Funeral rituals of the Tswana people in South Africa

Pink - South Africa / Blue - Botswana
Pink - South Africa / Blue - Botswana

Introduction

The Batswana (The People of Tswana) is one of the eleven linguistic groups in South Africa. They belong to the Sotho group of Africans who originally came from West and Central Africa and settled in South Africa ± 200–500 CE (A.D.). Opposed to them are the Nguni group – inter alia the Zulu, Xhosa and Swazi people, who migrated from the Great Lakes region of Central/South-East Africa ± 000-1400 CE (A.D.). (White Europeans settled in South Africa since 1652 (A.D.))

The pink/lilac colour (North-West) in the map below shows the region(s) where the majority of the Batswana in South Africa live. North of this colour is a country called Botswana, the motherland of another 1,7 million Batswana.

South Africa: Languages
South Africa: Languages | Source

Eleven Linguistic Groups in South Africa (Census 2011)

Source
Funeral Service of the late Joseph Dumako
Funeral Service of the late Joseph Dumako | Source

Population statistics (Census 2014)

Africans - 43 333 700 (80,2%)

Coloured - 4 771 500 (8,8%)

Indian/Asian - 1 341 900 (2,5%)

White - 4 554 800 (8,4%)

Total population - 54 002 000

Source:

http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0302/P03022014.pdf

Funeral Rituals of the Tswana People

Living in the North West province of South Africa, I am especially interested in the traditions of the Batswana.

My friends who are not living in South Africa must keep in mind that the majority of Africans still live in townships - the towns that were formed during the Apartheids regime (1948-1994) for Africans, next to towns that were formed for only-whites. However, many Africans, and in the North West Province mostly Batswana, are now living in the suburbs of the previous-for-only-white towns and cities. Peacefully, I must emphasize. Until a traditional African funeral knocks all Whites in the vicinity into a state of confusion.

The cause of CONFUSION is IGNORANCE, and the behavior of a confused person is unpredictable and more often negative than positive.

Yes, it is a shame: Africans in South Africa know the ins and outs of Western traditions, while too many Westerners have no idea why and how Africans practice theirs.

This hub is about the funeral traditions of the Batswana. Except for a few minor differences, the funeral rituals of all African groups in South Africa are more or less the same.

What happens when a Motswana dies?

When a member of the Batswana (a Motswana) dies, their body goes to the funeral parlor of their choice. During my travels through Lesotho and Botswana, and through poor towns in South Africa, I have noticed that funeral parlors are the most thriving businesses. Because Africans have the highest respect for their dead, the relatives of a person who have died will leave no stone unturned to pay respect to the deceased

I have to emphasize the convictions of Africans about death with the following explanation: While Christians believe that the way to God the Creator is through Jesus Christ and/or the Virgin Mary, and while Muslims believe the true medium is Mohammed, all Africans believe that their ancestors are in direct contact with God. The Batswana’s name for God is Modimo. Even while the majority of Africans were Christianized since the arrival of Western Culture, they still believe that their deceased beloveds are where they belong – at Home with Modimo. Just like Christians believe that their deceased beloveds are in Heaven with God.

The deceased awaits their burial in the funeral parlor sometimes for almost two weeks, as relatives have to come from far and near to participate in the pre-burial proceedings. The burial is usually on a Saturday or Sunday, but when somebody dies on a Tuesday or later in the week, the first coming Saturday/Sunday will not be chosen for the burial. Pre-burial proceedings start at least five days before the burial.

Funeral Parlour
Funeral Parlour | Source

What to do with all the funeral goers?

During the pre-burial proceedings, relatives gather at the home of the deceased. They eat and drink and talk (quite loudly), as always. No television or radio will be turned on, but singing is allowed. (Africans in South Africa love singing and dancing. They have, even more than the Welshmen, strong and beautiful voices and a natural talent to sing harmony.) Yes, Africans talk loud. “Where there is whispering, there is lying,” is not merely a proverb, but a rule in their culture.

They drink coffee, tea and cold drinks. Ginger tea is a favourite among the Batswana. Alcoholic drinks are not to be taken at the home of the deceased. Slipping away to have an alcoholic drink elsewhere, is a clear sign of disrespect.

Every evening a religious sermon is held by the clergyman of the deceased at the home of the deceased. On the last evening, when the deceased spends their last night in their room at home, the sermon is longer. In the past this last sermon could last the entire night.

Relatives who live in the vicinity, leave after the sermon to sleep in their own homes. For the rest a tent has to be erected. This tent could be an enormous marques tent that blocks the street in front of the house, forcing neighbors to change their route from A-Z. Even in winter, the people sleep on the ground, wrapped in their favorite blanket.




