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It is bad omen for Luhya elders to die under the hot sun, facing the wall

By Nathan Ochunge | November 4th 2021

Elderly people in the Luhya community are supposed to die at dawn and not when the sun is up. It is considered taboo for an elderly man to die in the middle of the day. The community believes it is bad omen and a cleansing ceremony has to be conducted to appease the ancestors before the deceased is buried.

“In our Luhya traditions, if an elderly man dies during the day, he leaves curses in the family. A good man should die between 12am – 3am and if he dies at dawn, he should not die when facing the wall of his house,” said Benjamin Atenya, an elder from the Abamarama sub-tribe of the Luhya.

Atenya, 61, said in order to protect the family from bad omen when the patriarch “dies badly”, age mates with whom he faced the knife with, conduct rituals to appease the ancestors in a bid to avert calamity.

“The elders will “talk” with the deceased and accuse him of embarrassing the community for dying during the day. They will order him to go in peace and never come back to disturb his family and the community at large,” said Atenya.

Isaack Misiko echoed Atenya’s sentiments, saying a cock and a ram was also slaughtered by the elders and roasted.
“The elders ate the meat and then stepped on the animal’s rumen (the first stomach of a ruminant, which receives food or cud from the oesophagus) and painted themselves with offal to cleanse themselves,” said Misiko, a Bukusu elder and traditional healer.

According to Misiko, if the ritual is not conducted, the family as well as the elders will start receiving disturbing dreams from the deceased. Misiko avers that before a good man dies, he normally summons his elder son to his bedside and confides in him his last words and how he (elder son) is supposed to take over the mantle of leadership in the family.

“On the day of your death, you call your elder son and give him words of wisdom, the Will on how you would like your property inherited. If has wealth hidden somewhere, he tells him where it is well as those he owes money,” said Misiko.

He went on: “If he had two or more wives, but are still young, he gives the son authority to inherit and take care of them so that they may not bring forth children that are not of his blood. The elder son has no any relationship with your younger wife and can inherit her when you die.”

The rituals were mainly conducted on elderly men and not women, since they were not given any special recognition.
Martin Shikuku Aswani, the spokesman of the Abamarama clan, says tradition demands for suicide victims, they should be buried between 12am – 3am when everyone else is asleep, adding that elaborate rituals are conducted to cleanse the living and ensure ‘the bad omen’ does not recur.

“The dead are buried at this ungodly hour so that their spirit does not come back to haunt the family members left behind. No one, including family members, is supposed to witness when or where the corpse is buried,” Shikuku said.
After the burial, Shikuku, Omukulo (a group of 10 people from a different clan who are hired by the family of the deceased and paid handsomely) are given a bull and a ram after burying the deceased.

The ram is slaughtered and used for cleansing, together with traditional herbs to protect themselves and their families from being haunted by the spirit of the dead. The same burial rite applies to a person, who drowns in a river, dies through an accident and those who succumb to fire or are struck by lightning.
It is a bad omen.



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