MegaMan (megaman) wrote,

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The Meru had a great taboo about death, and believed that a corpse was defiled. They called this rukuu, meaning 'severed from the living'.
   If people realised that a neighbour of theirs was going to die, they would take him into the forest and shelter him in a hut they put up there, which was unsurprisingly called the "hut of death". The about-to-be-deceased's name was not to be mentioned anymore.
   If someone died in their home, on the other hand, the house had to be destroyed, and the body dragged out by a rope to the bush where it was abandoned.
   As they feared to touch a corpse for danger of contamination, whoever disposed of the body was required to undergo a cleansing ritual, known as kwenja rukuu. This involved shaving the family members (which was done by the one who disposed the corpse: he too was shaved by one of the family members). This was then followed by a sexual ritual, which symbolised having found a replacement for the deceased.

The sexual ritual concerned the parents and their children. If a child was not married, then after the death of one's parent, the council immediately proposed a girl or a boy for marriage, after consulting the father of the proposed candidate, who would concede to the request without any hesitation, leaving the arrangement for dowry and the marriage to a later time.
   There were, however, some complications regarding the disposal of a barren woman or a man who never had a child. These were the people called mburatuu by the Meru, meaning useless people. When a barren woman died in her original home (otherwise her husband would have cared for her disposal if she had died when she was at his home), or when a childless man died, there would be a problem as no member of the family would want to touch the corpse of such a person because such corpses were viewed as a curse. However, since the corpse had to be disposed of, a public undertaker who was referred to as mwenji or mutheria (a ritual cleanser) was called in. This public undertaker was given a goat by a close relative of the deceased, with whose wife he had to carry out the sexual act. If the deceased was a widower, the public undertaker had to go somewhere else to look for a woman whose husband had passed away, or to look for a public woman undertaker (mwenji-o-muntu muka).

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