Widikum Culture: Death

In Widikum tradition, death brought together the whole village as a sign of love and solidarity to the bereaved family. We shall examine briefly what our tradition expects us to do in the following cases:


a)Before the burial

You are required to inform your father’s uncles (Ombah-wi) about the death and the day of the burial. They will come with special cloth to bury their nephew. You are also expected to inform the following:

  • All family sisters (Njabi bo-ayi).
  • All in-laws
  • All groups where the deceased was a member

After the information stage comes the following:

  • Family meeting to prepare the burial.
  • Accommodation for the uncles, family sisters and others
  • Provision of food and palm wine

b)During the burial.

Where the deceased is a Christian, the corpse is taken to church and after the funeral church service, he is either buried in the church cemetery or taken back to his compound for burial. It is worth noting here that traditional burial requires the following:

  • The corpse is laid in state for mourners to pay their last respect. There is usually a lot of wailing
  • Eulogies especially from the uncles and the most senior son.
  • The provision of special burial cloth by the children, uncles and in-laws

c)After Burial

Food and drinks (palm wine) are provided to all the mourners. Special attention is paid to the following:

  • The uncles (ombah-wi).
  • The family sisters (Njabi bo-ayi).
  • Special quests

Generally, pigs are slaughtered and prepared with plantains, cocoyams and yams to feed the mourners. The day immediately after the burial is reserved to search for the deceased. Family sisters wear the decease’s clothes and visit the farms and other places of interest, singing and dancing. It is important to note that the family sisters will continue to mourn on the spot until the day fixed to end the funeral. Traditionally, burial ceremony ends on the 8th day following the day of the burial with dancing and feasting. This is followed by the presentation of the following items:

  • Palm oil and salt to the family sisters
  • Cloth to the uncles

The above items are carried back home

d)Death Celebration.

We shall briefly examine the activities to be carried out before, during and after the death celebrations.

1.Before the Death Celebration

The first step is to organize a family meeting. The main objective is to plan for the death celebration (season, month, day etc). Note that our tradition does not permit death celebrations to take place on the day called Ikur.

The second step is to hold a meeting with all in-laws. During the meeting, they are informed on the following:

  • -The day of the death celebration as agreed by the family.
  • -The obligations of in-laws (pig, traditional masked dance, 12 jugs of palm wine etc).

The third step is to inform the uncles. The information messenger goes to the uncles with the following items:

  • A pig
  • A jug of palm wine

The uncles are expected to come with a traditional dance. The fourth step is to inform the palace. A special jug of palm wine is taken to the palace to officially announce the day of the death celebration. The fifth step is to invite friends and well-wishers who can support you in the celebration.This is usually done with some palm wine.

Two days before the death celebration proper, the population starts visiting the ceremonial grounds. This is called Ozari. One day before the death celebration, the Ofon and notables are invited for a final inspection visit. The objective is to ensure that all the traditional requirements have been fulfilled. During the Ofon’s visit, the host entertains them.

They later on inspect the pig, which the chief celebrant will slaughter and distribute to all the quarters or families in accordance with the tradition. This is done before the death celebration proper.

2.During the Death Celebration proper

The death celebration starts very early in the morning with the playing of the funeral drum and gun firing. Each group arrives singing and dancing. They dance round the house of the deceased. Then, they are led to a house reserved for them. Palm wine and kola nuts are served to them. Note that the in-laws are expected to support the chief celebrant with drinks.

The population of the village, already assembled, some in the house of the deceased, others in the ceremonial grounds are served with palm wine. The display of traditional dances begins at about 2 p.m in the following order:

  • The village dance opens the death celebration
  • The uncle’s dance follows next
  • Then the in-law, beginning with the first to the last in-law.

After the display by individual dance groups, all the masked jujus now dance together. Then there is a short break just enough for each dance group to be ready for another round of dancing. This second individual dancing ends with a second collective dancing. This leads to the cutting of goats.

The cutting of goats
This is the final stage of the death celebration. The following order should be respected:

  • The village goat.
  • The uncle’s goat (provided by the chief celebrants).
  • The goat of in-laws (provided by themselves).

Finally, jugs of palm wine representing each traditional dance are brought to the ceremonial grounds. fter the display of dances as briefly explained above, feasting now takes place according to the various groups.

3.After the Death Celebration (next morning)

a).  The uncles.
The family head of the uncles blesses the chief celebrant and his family. He then returns to his home with the following items:

  • A cap
  • A gun
  • An old bag that was used by their nephew (the deceased)
  • A wrapper which should be twice the size of the one he provided for the burial of his nephew. He may request for other souvenirs to mourn his nephew.

II.The death of one’s mother.

The funeral and death celebration procedure as described in the case of one’s father is also applicable in the case of one’s mother. However, the following exceptions should be noted:

  1. At the end of the death celebration the family sisters provide bundles of egusi and beans to the uncles.
  2. A fowl is prepared as a farewell meal to the uncles
  3. The pig or goat cut during the final stage of the death celebration is prepared for all to eat while the head is given to the juju man.

Traditions relating to the funeral and death celebration of the Ofon, regents and quarterheads will be published in a separate brochure.

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