Make your own free website on
Ibo Funeral Ceremonies


Ibo Funeral Ceremonies

The Ibo tribe performs intricate burials and funeral ceremonies. The most complex performances are for the chiefs, and there are several types of death that are considered shameful and are not given any respect or burial at all. Few Ibo tribes do not believe in sacrifice, for many, the chiefs' funeral ceremonies are very bloody. To start off, the chief's family washes his body directly in the death chamber, they don't wash him in a special wash room. Next, they place the body on a high bush table ("ojo") and cover it with cloths, strings, manilla, and young palm leaves, this to the Ibo tribe symbolizes rebirth.

The oldest daughter of the chief then leads a succession of families and friends around the compound, singing and dancing. Her husband, the chief's son-in-law, then lays a feather of an eagle, slain by a blood relative of the chief, on top of the corpse, to be buried.

Right after this ritual, are the sacrifices that the chief's children must do. First to be sacrificed is a dog because of its power of having beyond senses of humans and ability to see danger and evi before anyone else. A dog is beheaded and the children draw a circle around the corpse with the dripping blood. Then a cat is chosen because of its spectacular night vision in order to bring the chief good eyesight in the underworld. Then the eagle is sacrificed to bring the chief good eyesight in the light. Finally a parrot is sacrificed because of its clear voice. So that the chief will always be heard in his next life.

After the set of previous sacrifices are done, another set of sacrifices are slain by the relatives on the chief's mother's side of the family. A goat is sacrificed because of its strong feet, to carry the chief wherever he would like to go. After the animals, the slave wives are sacrificed. First one special slave wife (the "Aho'm") is slain and thrown into the grave and the rest must have their arms and legs broken and are buried alive with the body. To do all these jobs, only the bravest and strongest men are selected to perform the bold task of breaking the bones. Depending on the chief, there may be more human sacrifices. Some families have bodies hanging from posts or trees around the burial square. If the chief is rich enough, he would have a lot more slave wives slain at the place where the chief bathed, ate, slept, received guests, and as a gift to the trees. At the tree at which ale is worshipped ("ogrisi"), the slaves have their throats cut and the blood is poured at the roots of the tree, to fertilize it.

Next, the Ibo tribe signals the ancestors of the arrival of the chief by playing drums and trumpets. They then close the grave, but leave a small space for the last sacrifice. The strong men capture a man from another tribe, behead him, and place his head in the small opening. The death chamber ("Obiri") of the chief's is then decorated with the skulls of the victims. The family then has a great feast of the flesh of the animal and human sacrifices.

For the next three months, the widows must sleep in the Obiri in order to guard the ojo. After this period, the Obiri is torn down and all of the materials and cloths are burned. The widows are allowed to return home but they must wear mourning clothes for a year.

If an Ibo woman dies, she is buried at the home of the son. If she has no son, her body is thrown into a bush. Children were given a burial within their parents' houses. The Ibo tribe also have "bad deaths" including those of women who die in confinement, children who die before they have teeth, suicides, and those who die in the sacred month. The Ibo also believe that certain people must be put to death lest they shame the tribe. These include twin mothers, twins, children whose upper teeth came in first, children who were born feet first, boys with only one testicle, men with elephantiasis of the scrotum, and lepers. As a result, these bodies are thrown away in secrecy.


Back to the Main Page