A tent has to be erected for all relatives to sleep in

Source
Source
Source
Porridge made with grounded mealies (Mieliepap) Picture: freshlyfamous
Porridge made with grounded mealies (Mieliepap) Picture: freshlyfamous
Mabele porridge, made with grounded sorghum
Mabele porridge, made with grounded sorghum | Source
Samp (pounded mealies) in this picture fried with with bully beef
Samp (pounded mealies) in this picture fried with with bully beef | Source

The funeral goers have to eat!


All food is cooked in large cast iron pots on open fire.

During the week beef, mutton or chicken, bought at a butchery, is served with a variety of staple food -

  • Mealie pap – a stiff porridge made of maize meal (grounded mealies),
  • Sour porridge (Ting) - a soft porridge made with grounded sorghum and allowed to go sour,
  • Samp - (pounded mealies),
  • Pot-bread - bread baked inside a cast iron pot in/on a smoldering fire,
  • Bread - bought at a bakery.


Vegetables -

A vegetable stew made of cabbage, potatoes and onions is very popular among the Batswana, while the Shangaan people love to replace the cabbage with spinach. A great variety of nutritious weed can be used in the place of spinach. These kind of stews give flavor to the staple food.


Desserts, cake, or any kind of sweets are seldom if ever on the menu. Wealthy families may offer their guests fresh fruit, like bananas, apples and oranges, after the meal.


Food on the day of the burial

Friday afternoon, or Saturday afternoon - if the burial is on the Sunday - a cow is slaughtered for this special occasion. The meat is cooked in salted water in cast iron pots on open fires. No spices and herbs will be added.

The cooking of this meat has to begin at about 3:00AM, as the burial will be in the morning at about 8:00AM. Naturally nobody sleeps during the last night before the burial. (The Nguni people may start later, as their burials are normally scheduled for the afternoon.) .

Slaughtering the cow at the home of the deceased while the deceased is at home in their room, is important, as the spirit of the cow is believed to protect the family against evil spirits. The men do the slaughtering and cutting of the meat, while the women wash and cook the meat.

If the deceased is a man the cow has to be a male; if the deceased is a woman the cow has to be a female.

In the past the deceased was buried in the hide of the cow, but nowadays the hide may be used to cover the corpse inside the casket, or it may be sold.

When the funeral goers return from the grave, before any food is served, they have to wash their hands in a mixture of cold water and grated aloe.

The room of the deceased

On the first day after a person has died, all the furniture is taken out of their room. Only a mattress stays on the floor. All the clothes of the deceased are lumped together in a bed sheet and placed in the corner of the room, next to a burning candle.

The mattress is for the woman who has to keep the spirit of the deceased company. This woman is always an elderly member of the family - a sister of the deceased, or the oldest daughter - if the daughter is considered to be old enough for this important task. This woman may only leave the room to go to the toilet. Her food and water are served in the room. She choses two dresses to wear during her stay in the room. On the day of the burial she wears a black or navy dress with a matching kerchief that covers her entire head. She is the one who demonstrates the grief of the entire family.

On the day before the burial the deceased is brought home to spend their last hours in their room, inside their casket. All members of the family get the opportunity to spend some time with the deceased. The woman on the mattress remains a silent presence.

The Burial

After a religious sermon in the church of the deceased, the burial takes place in the local cemetery. In the process to the grave, women cry loud and persistently. Whether the loud crying was originally meant to invite all ancestors to attend the burial, or to scare away all evil spirits, is no longer clear.

Cremation is not a likely option. If one or another reason has left the relatives with no other choice, a special cleansing ritual will have to be performed to ensure a happy and peaceful life in the world of the ancestors. In the far past, before Western laws had put and end to this, people were buried next to their homes, or, depending on their position, next to the cattle kraal of the clan.

There may be a lot of crying, singing and dancing at the grave,


Source

The Bathing

After the burial most of the relatives leave. Only the core family stays at the home of the deceased until after another important ritual.

The morning after the burial, before sunrise, the hair of the spouse of the deceased is cut or only trimmed. The heads of the children are shaved. Then each member, from the oldest to the youngest, stand in line, naked, to be bathed in a basin big enough to stand in. In the basin is cold water mixed with the slaughtered cow’s gall, the contents of its intestine and the itching substance of a wild plant known as Sebabetswana. After the bath clothes have to be put on without drying the skins, and no bathing is allowed for the rest of the day.

The bathing is done by the oldest brother of the deceased. Three months later he has to return to repeat this ritual, but then the gall and intestines of a sheep or a goat will be used instead of a cow's. The meat are to be cooked and eaten as usual.

