A Torajan Funeral Ceremony #5
An important component of the Torajan funeral ritual is the slaughter of water buffalos. The more powerful the person who died, the more buffalo are slaughtered at the death feast. Buffalo carcasses, including their heads, are usually lined up on a field waiting for their owner, who is in the “sleeping stage”. Torajans believe that the deceased will need the buffalo to make the journey and that they will be quicker to arrive at Puya if they have many buffalo. Slaughtering tens of water buffalo and hundreds of pigs using a machete is the climax of the elaborate death feast, with dancing and music and young boys who catch spurting blood in long bamboo tubes. Some of the slaughtered animals are given by guests as “gifts”, which are carefully noted because they will be considered debts of the deceased’s family.
In Toraja society, the funeral ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event. The richer and more powerful the individual, the more expensive is the funeral. In the aluk religion, only nobles have the right to have an extensive death feast. The death feast of a nobleman is usually attended by thousands and lasts for several days. A ceremonial site, called rante, is usually prepared in a large, grassy field where shelters for audiences, rice barns, and other ceremonial funeral structures are specially made by the deceased family. The ceremony is often held weeks, months, or years after the death so that the deceased’s family can raise the significant funds needed to cover funeral expenses.
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals to a higher purpose, in particular divine beings, as an act of propitiation or worship. While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering (Latin oblatio) can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts. For offerings of liquids (beverages) by pouring, the term libation is used.
Animal sacrifice is the ritual killing of an animal as part of a religion. It is practiced by adherents of many religions as a means of appeasing a god or gods or changing the course of nature. It also served a social or economic function in those cultures where the edible portions of the animal were distributed among those attending the sacrifice for consumption. Animal sacrifice has turned up in almost all cultures, from the Hebrews to the Greeks and Romans (particularly the purifying ceremony Lustratio), Ancient Egyptians (for example in the cult of Apis) and from the Aztecs to the Yoruba.
Animal sacrifice is still practiced today by the followers of Santería and other lineages of Orisa as a means of curing the sick and giving thanks to the Orisa (gods). However in Santeria, such animal offerings constitute an extremely small portion of what are termed ebos—ritual activities that include offerings, prayer and deeds. Christians from some villages in Greece also sacrifice animals to Orthodox saints in a practice known as kourbània. The practice, while publicly condemned, is often tolerate.