Burial ceremonies in Teso, like any other clan, tribe or society were organised by preparing the bodies of the deceased and celebrating at the end. According to the retired Mzee Christopher Ekapu from Teso Association, burial was organised elaborately. “When a person died in our society, mourners were required not to wail out loud, though the relatives silently cried. This was in order not to alert the public immediately,” he says.
When a death was confirmed, the compound was cleaned, organised and everything was put inside for safekeeping. The family went on to create space for the mourners.
In case one had died in a “bad way,” (gruesome accident, vomiting, released feces at the time of death), the body was to be cleaned well. He adds: “After the cleansing, the mouth is tied, since it is loose at the time of death; legs are tied together, and lastly cotton if fixed in the nose and ears to prevent blood flow. This is also to prevent any bad smell.
Afterwards, the body is dressed in clothes. In the past, if they lacked clothes, deceased people would be dressed in skins or white sheets.
After all this, the proper mourning and crying started. Mourners began screaming loudly, drumming and expressing sadness.
People came in big numbers and lit a bonfire in the middle of the compound where most of the deceased’s belongings were thrown and burnt.
“The property was left to burn for days,” Justine Omodoke, who is 42 years old and resident of Kibuli, adds. “If the deceased was not baptised, he was meant to be buried on the same day that he died.”
If the person had committed suicide, they were given 100 strokes of a cane. A sheep was tied to the dead body then taken to a swamp and only the relatives were to eat it.
The remains of the sheep were also buried on the same day. “In case the deceased had been baptised, mourning would start immediately. The next day they would plan on how, when, and where to bury the body,” Omodoke says. “After some days, the body was set for burial.”
It was wrapped in animal skin or white sheets. Church leaders, elders and the community came to pay last tributes. Stones were cast down the grave, a goodbye sign. After, people went back home and feasted on bulls or goats.
Omodoke says the next day after the burial the grave is marked by placing big stones on top. Signs and flowers are placed on top for remembrance. Then they prepare a lot of meat and a lot of ‘Ajon’ (local brew) for the mourners.
According to Mzee Adolu, another elder, “People took days or months without leaving the home. They only left one by one.
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