The purpose of both rituals is to keep evil spirits away from the core family while they mourn the death of the deceased.

The clothes and belongings of the deceased

The morning after the funeral, after the bathing, the clothes, blanket(s) and all the belongings of the deceased are dumped in cold water mixed with grated aloe. The wet clothes are thrown on the bare ground and all members of the core family may chose what they want.

The personal crockery of the deceased, as well as their favorite blanket, automatically go to the oldest brother of the deceased. With this he also receives money – R500, R1000, or R1500, to buy the goat/sheep for the second bathing.

Are rituals senseless?

When we learn about the rituals practiced by other cultures, we tend to classify them as ridiculous. Yet, our own rituals, whether religious, social (etiquette), or personal, seem to be just as ridiculous.

Like policies and procedures, rituals were created to satisfy our primordial human need of order, routine and discipline.

“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn't have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Funeral Service of the late Joseph Dumako

Joseph Dumako

Joseph Dumako was a well-known musician and composer in South Africa. Gospel music was his favourite genre. He was involved in the forming of gospel choirs during the 1980's and 1990's. He died in July 2011.


Source

© 2015 Martie Coetser

More by this Author


Comments 66 comments

sallybea profile image

sallybea 18 months ago from Norfolk

MartieCoetse

Nice to see the potjiekos pots. I can almost taste the food Mmmmm, I would love to taste a pot of samp and beans again. Funny how one misses the simple things and so often it is taste, which brings back those memories. Some interesting stuff in this hub, things I did not know about when I lived in SA. Thanks for sharing

Sally


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 18 months ago from Texas

Interesting, Martie. I don't think one has to agree with the rituals of another person or culture in order to repect them. As you say, we all have rituals that ithera may not understand. But they all have value to the one practicing them, even if it is just emotional comfort.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 18 months ago

A most interesting ritual. I like the idea of no alcohol allowed. As a confirmed drinker I say that solemn and somber occasions are not made better with strong drink.

It is interesting that most cultures that I know of have some sort of fermented food. I would not have any of that because I believe you had to grow up with it to like it. But I would not mind trying all the non-fermented food--especially the pot bread.

Voted up.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi sallybea :) Those pots also triggered a craving in me for potjiekos - I love beef potjiekos the most, with lots of vegetables. However, I don't think the Batswana cook meat and vegetables in the same pot. I will have to ask them :) I do believe the information in this hub is important to know, as too many whites down here don't have a clue, and therefor they tend to be intolerant. My motto is: Respect others and their beliefs the way you want them to respect you and yours. Thank you for reading and commenting :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Shanmarie :) I agree with you. We don't have to be part of a culture in order to develop the required comprehension and respect. Just knowing that all people have the right to practice their rituals, just like we practice ours, should be enough for us to show the same respect we want from others. Knowing what those rituals entail, is a bonus.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi, poetryman6969 :) Sadly some relatives tend to slip away to use alcohol elsewhere - sometimes on the corner of the next street. They are the troublemakers who make everybody around them extremely unhappy. You are so right - we have to develop a taste for food at a very young age. I would eat all of that except the sour porridge. But if it is not sour, but just cooked, it is delicious with milk, sugar and half a teaspoon of butter.... Oh, and I will add a lot of spices and herbs to the meat, and I will roast (barbecue) most of it. I will make stews with the meat that is not suitable for roasting. The pap, made with maize meal, is a must at the barbecues of the Afrikaners (the Afrikaans-speaking whites down here). With a sauce, of course, made with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and green peppers. Mmm, I am all of a sudden hungry :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

I love articles like this one, Martie. I'll never travel to South Africa, so I rely on writers like you to educate me about customs. Thank you for taking me there through your words.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 18 months ago from Dallas, Texas

The difference in cultures is amazing and you've described this ritual with incredible detail. An amazing educational and fascinating read this is. I can imagine that the neighbors who are not accustomed to this type of funeral are in shock and awe. The quote about whispering was very enlightening.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi billybuc, I, too, love to read about other cultures and their beliefs and rituals, expanding my perspective on life and mankind. Thanks for reading - one of these days you will know SA almost as well as you know the USA - The more we know about the rest of the world, the more we understand and appreciate our own country :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Peg, you have to experience the reaction of some Westerners when an African funeral takes place in the suburb. They can't handle the noise and the slaughtering of the cow. In the meantime they make the same kind of noise on a Saturday, when they and their friends watch a rugby game on TV, while meat - bought at a butchery - roast on the fire and their kids swim and play in the pool... Okay, this last only an afternoon/evening and not 7 days. However, at funerals they - the Westerners, are quiet and somber...

