In a recent incident, a woman in Lugari Sub-county, Kakamega County, shocked people across the nation by locking herself in with her three children and setting the house on fire. One child, an 11-year-old, managed to escape.
This is said to have happened after the woman stormed her husband with another woman in the nearby shopping center before a fight ensued.
In the Luhya culture, a person committing suicide is considered a great taboo and an esilamo (curse) that should be cleansed so as not to “follow” members of the victim’s family.
First of all, the person who identifies the body should be swift to walk into the home of the deceased and get someone to identify the corpse. Upon confirmation, the victim’s kinsmen give an animal or money to the identifier as a token of appreciation.
The identifier should then be cleansed (okhulombwa) to rid them of the curse of the dead person, and they should not walk into their home before this is done.
The elders (avakofu) from the family of the deceased person then “quarrel” with the corpse, reprimanding the deceased person for being such a coward, cursing and giving them a thorough beating to chase away the evil spirit of suicide and as a warning to whoever wants to copy the behavior.
Afterward, a black ram is slaughtered and its blood (amatsai) is sprinkled on the dead person’s head. This is done by selected people from ebukhochawe (their matrimonial uncles).
The body is then buried at night behind the main house, probably on the banana farm, without any honorable rituals.
Note: Luhya words used here are from the Kinyore dialect
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