Luo community is the largest language group among the River Lake Nilotes, having come from their original homeland (South Sudan) where they settled in Ethiopia before moving to Uganda.
In Kenya, they consist of twelve clans; Jo Alego, Jo Gem, Jo seme, Jo Karachuonyo, Jo Kano, Jo Asembo, Jo Uyoma, Jo Sakwa Jo Kajulu, Jo Kisumo, Jo Kabundo and Jo Nyakach. The clan naming is believed to have been based on the areas the different groups settled in.
They entered Kenya through Eastern Uganda in four different groups:
(1) TheJoka – Jok
They migrated from Ach oliland and were the first largest migration group. They comprised of; Jo – Karachuonyo, Jo – Kabondo, Jo – Nyakach, Jo – Kanyada, Jo – Kadem among others. They settled in South Nyanza.
(2) Jok – K’Owiny
They are believed to have migrated from Padhola. They included; Jo – Sakwa, Jo – Uyoma, Jo Seme, Jo Asembo, Jo Kajulu, Jo Kisumo among others. They settled in Kisumu and some parts of North Nyanza.
They migrated from Pawir. They include Jo – Alego, Jo – Gem, Jo Ugenya and Jo – Yimbo. They settled in Northern Nyanza.
(4) The Abasuba
They included JokaSingri, Jo – Kaswanga, Jo Gwasi, Jo – Kamasengre among others. They settled in Suba and Mbita.
Having understood how they migrated from their original homeland to where they are presently, let us now look at how they carried out funeral affairs in the olden days to the present time.
DEATH AND BURIAL
Luo community valued the dead and as a result, they accorded them the best send-off. A dead person was buried within a week from the day they passed away.
After the sudden loss, the immediate family leads in mourning. This is done in different ways including dirges and wails.
Thereafter, the young men were called forth or summoned to go and call the girls who were far away. In the event that the firstborn son of the late was living far from their home and is not able to appear during the burial, the body was interred halfway awaiting for the son who will later burry the remaining half on arrival.
MOURNING AND HAIR TRIMMING
During the period of mourning, the widow sits next to her dead husband’s body until it is buried. During this time she’s expected to chant and cry loudly asking her dead husband why he died, why he has ashamed her, who will raise her, and the children left behind among many other rhetoric question-based chants.
Cries and wails would go on any time a visitor arrives. This was a sign of welcome from the wife and a show of grief.
The deceased wife is thereafter closed with her dead husband’s body and is expected to make love to the body. This happens in the odd hours of the night to the burial day.
The body is then taken outside for viewing by family members only. It is then prepared for burial ceremony and body viewing by mourners and distant relatives before the burial ceremony which is to take place not latest by noon.
The same would be done by the husband to the wife in the event she dies. The widow will visit the dead husband’s grave for thirty days every morning for 1 – 2 hours to mourn. She has to cry in pain as a sign of deep loss, failure to which the community will judge her harshly and even insinuate her to cause her husband’s death.
Hair shaving was then done after the burial. This exercise was done in front of the family and the elders. Hair was considered to contribute a lot to beauty of Luo community and therefore the removal of hair was a sign of mourning.
It also helps in the identification of the family of the deceased. If for instance, a man passes on, then shaving would be done after four days of the burial and three days of burial if a woman died.
If one of the twins died, the shaving was done after eight days of burial. During this time no one in the family is allowed to walk out of the compound. It is after shaving that the family members are free to leave the home to their various places.
DREAMS AND WIFE INHERITANCE
Dreaming in Luo culture was very important especially when a spouse passed away. This applied to both men and women. One has to dream of making love to their dead spouse. It is only by this act that one is considered free.
For men, it was not a long tie up to the culture since they would dream soon after the burial, unlike women who could dream after a number of years.
In the event that one didn’t dream completely or took a long time to dream, it’s assumed that either the dead husband does not want his wife to be inherited or the wife did not love her husband.
Before a woman is buried, her private body parts had to be covered with a cloth called ‘Ang’uola’. They were buried without underpants to make the husbands dream quickly.
If the wife is buried while dressed with underpants, it would take ages for the man to dream. Once the widow dreamt about her late husband, she will then inform the family. The underpants worn on that night she dreamt will be thrown across the roof of the house and this will pave way for her inheritance.
The widow is inherited by the elder brother of the deceased and not any younger brother. In case the deceased was the eldest, the elders would convey a meeting and appoint to the widow the nearest elderly cousin brother to take over.
Inheritance only took place after cleansing exercise dubbed ‘chola’ This was a sexual exercise done in order to release the woman from any bondage.
It was done in two ways; By hiring professional inheritors to perform chola or widow would look for any man outside and have sexual intercourse with him.
Before the inheritance, the eldest brother of the deceased had to consult with his wife (s) and his children about the decision to inherit the widow.
The man inheriting the widow had the only duty to satisfy and fulfill their sexual desires. All the other responsibilities were taken by the widow.
Children sired by the inheritor remained the late man’s children. They were named after the late and were entitled to inheriting the property just like the children sired by the late husband.
For an old woman who could not engage in sexual activities, another elderly man ( brother – in – law) steps in as the inheritor and moves quickly to hung his coat or shirt on in the inner side of the house ( bedroom door).
This is meant to inform the community that the home has been taken care of by the wife inheritor and to stop anyone from trying to hunt for the widow.