I think the difference lies in the fact that Africans 'celebrate' the life that was lived by the deceased - you will see them dancing and singing in the video I have attached - while the Westerners mourn the death of the deceased and want the burial to be over and done as soon as possible. Thanks for reading and commenting, dear Peg :)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 18 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Martie....I am in awe......appreciate this fascinating work of art you have shared with us about the sacred funeral rituals practiced by the Tswana people of your exquisite Country of South Africa.

I know that I could easily listen for hours as you talk of South Africa and teach me of all the wonderful traditions, celebrations & ways of life. You have the talent to tell a story vibrant enough to take your readers right to the very Country itself.

Just wonderful Martie.....UP/ awesome, beautiful & Interesting. Shared, pinned & tweeted..........Peace, Paula


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 18 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Martie, I keep casting my votes (up of course) and it acts like they are recorded, but when I come back only one vote has posted and it isn't mine.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 18 months ago from England

Fascinating hub Martie, its amazing the different rituals around the world for funerals or other family events, I think we do need them, as you said it helps with the grieving and brings people together, I learned something new, nell


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Dear fpher, I am so glad to know I have brought you right into my world. While we humans are actually masters when it comes to living in our own bubble of convictions. We even look down on others who don't have the same beliefs as us. I remember when I was a child, 90% Afrikaners were Protestants. We disdained the rituals of Catholics and charismatic Protestants. ( The latter clap their hands and raise their arms during sacred sermons. We even called them 'Happy-Clappies'. BTW, today they are the majority!) Ohhh, we were so upstairs! I can't believe I was once upon a time one of those intolerant snobs. This is but only one example of not having respect for others who are not 'like us'. Of course, some rituals practiced by some cultures are totally unacceptable, such as primitive circumcisions and other kind of mutilations. But as long as those cultures want to practice it, we can but only hope and pray that they will come to their senses and stop hurting their children in the name of tradition. Thanks for your lovely comment :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Peg, oh, are we not used to these kind of bugs? I will file a complaint right away. Thanks for drawing my attention to it.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Nell, thanks for coming over for the read. Yes, rituals are like tranquilizers; they do have a calming effect on us. Shows us how clever were the people way back in the beginning, when their gut feelings inspire them to create rituals.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida

This is absolutely, positively fascinating information, Martie, about these Batswana burial rituals. Thank you for your time and effort and sharing all these interesting details.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi dear drbj, I find the rituals of other cultures very interesting, that's why I studied mythology at a time, searching for the root of all human habits. We may not realize this, but we are still highly spiritual and also superstitious - a hub on its own... Thanks for the visit, drbj :)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 18 months ago from Central Florida

This is fascinating, Martie. I'll have to admit, some of the rituals are bizarre and/or a tad gross, but that's because American culture is so different from the Tswana people's. It's obvious they have a great respect for each other through life and death.

It's always interesting to learn about other cultures. Thank you for sharing this.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 18 months ago from United States

Some of the rituals were very similar to indian customs. But thanks on informing us about this imp aspect when a body is going through the final rites.

Voted as informative!


kallini2010 18 months ago

Very interesting, Martie. Of course, rituals are neither ridiculous nor senseless. Every society needs rituals - birth, coming-of-age, weddings and funerals.

A parade is a ritual as well.

Christmas and Easter are rituals.

But I'd say funerals are the most sensitive because we fear death and we are in awe of death, so we instinctively "pay respect" for the dead for some day it will be us.

In ancient times people used to keep skulls of their deceased on display to remind and remember their family and what lies in future for us.

Modern world is not as drastic, but we keep the pictures of our deceased - often. I enjoyed the BBC documentary "How art made the world" and one episode was dedicated to death and art/rituals.

A cross once was a symbol of torture/death, but it became an amalgam of death and salvation (not for me though, right now I'm quite allergic to Christianity). But one thing is for certain, the rituals were gone with religion and it created a very uncomfortable, if not painful, void in the society.

How "ridiculous" a funeral/burial could be? Remember the pyramids? I don't think there was a larger funeral/burial scale ever. Thanks to them, though, we know more about the Ancient Egypt.

Are we connected to the souls of our dead? I think ,yes, as long as we survive as humanity. Maintaining traditions is serves as the connection and the respect itself.

