Tongan funerals

Last updated

Funerals in Tonga, despite the large Christian influence they have received over the last 150 years or so, are still very much a traditional affair and an important part of the culture of Tonga, especially if it concerns the death of a member of the royal family or a high chief.

Contents

Clothing

The influence of Christianity on Anga Faka Tonga (Tongan culture) is seen in the black clothing worn by mourners during the mourning period. The period of mourning, and thus the obligation to wear black, differs depending on how closely related a mourner is to the deceased. For an acquaintance it may be a few days; for a distant relation it may be a few weeks, whilst for close relatives the mourning period may last for up to a year. This obligation remains irrespective of whether a taʻovala (mat tied around the waist) is worn or not. For those in uniform a black armband is allowed instead.

When appearing in public during this period, a taʻovala is much recommended, and during this time it is traditional to wear a mourning taʻovala. When attending the funeral itself, wearing of a mourning ta'ovala is obligatory. What kind of ta'ovala is worn depends on the relationship to the deceased. Close relatives who are "inferior", in kinship terms, or "brother's" side, wear old, coarse, torn mats, sometimes even old floor mats. These are the relatives who do the hard, dirty work of preparing the ʻumu at the funeral. Relatives on the "sister's side" wear fine mats, often mats which are family heirlooms. Those who are not related at all to the deceased should wear fine mats that are fakaʻahu, or smoked over a fire until they are a rich mahogany color.

Over the coarse mats, loose strips of pandanus may be worn, as a kiekie (ornamental girdle). This is the fakaaveave (meaning: like an asparagus), and wearing one is also a sign of respect. In the later days of the mourning period, the fakaaveave can be worn alone without the bulky taʻovala.

In the case of the death of a king, culturally everybody is considered inferior, and only the coarse mats are worn. The ta'ovala worn by close relatives can be particularly large.

The Tuita family present their ha`amo for the king Taufa`ahau Tupou IV's funeral ceremonies. Note their huge ta`ovala and the fakaaveave over it Ha`amo.jpg
The Tuita family present their haʻamo for the king Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV's funeral ceremonies. Note their huge taʻovala and the fakaaveave over it

Vigil

As soon as the death has occurred all family members will be notified, nowadays often by a radio message, and they are supposed to come to the putu (funeral rites). In Tongan culture no excuses are accepted for missing these rites. For friends or distantly related members it is enough that they come, pay their respect to the dead, bring a small gift for the widow (or close relatives), have their share of food and then leave until the actual burial. The household of the deceased is supposed to provide a meal, or meals if the putu are long, to all mourners. In case of a large family, this is a huge and expensive operation with a big ʻumu, and much food.

Closer family will bring huge ngatu and other traditional gifts, and are supposed to stay for the ʻapō (night vigil). Usually a big tent (some companies are specialised in hiring out such tents) is erected in the garden, and there the people sit the whole night singing religious songs. This is normally one night, but in case of a high chief the ʻapō can last a whole week.

Burial itself

The burial itself starts with a church service, the number of reverends/priests, the number of their sermons and therefore the duration of the service is proportional to the rank of the corpse. After that all parade to that cemetery where the family has a piece of ground. A brass-band may lead the procession. If the deceased is a high ranking civil servant, it will be the police brass-band.

Meanwhile, men and boys of the family have dug a grave, and the coffin is lowered in there. Nowadays the grave is usually sealed with concrete. After that all leave, although the closest relatives may stay at the grave for the next 10 days.

Death of a king

In Tonga, the monarch is still considered so sacred that no one may touch him. Thus the Haʻa Tufunga clan is charged with funeral duties for, though they claim descent from a brother (Māliepō) of the first Tongan king, they are not part of the Tongan ranking system because of their Sāmoan ancestry. It is headed by Lauaki, the title of the royal undertaker, and only his men, known as the nima tapu ("sacred hands") may touch the dead king's remains.

The Tuʻi Tonga were buried in the langi (burial mounds), most of them in Lapaha. The current dynasty of kings, the Tuʻi Kanokupolu are buried at Malaʻe Kula.

After the 10th day, female relatives cut their hair. Here Princess Phaedra Fusitu`a has her hair cut, while her mother, Lupepau`u, watches from the right. As the hair and the head (especially of royalty) are considered taboo, it must be done by someone outside the Tongan ranking system, such as Maori Princess Heeni Katipa (far left). Phaedra's cut.jpg
After the 10th day, female relatives cut their hair. Here Princess Phaedra Fusituʻa has her hair cut, while her mother, Lupepauʻu, watches from the right. As the hair and the head (especially of royalty) are considered taboo, it must be done by someone outside the Tongan ranking system, such as Māori Princess Heeni Katipa (far left).

