For my activity post, I am writing about death in Jamaica while utilizing the Long article from class for the basis of my examination. For most countries, there is an ideal way to die well (Long 2004). Jamaica is definitely unique when it comes to how culture affects death and when it comes to “dying well.” Death rites in Jamaica are not really original. Instead, they are integrated from a plethora of diverse cultures that stem from Africa, China, Europe and India (Tortello 2006). For example, many Jamaican ancestors come from Ghana where Akans are a very large cultural group there. Moreover, funeral rites are representations of Akan cosmology which gives a deeper understanding on the rituals practiced post death (Tortello 2006). Most Akan derived rituals are usually performed in the deceased one’s home. The ritual involves rearranging the home in such a way, so the deceased one’s “duppy” would not be able to recognize the home or haunt the family. The action of sweeping around a dead body, and the action of wearing certain colors was also completed to prevent the duppy from sticking around (Tortello 2006). The order of all of these traditions has also always been important. A lack of order in these traditions correlates to disrespect to the deceased. This could also lead to undesired haunting.
There is another Jamaican tradition that also takes place at the home of the deceased. This is a historical wake which is known as Nine Night. During this wake, loved ones come together to comfort the family of the deceased. This was because bodies traditionally stayed in their homes until the actual burial, so it was hard for family members to cope with their bodies right there (William 2015). It was also the Jamaican way to give the spirit of the deceased a respectful send off to prevent haunting. To sum it up, this set up correlates to the nine days it takes for the spirit to travel home. This specific set up has always been the most popular in all of Jamaica (William 2015). This specific tradition derived from both European and African culture, and it has been adopted into Jamaican culture.
The activities of these wakes have never been completely set in stone. They have differed over time depending on religion, social class and location. For example, Christian Jamaicans will sing hymns at the wake (William 2015). Moreover, there is usually a leader who would lead the event. Traditionally, the event was solely a time for mourning, but overtime, it has transformed into more of a dancing ceremony that involves a variety of foods and more merriment (William 2015). Some cultures have led to burials taking place the day of the actual death, and for Jamaicans who follow kumina, the burial could be as long as a year after death (Tortello 2006). Different protocols were followed in specified orders for the same reasons that the wake was ordered which was to avoid unwanted haunting.
The community would also be assumed a variety of obligations which included coffin making, digging and food prep (William 2015). The community was usually so helpful that the family was not nearly as finacially burdened. Overtime, death rites have been aided by newly integrated funeral services. These services have allowed for easier communication of the death and easier burial methodologies (Tortello 2006). As time has gone by, death has began to be marked more constructively by the World Health Organization (McCaw-Binns 2010). It is their responsibility to compile data on the actual causes of death. As expected, this is a complicated process, and it requires proper documentation.
Long, Susan Orpett. “Cultural Scripts for a Good Death in Japan and the United States: Similarities and Differences.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 58, no. 5, 2004, pp. 913–928., doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.10.037.
Tortello, Rebecca. “A Time to Die – Death Rituals.” | Jamaica Gleaner, 2 May 2006 old.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0080.html.
United States, Congress, McCaw-Binns, Affete, et al. “REGISTRATION OF FOETAL DEATHS AND DEATHS: JAMAICA.” REGISTRATION OF FOETAL DEATHS AND DEATHS: JAMAICA, 2nd ed., Registrar General’s Department, 2010, pp. 1–105.
Williams, Paul H. “The Death of Nine-Nights – Part 1.” Letters | Jamaica Gleaner, 31 May 2015, jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20150531/death-nine-nights-part-1.