Benin Death Rituals

by L-Johnson

Benin treasures life beyond death - when a loved one is lost a shrine is constructed for them.

The African republic of Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, create shrines to honor their ancestors. Their ancestors are considered to remain part of the community after death, and their loved ones will visit these shrines and bring offerings to nourish their souls.

Before a deceased person is considered an ancestor, a sequence of rituals must be performed to make this transition: first a leader walks around the body and chants prayers. Then the other men walk about the body and beat their chests to the time of the funeral music. The deceased’s body is then decorated with ornaments.

Before the body is buried, one of the guests cuts hair, finger nails, and toe nails from the body and wraps these in a fine cloth; these are taken to be placed in the deceased’s shrine. The belief is that the departed spirit will see these samples and know that they are dead, and be at peace. Their soul will remain with and watch over their people.

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