Aftermath

In case of an important chief, for 10 days after the interment relatives and friends of the deceased bring food from the ʻumu to the deceased's closest family members. Such food is always put in baskets, woven from coconut palm fronds. It is a tradition in this situation not to carry the baskets in the hands, but from a pole over the shoulders. This is called the haʻamo (Compare with: Haʻamonga ʻa Maui).

During the initial mourning period the mourners (especially the women) are not supposed to do their hair, but let it hang loose and unattended. At the end of the 10 days it will be officially cut. In pre-Christian time, in addition, a part of the little finger (or any other finger if the little finger was already consumed on earlier occasions) would be cut off. That many people were missing their little fingers was directly noted by Abel Tasman in 1643. Even as late as 1865 Tēvita ʻUnga, King George Tupou I's son, the crown prince, was described as "minus 2 fingers, cut off as a tribute to some deceased relatives" (as well as having lost one eye). [1]

This tenth day is known as the pongipongi tapu (sacred morning) and features a taumafa kava (royal kava ceremony), which is a good time to bestow the chiefly title (if any) of the deceased onto his heir.

The end of the mourning, 100 days later, is marked by the lanu kilikili (washing of the stones), when little black stones (volcanic stones, collected from islands like Tofua) are rubbed with sweet smelling oil are laid out over the grave. (This was originally done inside the grave to replace the by then rotten away skin of the deceased.) This ends the task of the undertaker.

See also

  1. Brenchley: Jottings during the cruise of HMS 'Curacoa' among the South seas islands in 1865; London 1873.

Related Research Articles

Funeral Ceremony for a person who has died

A funeral is a ceremony connected with the final disposition of a corpse, such as a burial or cremation, with the attendant observances. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember and respect the dead, from interment, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. Customs vary between cultures and religious groups. Funerals have both normative and legal components. Common secular motivations for funerals include mourning the deceased, celebrating their life, and offering support and sympathy to the bereaved; additionally, funerals may have religious aspects that are intended to help the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation.

Shiva is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives. The ritual is referred to as "sitting shiva" in English. The shiva period lasts for seven days following the burial. Following the initial period of despair and lamentation immediately after the death, shiva embraces a time when individuals discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others. Its observance is a requirement for the parents, spouses, children and siblings of the person who has died. It is not a requirement for an individual who was less than thirty days old at the time of death. At the funeral, mourners wear an outer garment that is torn before the procession in a ritual known as keriah. In some traditions, mourners wear a black ribbon that is cut in place of an everyday garment. The torn article is worn throughout the entirety of shiva. Typically, the seven days begin immediately after the deceased has been buried. Following burial, mourners assume the halakhic status of avel. It is necessary for the burial spot to be entirely covered with earth in order for shiva to commence. This state lasts for the entire duration of shiva. During the period of shiva, mourners remain at home. Friends and family visit those in mourning in order to give their condolences and provide comfort. The process, dating back to biblical times, formalizes the natural way an individual confronts and overcomes grief. Shiva allows for the individual to express their sorrow, discuss the loss of a loved one, and slowly re-enter society.

Mourning Sorrow (and its conventional manifestation) for someones death

Mourning is, in the simplest sense, grief over someone's death. The word is also used to describe a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate. Customs vary between cultures and evolve over time, though many core behaviors remain constant.

Tapu or tabu is a Polynesian traditional concept denoting something holy or sacred, with "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition"; it involves rules and prohibitions. The English word taboo derives from this later meaning and dates from Captain James Cook's visit to Tonga in 1777.

Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV King of Tonga

Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV was the King of Tonga, from the death of his mother, Queen Sālote Tupou III, in 1965 until his own death in 2006.

George Tupou V King of Tonga

George Tupou V was the King of Tonga from the death of his father Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV in 2006 until his own death six years later.

Culture of Tonga

The Tongan archipelago has been inhabited for perhaps 3000 years, since settlement in late Lapita times. The culture of its inhabitants has surely changed greatly over this long time period. Before the arrival of European explorers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Tongans were in frequent contact with their nearest Oceanic neighbors, Fiji and Samoa. In the 19th century, with the arrival of Western traders and missionaries, Tongan culture changed dramatically. Some old beliefs and habits were thrown away and others adopted. Some accommodations made in the 19th century and early 20th century are now being challenged by changing Western civilization. Hence Tongan culture is far from a unified or monolithic affair, and Tongans themselves may differ strongly as to what it is "Tongan" to do, or not do.

Bereavement in Judaism is a combination of minhag and mitzvah derived from the Torah and Judaism's classical rabbinic texts. The details of observance and practice vary according to each Jewish community.

Māori religion Religious beliefs and practices in Māoridom

Māori religion encompasses the various religious beliefs and practices of the Māori, the Polynesian indigenous people of New Zealand.

