TERRIBLE TRADITIONS – The Funerary Rituals of the Yanomami
You are here
Home > Do You Know > TERRIBLE TRADITIONS – The Funerary Rituals of the Yanomami

TERRIBLE TRADITIONS – The Funerary Rituals of the Yanomami

Yanomami

The Funerary Rituals of the Yanomami community may seem morbid to others. They live in the villages within the Amazon rainforest, along the border of Venezuela and Brazil. They want to ensure peace for the souls of the dead and believe that a dead body must be disposed of as soon as possible, because the soul may come back and take shelter in some other living body. They believe that burying a body after death and leaving them to decay, is a truly horrifying prospect.

Yanomami 02

The Yanomami do not believe that death is a natural occurrence of life. Instead, they believe that a rival tribe’s shaman (hut) sent an evil spirit directly to attack someone in the tribe. Therefore, to settle the issue of disposing of the body immediately, cremation ensues. The Yanomami views cremation as liberating, in comparison with burials of their loved ones, because decomposition would be a slow, morbid, time consuming and tedious process.

 Preparation of the soup
Preparation of the soup

Prior to cremation, tribe members cover the body in leaves and put it in the forest, which is not too far away from the shaman, or hut.  After allowing nature to take its course on the tribe member for about 30 to 45 days, they collect the bones and proceed to cremation. After cremation, the ashes are properly mixed with a soup made from fermented bananas. Everyone in the community must consume the soup mixed with the ashes. For quick and smooth accomplishment of the process, big bowls made from gourds are filled with the soup and passed around among kin members, so that the consumption is usually finished in one sitting.

Consuming a mixture of fermented banana soup and ashes
Consuming a mixture of fermented banana soup and ashes

However, an exception of finishing the soup in one sitting is also permitted, if the Yanomami man is killed by any enemy. In that exceptional case, instead of the entire community consuming the soup mixed with ashes, only the women of the community should do it, and it has to happen on the night that a revenge raid is successfully commissioned. Thus the procedure can be stalled for years, until the tribe believes that their deaths have been rightfully avenged.

Yanomami warrior
Yanomami warrior

 

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

Leave a Reply

Top