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 Senegalese funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Dutch funeral traditions and Israeli funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Religious and Death Beliefs
Islam is by far the most common religion in Senegal with 95% of the population identifying as Muslim. For this reason, Senegalese death beliefs typically align with Muslim beliefs. When someone dies, they believe you join your ancestors.
Preparation of the Body
Following a death, the deceased’s loved ones may loudly mourn or sing and dance to celebrate and honor the deceased. To prepare the body, they wash and perfume the deceased. Then, they either wrap the body in percale cloth for the burial or use a casket. The deceased’s family members or someone knowledgeable about funerals in the community plans the funeral.
Senegalese Funeral and Burial
For a Senegalese funeral, everyone typically takes the deceased to a mosque for prayers. Then, they go to the burial location. If they don’t go to the mosque, they keep the deceased at their current location until the burial. Mourners also may give the deceased’s family a monetary gift to pay their respects to the deceased.
The burial is as soon as possible after the death, preferably the day of the death. If the death was later in the day, they may wait until the next day. After the burial, they give everyone kola nuts and serve a post-burial meal.
Mourning Period and Memorialization
On the third day after a death, everyone says prayers and gives people anything they inherited from the deceased. They also say prayers on the third day and fortieth day after the death.
After a Senegalese funeral, a widow keeps to herself for four and a half months. During this time, she doesn’t put effort into her appearance and says prayers for the deceased. Widowers also mourn their loss, but they don’t need to keep to themselves.