Kiekie (clothing)

A kiekie is a Tongan dress, an ornamental girdle around the waist, mainly worn by women on semiformal occasions, but nowadays also sometimes by men. At highly formal occasions both gender will settle for a taʻovala. At casual occasions no girdle is needed for any gender, although women may continue wearing a kiekie even then, as it is considered an easy sitting, nice looking decoration, with which one can show off..

Taʻovala

A taʻovala is an article of Tongan dress, a mat wrapped around the waist, worn by men and women, at all formal occasions, much like the tie for men in the European and North American culture. The ta'ovala is also commonly seen among the Fijian Lau Islands, a region once heavily influenced by Tongan hegemony and cultural diffusion.

Death anniversary

A death anniversary is the anniversary of the death of a person. It is the opposite of birthday. It is a custom in several Asian cultures, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, China, Georgia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Myanmar, Iran, Israel, Japan, Bangladesh, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, as well as in other places with significant overseas Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, and Vietnamese populations, to observe the anniversary on which a family member or other significant individual died. There are also similar memorial services that are held at different intervals, such as every week.

Professional mourning

Professional mourning or paid mourning is an occupation that originates from Egyptian, Chinese, Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures. Professional mourners, also called moirologists and mutes, are compensated to lament or deliver a eulogy and help comfort and entertain the grieving family. Mentioned in the Bible and other religious texts, the occupation is widely invoked and explored in literature, from the Ugaritic epics of early centuries BC to modern poetry. Held in high esteem in some cultures and times, the practice was vilified in others, such as the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Female professional mourners also, called Rudaali, were common in many parts of India, especially in the Western Indian state of Rajasthan.

ʻIe tōga

An ʻie tōga is a special finely woven mat that is an important item of cultural value in Samoa. They are commonly referred to in English as "fine mats" although they are never used as 'mats' as they only have a purely cultural value. ʻIe tōga are valued by the quality of the weave and the softness and shine of the material. They are made by women and form an important part of their role, identity and skill in their community.

A funeral procession is a procession, usually in motor vehicles or by foot, from a funeral home or place of worship to the cemetery or crematorium. In earlier times the deceased was typically carried by male family members on a bier or in a coffin to the final resting place. This practice has shifted over time toward transporting the deceased in a hearse, while family and friends follow in their vehicles. The transition from the procession by foot to procession by car can be attributed to two main factors; the switch to burying or cremating the body at locations far from the funeral site and mainly the introduction of motorized vehicles and public transportation making processions by foot through the street no longer practical.

Funeral practices and burial customs in the Philippines Aspect of culture and society

During the Pre-Hispanic period the early Filipinos believed in a concept of life after death. This belief, which stemmed from indigenous ancestral veneration and was strengthened by strong family and community relations within tribes, prompted the Filipinos to create burial customs to honor the dead through prayers and rituals. Due to different cultures from various regions of the Philippines, many different burial practices have emerged. For example, the Manobos buried their dead in trees, the Ifugaos seated the corpse on a chari before it was brought to a cave and buried elsewhere. The most common forms of traditional burials are supine pits, earthenware jars, and log coffins, and have been a topic of interest among Philippine archaeologists since the early 20th century.

Chinese funeral rituals

Chinese funeral rituals comprise a set of traditions broadly associated with Chinese folk religion, with different rites depending on the age of the deceased, the cause of death, and the deceased's marital and social statuses. Different rituals are carried out in different parts of China, and many contemporary Chinese people carry out funerals according to various religious faiths such as Buddhism or Christianity. However, in general, the funeral ceremony itself is carried out over seven days, and mourners wear funerary dress according to their relationship to the deceased. Traditionally, white clothing is symbolic of the dead, while red is not usually worn, as it is traditionally the symbolic colour of happiness worn at Chinese weddings. The number three is significant, with many customary gestures being carried out three times.

A Korean traditional funeral is similar to a Chinese traditional funeral but with its unique features from Korean Confucianism as well as centuries of indigenous Shamanism. Numerous anthropological scholars have attempted to discern which practices come from Shamanistic roots, and which are more purely Confucian.

National traditions are well preserved in Azerbaijan. They have a long history, namely originates from the formation of the Azerbaijani people. There are several traditions in Azerbaijan, some customs and traditions differ from region to region.

"Bin Sangyeo Nori" refers to performances by the lead vocalist of the funeral songs called "Apsorikkun" and a group of pallbearers or "Sangdukkun". "Apsorikkun" sings the first part of the song while others sing the chorus. At the night before, it happens in order to familiarize themselves with carrying the coffin properly during the morning ceremony. The name originates from three words: "빈" meaning "empty", "상여" meaning "bier" and "놀이" meaning "entertainment.