chief's Funeral

A Ibo chief's funeral begins with a cleansing of the body in the chief's death chamber, and the body is then set in a table. Symbolizing rebirth, cloths, strings, and palm leaves are used to cover the body. Next, the oldest daughter leads the dancing and singing around the table, and then her husband lays an eagle's feather on the corpse. After this process, sacrifices are performed in order to ensure a good life for the chief in the underworld. First, the children slay four animals, a dog, a cat, an eagle, and a parrot. These are intended to give the chief the power to forsee danger, good eyesight in the night, good eyesight at night, and a clear voice. Following this series of sacrifices, the mother's side of the family performs yet another set of sacrifices, which are actually quite brutal. The first sacrifice made is the sacrifice of a goat, which supposedly will give the chief sturdy feet that will take him anywhere. After the goat, all of the slave wives of the chief are killed. The first slave is killed and thrown into the grave with the chief, and the others have their limbs broken and are thrown alive into the grave as well. If a chief is incredibly wealthy, more slaves will be sacrificed to fertilize the sacred trees. To conclude the sacrifices, the tribe plays drums to call the ancestors and then covers the grave, except for one small opening. The last sacrifice is a captured man from another tribe, whose head is placed in the opening to the grave. For three months after the burial, the widows guard the burial/death chamber.

Other Ibo Funeral Customs


Comparison with Modern Culture

There are few similarities between the Ibo funeral customs and American funeral and burial customs. The few similarities are that generally the body is buried and that there are markers to show the place of burial. The differences between the rituals are numerous. Firstly, while the Ibo people bury a large amount of items with the body, American customs do not include bury an extensive number of items. The Ibo make many sacrifices in order to ensure that the person has a good afterlife. While the customs of the Ibo are inhumane and brutal, modern American customs do not include any sacrifices of any sort. The markers above the ground are different in that the Ibo use a pot and a person's head, while the American's use a tombstone. In addition, the women in the Ibo culture wear a mourning dress for ten months, while western culture's women only wear a dress for one day. One great difference is that the Ibo women are not allowed to cry, and non-Ibo women have no restrictions set upon them.
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