Griqua Burial Rites

Burial

When someone passed on there are things that needs to be done by the relatives before they bury the body and also when they are burying that person. These things are done in the Griqua nation as to do their last things to their beloved ones.

When a person died an older person in the community is being called to declare that person is really passed on. When that is done, the older person will close the eyes, by that time old women will wash the body and stretched the body flat on its back, the arms lie along the sides, and the hands, palm downward, are folded over the bosom. The body is then wrapped and sewn up in skins, whose hairy side, strewn with buchu, is turned inwards. The face remains free till shortly before burial, when it is covered with a bit of skin which has been set aside and which is now loosely stitched to the others. In the old days they used to sew up in old bags and sprinkle a small amount of salt over the chest to prevent the body from decomposing then the body will be left alone in the hut while the mourners spend the whole night together outside the hut singing.

The funeral will take place the following afternoon the day of the death. By then the relative will choose a suitable spot in the vicinity of the kraal, where a grave is dug in the sand by means of a gemsbok horn and a roughly made wooden shovel. The grave is about three feet broad and six feet deep, with along narrow niche along one side. The body is taken out of the hut through a special opening made for the purpose at the back, and is carried to the grave by the deceased’s relatives and friends.

At the graveside an elderly woman who is appointed by the relatives will come and stand by the body and ask any relative if the deceased ever do good while he was still alive and all women will reply “da” which means yes from there the deceased will be praised even if he wasn’t a good person. And the same woman will walk towards the grave and sprinkle buchu leaves on the body. After that the body will be lowered into the grave by means of thongs and two men climb in after it to put it into the niche. The body is laid on its back, with the grave itself on the right hand side and the head facing east. The niche is closed in with thick bushes or with twigs and stones which cover the whole floor of the grave. Large flat stones are next placed over these stones in such a way that no ground can fall upon the body. The grave is then filled in, everybody present picking up handfuls of earth and sand which they throw in.

Finally amount of stones is heaped up over the covered grave, the customary explanation being that this prevents wild animals from getting at the corpse. These mounds are often raised very high. A big stone, planted upright in the heap and projecting about a foot or so, indicates the head end of the grave, the gemsbok horn used in excavating the grave is placed in this position. Everybody add a twig of a stone to the mound, which is afterwards strewn with buchu. Everybody relative to the dead person unable to be present at the funeral will also, on visiting the kraal, go to the grave and placed something on the mound. No women with babies or children will attend the funeral rites.

When the people come back from the grave, all inmates of the kraal wash their hands with cold water, which is placed in front of the dead person hut, the water will also be sprinkled where the dead person has lied before buried, it means by washing hands to prevent to get sick, and the sprinkled is to prevent that the sickness from spreading, except the bereaved family and closed relatives who are not allowed to touch water.

The relatives slaughter animals, the blood is collected into one or more pots. The entrails are collected in other pots and the meat in other pots; all different families who are taking part provide pots. The blood is heated to boiling point, and mixed with a certain herb, and stirred about with a chopper, which has been heated until its red, in order to make the steam rise. The relatives cover their heads with karosses over the pots so that they perspire. One of the elders of the kraal will take the pot's soot and make a mark on the stomach of each person, for preventing to get stomach pains when eating the meat. Only the relatives of the dead person will eat the meat the rest will eat the entrails, all these things are performed at the dead person's hut.

Cold water is, likewise, thrown on the grave of a newly buried person; often the men return the next day to throw  water on the grave, the reasons is to harden the grave so that wild beast could dig there.  The removal of the kraal is not with the Griqua’s or the Namas. They believe that who treads on a grave, passes on unmindfully, or points at a grave with the finger, has disturbed the rest of the dead and must expect the revenge of the dead.

Some of the things have changed due to the westernization of the Griqua nation.  People live in homes built by bricks, but believe in a front door and a back door. On the death of a loved one the relatives call in the elders to make sure that this person has passed on. Previously they would close the eyes and put two coins (shielings) on. The old ladies washed the body and dressed it up with pyjamas / nightdress. They took (goina sak) backs dipped it in water make a bed on the floor. The deceased was put on it with the face front upwards, an iron at the head and one at the bottom at the feet, covered by a sheet. The arms will fold and the hands were put on the chest, a nappy or towels are bound over the head and chin, as well as the feet were also tide. The lighting of paraffin lamps later candles were used day and night around the body.

Some men with relatives dig the grave and sometimes it takes some days due to the area. In most instances it was chosen on a hill. The family slaughtered sheep or goats. The genitals will be cooked with home-made bread for the community who gather every night to comfort the bereaved family, till the last evening before the funeral. On the last night of the vigil they would stay till sunrise.  Every person who had attended the funeral must throw earth in the grave; after the grave is filled it is packed with stones like a mould. The close family will form a circle around the grave everyone with a stone and put it together on the grave after all. Then everyone is obliged to go back to the deceased house to wash their hands, but no one is allowed to do it individual, you must wait for others and do it as a group to put the hands together same time in the water. Meat and stamp is then served to everyone or maize rice today is rice and meat. 

Latest comments

20.05 | 15:46

send an email to :griquacommissariate@gmail.com

...
17.05 | 03:46

I am researching my Great Great Grandfather Missionary Christoph Andreas Sass who married an Orlam Kaaitjie Engelbrecht in Silver Fountain 1817. Any help please

...
17.05 | 03:33

I am doing research of my Great Great Grandfather Christoph Andreas Sass who was a missionary in Namaqualand from 1811 and moved to Captain Cornelius Kok's Kraa

...
15.05 | 14:16

Thanks Joe

...
Hi!
Make your own website like I did.
It's easy, and absolutely free.
AD