(I think I'm a bit all over the place, but my head it hazy). I hope you get the point. Knowing traditions of others make us closer to them.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 18 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Martie. You take us on an excursion to places never thought of (by me anyway.) This is filled with so much information, that I believe is generally unknown. The rituals are for the living, I think that is true world wide across all cultures. To fill "our primordial human need of order, routine and discipline," that is exactly right. Bravo.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi dear bravewarrior, sadly we whites in South Africa were never interested in the cultures of the Africans. We promoted and respected only our own. Since we no longer have the mean power to suppress Africans, we are compelled to learn, understand and accept their traditions, and also the fact that we were not born superior to any other race on this planet. Some white creatures still believe they were born superior - so, in their fool's paradise they live on, sick and angry because things no longer go their way. Personally, I keep our bizarre Western rituals and habits in mind while studying those of other cultures. Thanks for the visit, dear Shauna :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 18 months ago from California

This was fascinating! I think rituals are so important. Not only do they preserve culture, but they tell us what is important in a given culture--


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Dear Ruchira, please write a hub about your funeral rituals. I will not be the only one who will find it extremely interesting and worthy to know. I believe the more we know, the more we will understand and the sooner all racial disputes will come to an end. Don't forget to let me know when you publish - for some reason they can't fix the problem with my notifications. I guess I will have to create a new email in order to receive notifications again :) Thanks for the visit, dear Ruchira :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Kallini, thank you so much for your profound and fabulous comment. As always, I am in agreement with you. Ignorance makes us use the word 'ridiculous' when we describe the rituals of other cultures - I should actually make a list of all 'ridiculous' rituals - Just thinking about Mass - eating bread, but imagining we are eating the body of Christ. Drinking wine, but imagining we are drinking his blood. If one doesn't know the MEANING of this, ridiculous will be the description. And what is that Holy Water priests sprinkle over a corpse, and don't they sweep the devil away with a baton of a kind? (I am not familiar with the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church, but I once attended a funeral of a friend who was a member of the Catholic Church and almost stumbled over my jaws. But not in a snobbish way. I honestly found the ritual very interesting.) Yes, we can go on and on. As I've said, respecting each other's beliefs and convictions is all we have to do - knowing and understanding doesn't mean we have to practice it. Thanks again for your comment. I always appreciate your input :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Mckbirdbks, is it not wonderful to live in this era, where we have via the Internet all the opportunities in the world to learn - the easy way - the most interesting information about other cultures? Apart from oxygen and food, knowledge is the most precious 'substance' we need while we are alive. Every piece of knowledge I manage to obtain, satisfy my hungry mind. Thanks for reading and commenting :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Audrey, thank you so much for taking the time to read this hub of mine about the funeral rituals of the Tswana people in South Africa. The fact that rituals are important for those who practice them, should encourage us to pay respect regardless of our personal convictions. Thanks again for reading and commenting :)


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 18 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Martie,

As usual you have expanded our knowledge base with this comprehensive and fascinating look at the funeral rituals of the Tswana people in SA. The links and photographs are especially informative.

Love the quote by Elizabeth Gilbert - perfect!

Excellent work - Voted UP and sharing. Love, mar


MsDora profile image

MsDora 18 months ago from The Caribbean

We owe it to ourselves to devote some time and expend some energy in celebrating the lives of our loved ones. Thanks for sharing these Twsana rituals. I have an aunt who died yesterday, and in the midst of our grief, we look forward to the family gathering.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 18 months ago from Houston, Texas

This was very interesting to read Martie. Traditions are important and while each of us may have different ones, it is interesting to learn of others from different locales and cultures.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 18 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Martie congratulations on this fantastic article. One day when you have at least 20 articles on South Africa you might consider to collate them into an ebook! All you do is copy the text into MS and read over it as if they are chapters, but this time each chapter has to carry on into the next....

Voted up and shared!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Dear marcoujor, thanks for sharing this, and for everything you are and do. As my personal editor only you know how many time I use 'are' instead of 'is' and v

Dear marcoujor, thanks for sharing and for everything you do for me. As my personal editor only you know how many times I use 'is' instead of 'are' and vice versa :) Love you lots!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

MsDora, condolences to you and your family. Standing at an open grave is the last thing we would like to do in our lives, but we have to. Seeing our relatives is quite comforting. Thanks for the visit :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Peggy, just thinking of traditions such as Christmas celebrations, and not to talk about Halloween in America, we have to admit that traditions are kind of immortal. Acts like putting a baby Jesus under the Christmas tree, and using electric lights in the tree instead of lanterns, is examples of the minor changes we make to old customs in order to stay in tune with 'civilization'. Thanks for reading and commenting :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Nadine :) When I am finished with the novel I had saddled myself up with, I plan to compile a couple of anthologies. I actually have two poetry anthologies ready for publishing, but I have decided to do the novel first. My half-day job as a bookkeeper keeps me from grabbing all the challenges in the world of writers. Ugh! Thank you so much for the encouragement :)


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 18 months ago from Toronto, Canada

Dear Martie:

I did not want to appear ridiculously ignorant, but I have to admit that I am. I tried to find the exact (short and sweet) meaning of eating Christ's body and drinking his blood, but I was lost in all the details that "information" about religion (Christianity) provides. In that sense, (the Bible TO ME is senselessly cruel), an enormous book with too many details.

