Funeral Rites in Igbo Culture


Funeral rites among the Igbos is a tradition Igbo people perform for any adult that passes on. Igbos believe that any deceased adult of Igbo origin that  is denied the gift of Igbo funeral rites never finds peace in the beyond, and will never be inducted into the world of the souls to enjoy spiritual rights there.

Igbos believe a deceased adult that is yet to receive her funeral rites will keep reincarnating and dying as infant and will never enjoy earth life or life in the beyond. Additionally, the soul of such a deceased will rise and torment her family members until the funeral rites are performed for her.

Any relative, male or female, can sponsor funeral rites in Igbo land anytime. However, the sooner; the better! The reason is this – Igbo tradition upholds the basic ideology that says: If a person’s deceased parents have not been given the sacred gift of funeral rites, she will never receive it herself, when she too passes on, unless the parents are first settled with their own funeral rites.

Before a deceased is granted funeral rites her family members and friends must meet to plan the solemn event. Execution of their plan commences immediately after the meeting. drinks will be bought, cows will be slaughtered (depending on the social status of the deceased), dancers and masquerade will be invited for traditional performances, yams, coco-yams, kola-nuts etc will be arranged for. Rainmakers will be hired to stop rain from falling all through the funeral proceedings.

If cows are butchered, one of the fore-limbs is sent to the deceased’s maternal home, and the rest of the beef will be used in cooking all through the funeral event.

Igbos believe in life and existence in the world beyond our physical senses. Hence, prayers, sacrifices, and supplication for the reposed soul are central parts of the entire Igbo funeral rites. Traditionally, prayers and sacrifices are offered to God (through the ancestors of the deceased) for mercy and guidance so that the deceased may continue her existence and seamlessly blend and adjust to other spirits already living in the beyond.

After the more spiritual aspects of the Igbo funeral rites such as; prayers, sacrifices, and supplications including actual burial of the remains of the deceased; friends, well-wishers, in-laws, visitors, colleagues etc are welcomed to visit and condole the surviving members of the deceased’s family with assorted gifts, money, consolatory words etc.

As soon as condolence visitation officially ends, the surviving members of the deceased’s family are expected to go on an outing, usually to a popular market in the community to announce that they have completed the funral rites of the relative in accordance to Igbo tradition and culture.

Igbo culture, at this point in the funeral rites proceedings, demands that during such outings, the members of the community present gifts, money, and goodwill messages to the bereaved family.

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