Frazer Blog

Cultural Spotlight: Annang People of Southeastern Nigeria Funeral Traditions

by | Jul 14, 2017 | Cultural Spotlight, For Families

Jabi Lake in Nigeria

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 Annang funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Dani funeral traditions and Hmong funeral traditions, among others.

Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.

Annang Beliefs

The Annang people of southeastern Nigeria believe in the existence of a supreme spirit named Abasi Ibom. Ibom means “whole limitless universe,” meaning that the Supreme Spirit is the lord of the universe and everything in it.

They also only believe death is natural when someone dies of old age. If someone dies young, of a disease, or of a violent act, they believe it’s an evil force’s doing. They also believe their deceased elders become ancestors that watch over and guide their community. However, if someone dies young, they can’t earn an ancestor status, because they didn’t live a full and virtuous life.

Rites of Passage Ceremony

The Rites of Passage is a ritual to help with life transitions, such as when someone becomes an elder community member. It also celebrates that person’s significant life events. If the ritual isn’t performed, they fear harm could come to their families, such as infertility and illness.

The Rites of Passage ceremony has three phases: separation, marginality, and re-incorporation. During the separation phase, the deceased is removed from their old daily life and social status. Then, there is a ritual ordeal that observes the death of their old identity. The marginality phase is like a transitional phase where they don’t have a new identity yet. Lastly, the re-incorporation phase is when they have a new identity and roles within their community.

Annang Funeral Burial Rituals

The Annang funeral burial rituals are similar to the Rites of Passage. They believe the mind continues after death, so the burial rituals help the soul find its proper resting place. Before the burial, there is an homage procession around the community while wearing masks. The initial burial is when the deceased is buried in the ground, and a second burial is for any items they may need in their next life. This also is thought to prevent the deceased’s spirit from staying on Earth.

Mourning Period

During the beginning of the mourning period, everyone wears black clothing to represent that the deceased isn’t physically present anymore. Then, the next phase of mourning includes music, dancing, a New-Comer’s Feast, and rituals to make sure the deceased has a safe journey to their ancestor’s world.


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