Elimu Asilia

Kenya's Indigenous Knowledge


The dead person is buried within a week from the day is they have passed away, however this also depends with the family members, the distance of where they reside and especially the first born “son” must be around during the burial ceremony.
The Luos never used to keep dead bodies for a week or for lengthy days. After a person has passed on and the immediate family have finished crying, the young men (youth) were called forth or summoned to go and call the girls who were far away. In case the eldest son to the late was living far from their home, then the body was buried half way with soil and some other half was let in the open for the eldest son to finish covering it with soil when he will arrive at the home.

Sleeping:
The deceased wife is meant to sit next to her dead husband’s body and sleep next to it until the body is buried. She is also to chant and cry loudly “IKWODO WIWA”, meaning “you have put us to shame”, with the wife also asking her husband why have you died? Why he has ashamed her?Who will raise with her the children?Etc. Such rhetoric voices, cries and shouts would go on every time a visitor arrives to the deceased’s home as a sign of welcome from the wife and a show of grief and mourning.

Mourning Period II:
During this period, the wife is closed in with her dead husband’s body and should make love to the dead body. This should happen in the wee hours of the night before the burial day and then have the dead body taken out side for viewing by the family members only.  The body is then prepared for the burial ceremony and body viewing by mourners and distant relatives before the burial ceremony in the afternoon. This is similarly done by the husband in case his wife is the one who passes on.

The deceased wife will visit the dead husband grave for thirty days every morning for 1 – 2 hours to moan. She has to cry loudly and in pain as a sign of deep pain, failure to do so will have the community judge her harshly and even insinuate her to be the cause of her husband’s death.

Hair Shaving:
Hair shaving is done after the burial. The exercise is done in front of the family elders. Hair is considered to contribute a lot to beauty by the Luo community and therefore the removal of hair is a sign of mourning.  This act also goes a mile to identify the family of the deceased.
If a man passes on, the family will have hair on their head shaved after 4 days of the burial. For a woman, the family is shaved after 3 days.
Interestingly, for twins, parents of twins, or if one of the twin passes on, then the family will be made to shave their hair after 8 days. After the burial and before the shaving of the hair, all family members are meant to remain at the home and never to go anywhere. They are still in mourning state until the shaving of the hair, this rite also depicts the release of all family members to move outside the home back to their various locations and where they  reside or work.

Dream:
Dreaming in Luo culture was very important when the spouse passed away and this applies to both men and women. One has to dream making love to her dead spouse it is only by this act that one is considered free. However dreaming about the dead body and making love sometimes takes even years especially to women. Men seemed to dream soon after the burial and therefore were not tied up to the culture for a longer period. But again this is an assumption because the truth is not known and not obvious to determine.

Failure to dream or if it takes long to dream creates the assumption that:

  • The dead husband does not want his wife to be inherited.
  • Or the wife was not in love with the husband.

“Ang’uola”: this is a cloth used to cover the women’s body (especially private parts). The Luo women are buried without underpants; this is done with the intention of allowing the husband to dream quickly. It is believed that if the wife is buried while dressed with her underpants, it would take ages for the man to dream. Once the widow dreamt about her late husband, she will then inform the family. The underpants worn during the night she dreamt will be thrown across the roof of the house and this exercise will pave way for wife inheritance and preparation.

Wife inheritance in the Luo community:
The widow is inherited by the elder brother of the deceased (not any younger brother). In case the deceased did not have an elder brother, the family elders would then appoint to her the nearest elderly cousin brother to take over the chores of her late husband. The inheritance takes place only after performing “Chola” cleansing exercise. Cholawas a sexual exercise done in order to release the woman from any bondage (known as cleansing) and was done in two ways:
By hiring professional inheritors to perform Chola. These were people who gave themselves out to perform the exercise for all widows in the community.
Widows look for any man outside and have sex with him.
Wife inheritance in Luo culture is obvious but before performing the exercise the deceased eldest brother will share the information with his wife and children.

Duties and Responsibility:
For men inheriting the widow,their only duty and responsibility was to satisfy, fulfill their sexual desires. Apart from that, all other responsibilities and duties were taken care of by the widow. Roles such as children’s education, health, food, other basic needs,etc were never taken care of by this man.  However the woman had to maintain a very good relationship with himby giving him good food, providing for his needs, offering extra favors both in the bedroom and outside so as to keep him close to her and help her perform other ritual exercises that cannot take place without the man at home.

For an old woman who cannot engage in sexual activities, another elderly man (brother-in-law) steps in as the inheritor and quickly moves to hang his coat or shirton the inner side of the house (bedroom door) so as to inform the community that the home has been taken care of by the wife-inheritor and to forbid any other man from trying to make a move to the widow in this home.

“OSURI”
Osuri is part of the highest point of the grass-thatched roof for the house that cannot be completed without involving a man. Osuri can only be placed on the roof after the man and the widow engage in love-making.
Children born after the inheritance has taken place will still be recognised as children of the dead husband and not for the inheritor and therefore contributes greatly to the inheritor not taking the responsibility or roles which man should play in a home. If the woman conceived and gave birth to a baby boy he will be named after the dead husband (as if he has made a comeback from the dead).
However young men were discouraged and not allowed to inherit widows because:

  • Children born by the widows were still named after the deceased and not considered his
  • Young men were also expected to raise their own generation by having their own families.

The Luo culture seems to be incomplete without sex.  Most issues revolve around sex before moving on to the next level???

STORY NARRATED
BY
ELIZABETH BWANA – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
HABEL AMOLO – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tero Buru & Wife Inheritance
(Elimu Asilia)


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