Who We Are

Who We Are: "We are a collaboration of families of African Traditional practitioners coming together to venerate our Ancestors for the perpetual healing of our communities."About our favicon: Fawohodie, an adinkra symbol meaning the "symbol of independence, freedom, emancipation". From the expression: Fawodhodie ene obre na enam. Literal translation: "Independence comes with its responsibilities."

Monday, July 30, 2012

CELEBRATING LIFE'S TRANSITION: THE GARIFUNA BELURIA



Garifuna drummer playing at a beluria
The drums could be heard from far away filling the night with pulsating rhythms. One might think that it is some festive occasion that you just cannot miss. It's as if the drums actually pull you. And when you arrive, it is indeed festive, a party of sorts except when you ask what's going on, someone has died.

The beluria (be-loo-reeya) is among several traditional practices in honour of the dead that are still done in Garifuna communities of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and even in the United States where thousands of Garinagu (Garifuna people) also live.

Garifuna woman dancing punta at a beluria
The significant number is nine. The custom is that after someone has made transition and has been buried, the family engages in nine days of prayers.  An altar is prepared in the home of the deceased and a group of elder women visit each day to lead in the prayers. On the ninth night, the final prayers are done. Drums play all night accompanied by the singing of women and much dancing. Traditionally, stories would be told usually by an elder about many lessons in life. Sometimes there would be stories about the deceased. Large pots of soup would be on the fire throughout the night to give to those in attendance. Then, just before the sun rises, the altar is dismantled. The final mourning of the deceased is done and all items are taken to the burial site of the deceased.
   
Garifuna women singing at a beluria

The beluria in Garifuna tradition is considered the last ritual of mourning for a loved one. It essentially prepares the deceased for the spirit world. It is a send off to the place where Ancestors dwell, Seiri (say-ree). It gives the community and family a chance to celebrate the life of the deceased on Earth knowing that they will be going to a different place and life. All other rituals in the years that follow are done in honour, reverence and appeasement of those who dwell in the realm of the Ancestors. The Garifuna beluria, though threatened by modern day influences, remains alive among Garinagu as a celebration of life's transition.