Even the worst writer will never write a book that long with so many details (image HubPages moderators, if it wasn't "holy", nobody would even go past few (if a few) paragraphs.

So, I'm asking you, what is the meaning?

I got that there is "magical" transformation of bread into Christ's body and wine into his blood - who can believe it in our times of science? (it is a cognitive irreconcilable dissonance, it's either ... or... and I'm on the science side)

but what I didn't get, why do you have to eat His body and Drink his blood?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 18 months ago from New York

I absolutely love reading your hubs about South Africa! This one is a wonderful glimpse into the beliefs and rituals of a people that precede our own! You handled this with your usual grace and good taste. Our beliefs are part of our beings and no one has the right to question them or look down on them.

Voted all but funny. Shared too.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Oh, Kallini, one has to study the human psyche in order to understand the origin and purpose of religion and human's way of holding on to it in spite of obvious anomalies and contradictions. I did this years ago and eventually came to the conclusion that I was wasting my precious time on earth trying to find answers that don't exist. So, how's the weather up there?


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

tillsontitan, thank you so much for agreeing with me that no one has the right to look down on any rituals that are not practiced by themselves. Rather focus on whatever makes you happy than criticizing the doings of others. Of course, we always have to keep others in consideration, don't we? 'Civilization' requires serenity - so-called civilized people should not make waves. They have to live as if they don't exist. Just to keep the neighbors happy.... Thanks for coming over for the read, Mary :)


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 18 months ago from Oakley, CA

Very interesting and well done. So voted.


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 18 months ago from Toronto, Canada

You mean in Canada? It's springtime. It finally is getting warm.

That's exactly how I feel - when it comes to the maze that is Christianity, I feel like - what a waste of time! Science sheds light, religion obscures it.

When I was making my "argument" to Daniel about religion (so that he won't listen to people "spreading the word"), I took a big fat (really big and really fat) Mythology book (which by the way doesn't cover all beliefs/religons) and I said it was a weapon - if you hit a person's head with it, you'll kill him - that's how many beliefs (in small print) were there before Christ and all of them are/were right.

Religion is a story, but burying the dead is a necessity. Burials need rituals. I actually like rituals. It's very human.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Thank you, DzyMsLizzy :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Kallini, I studied in particularly the religion that was practiced in the old Mesopotamia, as Abraham - the founder of Judaism - the foundation of Christianity and Islam - lived in Ur, where Sin (the moon) was the town's god. Every town had their own god - Marduk (the wind), or Enu - or was it Anu - (the sky), etc.etc, depending on which god (element) determined the prosperity of the town. Abraham (then Abram) refused to pay his 10ths (tax) to the queen of Ur (she was half human half god, as she was, like all kings/queens, fathered by the town's particular god.) Because he was a stock raiser, he feared the acts of Yaweh, the god who was responsible for earthquakes and volcanoes, which was quite common those days due to a geological formation underground. Yaweh eventually became the god of the Israelites. One day I will write a hub about this.

Anyway, I found mythology very-very interesting and quite an eye-opener. Of course, I know the benefits of being seriously and whole-heartedly religious. I can't remember who said, 'Religion is the opium of mankind'? Very true! Unfortunately people have always used religion for their own benefit - to overcome their own fears and satisfy their own needs. After many years of suffering in the cage called religion, I came to the conclusion that the power that was responsible for the beginning of this universe - the power that still keeps it going, is most certainly the most fascinating phenomenon - people had to make it more comprehensible - and therefor they had personalized it, and named it, and explained it via metaphors, galore. If doing this makes people more divine (less animal driven by urges and instincts), I will promote it. Unfortunately people use their religion not only to keep themselves doped and happy, but they also use it to manipulate other people in order to gain whatever they need. They even manipulate the very god they believe in, in order to receive what they want/need. Anyway, this is a topic for another hub... One day. Maybe. Upsetting and confusing people, is the very last thing I want to do, because I know what a precious possession faith in God is. Taking it away from somebody, or telling them that it is an illusion, is just mean and nasty. Like taking away a baby's favorite blanket....

