Lee Ritual Transcript


Lee Ritual Transcript


[T]raditions around burial. I wanted to know the nitty-gritty. "I heard that you wash the body. How do you do it? Why? What is it about burial that so many people get it?" My driver was Muslim-born but he became Christian. His name is Abu. Like Abu Bakar, that's very Muslim, but he's Christian. How ironic is that? But that's how it is in Sierra Leone. You're born Christian, you become Muslim. You're born Muslim, you stay Muslim. All kinds, but they all live happily together. It's incredible how they do that. He explained to me about the Muslim burial, and then once I got to Bo and Kenema, which are heavily Muslim, they explained to me how the burial is done. So usually men wash men's bodies, women wash women's bodies. Someone close like your sister. If I die, my sister or aunt or female relative would wash the body starting from the right side and then the left side. You either have the best clothing you've ever owned and then wrapped with white shroud, and there's a whole list of processes: how that body gets transported to the gravesite, who goes into the grave to hold that body right-side-down facing where it's supposed to face. Then, there's a rectangular hole. They put trees vertically and leaves vertically and then put the soil in. I said, "Why do people do that?" They said, "Because, one, they don't want animals getting to the body, but also, how can the body breathe if the soil is right on top of the body?" "Like, breathe? Please explain further." Many people explained to me that the day of burial is the best day of your life because you then will enter the eternal, painless world where all your ancestors are waiting for you. If you're not cleaned, you won't be welcomed. Ancestors will not accept you, so then you end up floating in this gray area. That's why when the burial team takes the body from you, they will find the body, dig it up, wash it, because you want your loved one to be in a painless world. Wouldn't you want that for your loved ones?


“Lee Ritual Transcript,” CDC Museum Digital Exhibits, accessed June 14, 2024, http://cdcmuseum.org/items/show/785.