Contrary to many cultures, the Banyankole tribe, who reside in Ankole in southwestern Uganda, traditionally believed that death did not occur naturally but rather through methods of sorcery, scourge or spite. Therefore, when people died, their loved ones, wanting to know exactly who was to blame, would take the bodies to witch doctors to solve the mysteries. The only exception to this disbelief that death occurs naturally is those members who die of old age, because the Banyankole believe that God is responsible for their deaths since he has allowed them sufficient time to complete their lives on Earth.
For anyone who fails to attend, suspicion will arise for that person’s possible involvement with the death.
The Banyankole await the attendance of every significant family member before burials happen. For anyone who fails to attend, suspicion will arise for that person’s possible involvement with the death. Before the burial, loved ones wash the body and close the eyes of the person who has died. During burials, bodies are always placed in the ground facing east. What side the body is laid into the ground depends on one’s gender. Men’s bodies lie on their right sides with their right hands placed under the head and their left hands on their chest. In order for her to face her husband, a woman’s body is positioned to lie on her left side. For anyone who has died and might have had a grudge against someone prior to his or her death, those burying the bodies would also bury objects for the spirits to keep them occupied enough that they would not haunt the unfortunate victims of their grudges.
The mourning period lasts for four days. During this time, at least one cow gets slaughtered to feed all the mourners who have gathered and beer is provided. All the mourners stay and sleep at the home of the person who has died. Due to a belief that a hailstorm will happen and ruin crops, everyone is forbidden from performing any manual labor during the mourning period.
To eradicate any further misfortune, families of people who commit suicide must rip out the affected tree and burn it.
Suicide, however, is a completely different matter. None of the standard traditions occur and several superstitions exist. The grave for someone who commits suicide is dug right under the tree where the body hangs. This is so when the cutting down happens, the body will fall directly into the hole. The only person allowed to cut down the body is a woman who has already undergone menopause because the Banyankole believe the person who cuts the body down will die not long afterwards. No mourning period or funeral occurs. To eradicate any further misfortune, families of people who commit suicide must rip out the affected tree and burn it. They are also banned from using any of the tree’s wood for fires.