It is autumn down here. Winter is on our doorstep. But I think our winter is as warm as your summer, so I will not complain :)


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 18 months ago from southern USA

Hi Martie,

I always learn so much reading your hubs on SA, and found this one interesting as to the funeral rituals of the Tswana people in SA. Yes, we certainly must respect others' ways. I think the traditions and such are truly for the living. Once I leave my physical body, I truly do not care what they do with it LOL, I told my husband to not spend a ton on an expensive funeral and blah, blah, blah, but then again, it is not meant for me but those who are still leaving.

Peace and blessings


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

So true, Faith! After the death of a beloved, we want to live on with the comforting knowledge that we buried them with love and respect. It is hard enough to miss them for the rest of our life, we certainly don't need regrets on top of it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Much-much appreciated :)


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 18 months ago from Orlando, FL

Wow! I felt like I was at a funeral and I do not like funerals, I prefer celebrations of life. These are some intense rituals! Very interesting, I do like that dancing is part of the funeral festivities. Thanks for another learning lesson by SAA! :)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 18 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

I was impressed to learn of the deep respect the Batswana people have for their beloved deceased, including how to behave during pre-burial. Although our cultures are different, we can learn, I think, from some of their traditions and beliefs. You have provided us with fascinating detail, Martie. As always, you take “take us there” with your words and photos. Thank you for this amazing journey.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 18 months ago from southern USA

Oops, I see I said ..."leaving" meant living of course : ) ... Yes, I hope they have a celebration of life for me too, as Linda mentions.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Dear Sunshine, singing and dancing are typical characteristics of all Africans down here. They do it even while they demonstrate discontentment and anger. I believe one can use this ability of them as the topic for a paper about human behavior. Here is an interest article about the history of African dances - it is truly quite unique - http://dance.lovetoknow.com/History_of_African_Dan...


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Dear Genna, the challenge is to accept and respect the traditions and rituals of other cultures. Okay, it is hard to accept a tradition that is harmful to people and animals. The whites down hear have an issue with the slaughtering of an animal in a residential area, yet they eat the meat of animals who are being slaughtered daily in abattoirs. So, what really bothers them, is the fact that a cow gets slaughtered during a funeral right under their noses, for them to see and hear. I, myself, find this difficult to handle, as it confronts ME with the fact that I, too, am a meat-eater, in other words a killer of beautiful animals. Who said those animals are supposed to be devoured by humans? So what am I, I ask myself - but only, like all humans, a glorified animal compelled to kill in order to eat. It will be selfish to expect from others to consider my sensitive soul and hyper-active conscience. I will rather go somewhere where I can see beautiful flowers and things that make me FEEL like a spiritual being and not an animal-killer-meat-eater human being. Oh, and even there - where I can see/hear only divine beauty - I will probably enjoy a barbecue without contemplating the original state of the meat. Ugh, we humans!

Oh, and the noise is also disturbing. But WTH, do we perhaps whisper while we practice our rituals? The bells of Christian churches echo through the town every Sunday morning, and singing during sermons can be heard miles away. Are Christians going to end this just to please non-Christians?

Thanks for your kind comment, dear Genna :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Faith, we are so overwhelmed with grief and shock during a funeral, and so sad because we have to live on, missing the deceased for the rest of our lives. "You will not cry for me, but for yourself. You will feel sorry for yourself, as you will realize that you, too, are going to die sooner or later," was some wise words I have heard from a dying man. According to Christian principles, the limelight is supposed to be on God. I think if we can manage this - contemplating the wonder of life and in particularly the wonder of life after death according to Christian beliefs, we, too, will be dancing and feasting at a funeral.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 18 months ago from Southern Illinois

This is very interesting. I learn so much from your writing about Africa. It seems that the people you write about are dedicated and faithful to their deceased loved ones. Here we have a short visitation and sermon then the burial. Cremation is becoming very popular. My sister Virgie was cremated. ( This hurt me. I don't like the idea of burning the body. ) I learned a new word, Modimo ( God )

Baie donkie.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

My dearest always exploring, how wonderful to see you! I was getting quite concerned about you, being offline for so long.

