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2005 | 20 | 59-75

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The study's aim was to analyze the rituals of the first funeral among the Konkomba people (which have to be distinguished from the rituals of the so-called second funeral). The presentation is limited to a description and analysis of burial rituals of elderly people. The article was based mainly on the results of ethnological field studies conducted among the Konkomba people in the region of Saboba. The studies had been carried out among five tribes: Bichabob, Nakpantiib, Binalob, Bimonkpom, and Bigbem. The important literature of the subject includes the publications by the British social anthropologist David Tait and by the French colonial administrator in northern Togo 1940-1948), Jean-Claude Froelich. Among the nonliterate peoples of Africa an important social and religious role is played by rituals of passage, which are connected with a change of a person's status and social position. Such rituals take place e.g. after death of a member of a community. Among the Konkomba people the first funeral consists of burial, the purifying rites, and the rites of farewell to the dead person. The burial takes place on the day of the death or the next day (because of climatic conditions). Since the 1960s - under the influence of Christianity - the tribes of Bichabob and Nakpantiib have used coffins for their burials. Members of the tribes of Binalob, Bimonkpom and Bigbem are still buried without coffins. When elderly people are buried, the number of participants in the burial ranges from 200 to 500 people. The farewell to elderly people is accompanied by big drums, dances and songs. When an unexpected death of people in their prime or children takes place, there is no dancing or singing. The body of the dead person is prepared in a hut by the ritual partners and relatives for the burial. There are some differences between preparation of a woman and man's body. After that, three or four men say farewell to the dead, uttering certain words and using water. The ritual is finished with filling up the grave of rectangular shape. A traditional grave with a round hole is closed with a big pot and covered with earth. The period of mourning of the first funeral lasts three days in case of a man's death and four - in case of a woman's death. Funeral rituals play an important social and religious role among the African peoples. The burial rituals of older men and women differ in the richness of rites and the social significance from the simpler burials of adults, children and infants. They emphasize the changing of the status of the dead person, who was temporarily excluded from the society through his/her death. Rites do away with the negative consequences of the death and make it possible for the deceased to pass from the community of the living to the community of the dead. They also help an individual and the community in accepting the new state.






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  • H. Zimon, Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, Katedra Historii i Etnologii Religii, al. Raclawickie 14, 20-950 Lublin, Poland


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