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Garifuna Beluria to Dugu - Gubida of the Garinagu in Seine Bight Village
by Benjamin E. Palacio, Legacy of Balbino Palacio - Cocal

Dugu, Gubida, Owehani, Buyei, Gayusa, Areiraguagüdüni, Hiyuruha, Ninth Night SPIRITUALISM



Benjamin E. Palacio, Teacher, 1975 Seine Bight Village, Legacy of Balbino Palacio, Seine Bight Garinagu - Belize

Beluria is also called a ninth night celebration. The community does not sever the lines of communication with the departed at or after death. The spirit may even contact a family member via dreams and request assistance from the living. The scenario, dubbed "the bathing of the dead" can happen anytime and requires immediate attention. Usually, those contacted dig a hole and simulate washing the body using a calabash to represent the deceased. Salt and fresh water, various herbs, and cassava water are poured into the hole and the spirit is addressed. The spirit may also call for a mass. During this form of transmission, friends and family hold a church mass and gather food offerings. Men and women then perform gender-specific dances for the deceased. Again, drums and music are integral parts of the summoning of the spirit world.

Garifuna Offering - Presided over by a Buyei or shaman

Perhaps the most well known form of communication with the dead in the Garifuna culture is the dugu. In this unification ceremony, the extended families of a person gather to give thanks and promote the healing of an ailing member. When someone falls ill in a family, the high priest, or buyei, will inform the family if a dugu is warranted or not. Throughout the weeklong ceremony, offerings are made in hopes that those ill regain their strength. Singing and dancing to particular beats often hypnotize participants and send them into trance-like states that captivate onlookers and convince them that this activity should be performed by trained personnel only! Again, the community involvement astounds those cultivated in more reserved cultures where death is a personal grievance shared by only one family. The encouragement by the Garifuna culture for all to join in the dancing, drinking, drumming, singing and merriment creates a familiar atmosphere intoxicating to visitors once wary of being dubbed "stranger."

The Garifuna observe a Nine-Night Wake in which the wake procedures are repeated for nine days following the death. It begins on a day so that the ninth night falls on a Saturday. This is considered the family's final farewell to the spiritual double or ahari of the dead who is believed to remain in the house after the burial. It is only now that her/his trip to the other world begins. Candles are lit, prayers are repeated and, especially regarding the Black Caribs, the wishes of the ahari are carefully attended. The favorite things of the spirit and fresh water are placed allover the altar to further satisfy the wishes.About six months later a further process of helping the ahari to its ascendancy is preformed. The immediate family does Amuiedahani or the bathing of the soul, usually the spouse and children, because the spirit has become weary and is in need of refreshment and strength to continue. The males dig a pit in the deceased's bedroom and water for the bath is prepared from herbs and leaves into which small half-baked cassava bread is dissolved. It is a short ceremony that begins with religious songs. The eldest member fills a gourd with the water and throws it into the pit saying, "Here this is for your bath"(Coelho pg. 177). Everyone then follows according to age.

A full year after the death Dugu or Feasting the Dead is held in attempt to please the departed spirits who are believed to not be in peace. It usually consists of a feast given to the deified ancestors by the extended family. However, this is usually not preformed until the family members experience nightmares or domestic accidents or when the family's means of subsistence are threatened and all other remedies have failed. A priest or buiai is then brought to communicate with the ancestral spirits with the help of his messengers (hiuruhu) to arrive at the appropriate ceremony. Traditionally, the family gathers and the rites are held in the village where the lineage originated. The heart of the Dugu is a small mound of earth (dabuyaba) built on the floor of the house set apart for the ritual. It is suppose to attract and hold the spirits, who are mystically bound to the earth the once tread upon. The ritual is a whole week of activities, dancing, chanting and food sharing. The most sacred part of the Dugu is the mali or amalihani a dance led by the buiai and the drummers.

During the mali, the placating of the spirits of the ancestors takes place. The congrgation forms behind the buiai who faces the drummers as they all move in a counter clock-wise direction around the dabuyaba halting position to mark the four cardinal points. These motions signify the directions from which power is drawn and in which the spirits may reside. Each mali is dedicated to an ancestral spirit. Normally some dancers enter into trance signifying that the ancestors have arrived at the ceremony. The ritual progresses throughout the mornings, when they go to the sea to collect shellfish and the favorite dishes of the ancestors. Upon return, they dress and attend a requiem mass. The candles from the mass are taken back to continue the rites. There follows three more rites: Arairaguni- calling down the spirit; Guibida- attempts to please the spirits; Abaiuhani- allows the children to get aquatinted with the spirits. The final rite is the serving of the hot specialty dishes relished by the ancestors. They are presented to the spirits and songs are sung. After it is thought the spirits have begun to consume, everyone else partakes.


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