We white people down here (Euro-Africans) also have a short visitation to the deceased - for quite a while now (3-4 decades!) at the funeral parlor and NO LONGER in the foyer of the church. Then, after the visitation, a sermon of about one hour in accordance with the religion of the family, then the burial. After the burial coffee/tea and snacks are served in the church hall, or in any public hall, or, when the number of funeral goers doesn't require a hall, at the home of the deceased or at the home of a member of the family. This minimizes the cost of a funeral. The coffee/tea/snacks are often sponsored by the church of the deceased and served by members of the congregation. (Gosh, I should regain my habit of attending church every Sunday, or else my poor children are going to...... Just thinking aloud!) But go figure: Keeping a corpse for 7 days in the fridge of a funeral parlor, transporting it to the home and then also to the church and the cemetery, and feeding an enormous family for 7 days! Fortunately we have excellent funeral insurances :)

Baie dankie, my liewe Ruby :)


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 18 months ago from USA

You are quite the anthropologist with this detailed cultural description of the Tswana people's funeral rituals. I learned so much and was very interested throughout. They do have quite a sendoff for their people!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 18 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi, Flourish! Thanks for reading and commenting. I do believe that some of the rituals will change as the norms and standards of all people change in the course of time :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 17 months ago from California

Articles like this just make me want to get my travel gear and set out! So very interesting how different we all are and yet, how much the same--


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 17 months ago from South Africa Author

True. Audrey, humans are all the same. Only their language, believes and traditions differ. Thank you :)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This hub is fascinating and very informative, Martie. I love learning about South Africa and its culture by reading your hubs.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 17 months ago from South Africa Author

Dear Alicia, always good to see you in my corner. I, too, love learning about other countries and cultures. Fascinating!


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 15 months ago from Texas

Fascinating treatise on funeral rituals in South Africa!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 15 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi, Augustine! I believe the highlighting of birth, birthdays, marriage, death, etc. with extra-ordinary rituals is a typical and unique human tendency. Of course, those rituals become tradition, which people find difficult to change. Thanks for the visit. Take care :)


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 15 months ago from Toronto, Canada

Martie - to entertain - not to contradict -

if I find Daniel Gilbert's quote about "no other species..." I'll share it with you.

- it's hilarious.

The gist of it, every time a well-intended psychologist announces that no other species..., some other species prove him wrong and even worse, that false generalization secures that poor psycholist a firm position in EVERY psychology book. One way to be famous.

Back to the core:

Being prompted to learn more about elephants, I have discovered that elephants have a ritual for their dead. Moreover, they come back to elephants that were killed. To say that I was surprised is to say nothing.

Let me make my space in the annals of history - no other species believe that ... here I have to think and do what passes for thinking.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 15 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Kallini, sorry you had to wait 25 hours for a reply. Gosh, time flies! Please, get me that quote of Daniel Gilbert. You know I love quotes. I believe it is good to know all the many theories of specialists in all fields, but we should realize that the truth is only an opinion of an individual or a group of people with a specific perspective. Elephant are most certainly a very interesting specie, and although they don't walk in the streets of South Africa, they are all over in nature reserves. As far as I know there are no elephants in America and Canada except in zoos? Now why don't you write a hub about elephants and your thoughts about them? Thanks for the visit, Svetlana. You're always somewhere in my thoughts :)


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 15 months ago from Toronto, Canada

Hi, Martie. I couldn't help it

"...hoping that if they wait long enough, they just might die in time to avoid being publicly humiliated by a monkey."

Humiliated by a monkey, don't you just love that?

The fact that animals have their rituals - mating dances and such - only proves your point and I agree - we want/should/must/it is nice to - mark special occasions and what is more special than birth - wedding - death?

There are ceremonies for coming-of-age and celebrations/tributes to Sun/Moon/Other Heavenly Bodies passing/shining/disappearing. Rituals are the drama/theater that is so needed. That's where Church has an upper hand with its "Palaces" ready-to-use and it's-in the manual rituals?

But leaving it all aside - we are in agreement here, elephants - yes, I will write about them, but later when I have enough information to make it interesting. Now, I've joined a writing class and there are other priorities as well. In the meanwhile, I keep paying attention when there is something new about them. I saw an elephant who learned how to dive. Don't ask me how he does it, I decided not to be surprised by elephants' talents.

You are always in my thoughts as well. Take care,


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 15 months ago from South Africa Author

Hi Svetlana, I'm happy to hear you've joined a writing class, and curious to see the results. Monkeys are quite clever, though chimpanzees are considered to be the cleverest after humans in the primate family. The gorilla is the dumbest as far as I can remember. But we are wandering from the subject!

Religious leaders have surpassed themselves in the art of rituals. It is easy to captive the thoughts and imagination of humans by making them perform rituals. In the process all kinds of brainwashing techniques can be administered, as you know any action we perform by intensifying it with rituals meets our spiritual need to be more important and special than any other creature.

I'm sending you pictures of elephants, because I know you identify with them. I believe you have a special album for them.

Take care, dear Svetlana!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working