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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Christianity and the Proliferation of Ancestors: Changes in Hierarchy and Mortuary Ritual in the Cameroon Grassfields
Author:Jindra, Michael
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Cameroon
Subjects:death rites
ancestor worship
Development and Technology
Religion and Witchcraft
Abstract:During the 20th century, the 'death celebration' became arguably the most important cultural event throughout much of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon. The growth of this ritual festival occurred in the context of major political, economic and religious changes in the Grassfields. This article focuses on how religious changes, particularly the growth of Christianity, contributed to the rise of this event and how it has prompted significant changes in notions and practices concerning the pollution of death, personhood, burial rites and the ancestors. In the traditional hierarchical structure of Grassfields society, only certain titled individuals and chiefs were believed to live on after death. This was reflected in burial rituals. Individuals who became ancestors were buried in family compounds while 'unimportant' people were frequently disposed of in the 'bush'. Christianity, because of its stress on individual personhood and its message of an afterlife for everyone, became an attractive alternative to established beliefs and practices, especially for the disenfranchised in the traditional system. Burial sites became standardized and were extended to virtually everyone. Ironically, Christianity created a 'proliferation' of ancestors for whom delayed mortuary rites are owed. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]