Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Luo people of Kenya funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Tajik funeral traditions and Burundian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Luo People of Kenya Beliefs and Lifestyle
The Luo people of Kenya are the fourth largest ethnic group in Kenya. They’re known for fishing, farming, and herding cattle. Most people practice a mixture of Christian, Islam, and traditional religious beliefs.
When it comes to death, some people believe that evil spirits can play a role in someone’s passing. Mourners may wail, sing, and dance to scare away the evil spirits.
Luo People of Kenya Funeral Traditions
Traditionally, Luo people of Kenya funeral customs involved burial rituals to show their respect and fear for the dead. However, they only practice some of these burial traditions today. The different burial rituals depended on many factors: the deceased’s sex, age, marital status, social status, religious beliefs, the circumstance of their death, their actions while alive, how their ancestors performed the rituals, and where they lived.
Some of the traditional burial rituals included publicly announcing the death with drums playing and mourners wailing. Then, there was a wake where the deceased’s close family stayed by their side until the burial. The burial was usually between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m and the whole community went and ate together afterward.
For a deceased male, the traditional mourning period is four days, and for a deceased female, the traditional mourning period is three days. They may sacrifice an ox to symbolize the end of the mourning period. Close relatives of the deceased also may do a ritual shaving of their hair to express their grief.