Mortality and regeneration: Bebelibe understandings of life after death.

Merz, Sharon (2013) Mortality and regeneration: Bebelibe understandings of life after death. Masters thesis, University of Wales, Trinity St David.

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Abstract

The Bebelibe of northwestern Benin are experiencing rapid socio-cultural change following the arrival of modern institutions. People’s views about what happens following death are based on the cyclic flow of kɛbodikɛ (vital force) and mtakimɛ (agentive purpose). Death occurs when kɛbodikɛ and mtakimɛ leave the physical body. Despite this, their bond with it is not completely severed. Only once the flesh has decomposed, leaving just the bones, can they go on to reincarnate. Consequently, the Bebelibe have two funerals: mhuumu (burial, literally ‘death’) and dihuude (celebration), which should follow several months to a year later. Part of the dihuude celebration includes a ritual that allows kɛbodikɛ and mtakimɛ to ‘breathe’. The introduction and proliferation of coffins during the past twenty years has proved controversial as many think they slow down and complicate reincarnation. For others, kɛbodikɛ and mtakimɛ have been dematerialised and spiritualised, primarily through the influence of Christianity. One outcome of this transformation is the quick separation of kɛbodikɛ and mtakimɛ from the physical body. For those who accept this development, coffins no longer pose a threat and the focus of dihuude changes from ritual to symbolic. Reincarnation aside, many are worried about the escalating costs associated with both mhuumu and dihuude and the increasing social pressure to use coffins. As many have embraced aspects of Christianity, even if they do not convert, its impact and the importance it has gained in the area cannot be ignored. Especially younger people are attracted to Christianity as it is associated with being modern. Despite this, many churchgoers still accept reincarnation, although their understanding of it may be modified as people appropriate the parts of Christianity they find attractive on their own terms.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information: Series: Carmarthen / Lampeter Dissertations;10412/270.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Regeneration, Immortality, Future life, Benin
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: John Dalling
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2014 18:00
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2016 11:55
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/479

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