Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/233

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225
DEATH OF A CHIEF—CUSTOMS.

however, the chief, should he have expressed a wish to that effect, instead of being buried, is placed in a reclining position on a slightly raised platform in the centre of his own hut, which, in such a case, is surrounded by stout and strong palisadings.

When a chief feels his dissolution approaching, he calls his sons to the bedside, and gives them his benediction, which consists solely in wishing them an abundance of the good things of this world.

The eldest son of the chief's favorite wife succeeds his father; and as soon as the obsequies are over, he quits the desolate spot, remaining absent for years. At last, however, he returns, and immediately proceeds to his parent's grave, where he kneels down, and, in a whispering voice, tells the deceased that he is there with his family, and the cattle that he gave him. He then prays for long life, also that his herds may thrive and multiply; and, in short, that he may obtain all those things that are dear to a savage. This duty being performed, he constructs a kraal on the identical spot where once the ancestral camp stood; even the huts and the fireplaces are placed as much as possible in their former position. The chief's own hut is always upon the east side of the inclosure.

The flesh of the first animal slaughtered here is cooked in a particular vessel, and, when ready, the chief hands a portion of it to every one present. An image, consisting of two pieces of wood,[1] supposed to represent the household deity, or rather the deified parent, is then produced, and moistened in the platter of each individual. The chief then takes the image, and after affixing a piece of meat to the upper end of it, he plants it in the ground on the identical spot where his parent was accustomed to sacrifice. The first pail of milk produced from the cattle is also taken to the grave, a small

  1. Each caste has a particular tree or shrub consecrated to it. Of this shrub, a couple of twigs or sticks represent the deceased.