Sunday 25 February 2018

Leopard skin shrouds and sacrificial ox

Associated Press

AN OX WILL be slaughtered, the deceased will be wrapped in a leopard skin and a family elder will keep talking to the body's spirit -- just some of the rituals of the Xhosa people, to whom Mandela's Thembu clan belongs.

Today's events will be an eclectic mix of traditional rituals, Christian elements and those of a state funeral.

The Xhosa recognise the presence of ancestral spirits and call upon them for guidance. Veneration for the world of the ancestors, or "Umkhapho" in Xhosa, plays an important role. The ceremonial slaughtering of animals is one of the ways of calling upon ancestors.

Xhosa culture requires a family elder to stay with Mandela's body and explain to his spirit what is happening. The body rests for one night in the family house before the burial and the deceased is wrapped in a special garment. For people of a high rank like Mandela, the son of a traditional clan chief, the body or the casket is usually wrapped in a leopard's skin.

Xhosa tradition requires the slaughtering of an animal early on the day of the burial. After the ritual throat slitting, the animal will be eaten by the mourners, usually outside the family house, said Nokuzola Mndende, director of the Icamagu Institute for Traditional Religions.

"That ox is slaughtered, cooked and eaten all in one day," she said. In some regions no salt will be used to season the meat, but that's up to the family's discretion, she added.

A year after the burial, another ox will be slaughtered and eaten by the family to mark the end of the mourning period, in the "Ukuzila" tradition.

"There must be a time when the mourning is broken," explained Ms Mndende.

Irish Independent

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