Funeral Traditions in Senegal

by J-Touchette

Kola nuts are used in all important life events such as naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals in Senegal. Kola nuts contain three times the caffeine found in coffee.

In Senegal, when a person has died, there is a sense of immediacy that takes over. The body must be buried within 6 hours of death. Although, if it is considered to late in the day, it can be postponed until the next day.

Arrangements for the funeral are done by family members or respected members of the community who are well-versed in the rituals required. The body is prepared by first being washed and perfumed. Then it is wrapped in a seven meter percale cloth. Percale cloth is simply closely woven, plain-weave fabric with a thread count of at least 200. While natives of the country receive this treatment, westerners are usually put into a casket and dressed in western clothes.

Afterwards comes the opportunity for the body to be taken to a mosque for prayers. If it is not brought to the mosque, then it stays where it is currently being kept until it is taken to the burial site. When the time for burial comes, the men take it to the grave site while the women stay with the other mourners.

Post-burial Kola nuts are handed out to mourners and a meal is usually prepared. Visitors who pay their respects to bereaved give money to the family to help pay for funeral costs.

Women are expected to publicly mourn at funerals in Senegal.

After the funeral, a widow is supposed to be secluded for four and a half months, during which time she may not do anything to make herself look good, and will say prayers for the deceased. This is to ensure that if she is pregnant, her husband’s family will know that the baby is of his lineage. If the woman is employed her job is protected by law during this time. Widowers do not have to seclude themselves in the same way, although they are to look sad and somber for a few months.

On the third day after death, prayers are said and the inheritance distributed. On the eighth and fortieth day, more prayers are said.

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Senegalese Society | Lewis & Clark College

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