Can You Believe that in Africa Some Corpses are Thoroughly Beaten Before Burial?

I think a person in his proper senses will not dare thrash a corpse. Maybe the deceased is a close relative of yours and you wouldn’t dare cane them in real life, leave alone when they have passed on. But African Tradition allows a corpse to be beaten thoroughly. Why? The corpse may be caned seriously if the dead person commits suicide. Suicide is not allowed by many customs in the African tradition.


Why the Corpse of a Suicide is Thoroughly Thrashed

Suicide is seriously abhorred in Africa because it is seen as a cowardly act. The suicide victim is an escapee from the problems of the world. The person cannot face challenges head on and he tries to escape by committing suicide. The victim is believed to leave behind a curse. Calamity will soon overtake the families of the departed suicidal victim. This crisis has to be evaded. That is why the corpse is thoroughly thrashed.


Events That Occur When the Corpse of a Suicide is Discovered

Suicidal death is never treated like any other. Things are done in whispers, so it’s hard for a person to understand what is taking place. Neighbors summon each other and point without many words where the corpse is to be found. Elderly men seek out and consult men who are not very normal upstairs. Either those people are mad or are abnormal in one way or the other. They cut down the victim if he has hanged himself. No wailing or crying is done in such a death. Once the mad people cut down the suicide victim, the neighbors descend on him with canes. They thrash the corpse thoroughly to avert any crisis. The corpse is later buried in the dead of the night. There is no ceremony to be done and no coffin is made for the victim. It is a solemn occasion – different from the normal burial, which looks like a celebration rather than a funeral.


Other Customs Related to Suicides and Their Families

Apart from the corpse being thoroughly thrashed in order to avoid crisis, there are other norms to be observed.

  • The diseased person is never named in that society. His name is to die a natural death.
  • Nobody from his family is allowed to marry, nor can anyone be married into the family. The family is treated as an outcast.
  • The house of the diseased is burned to ashes.

Such are the reasons why the suicidal corpse was thoroughly thrashed. It was also to scare others not to think of suicide.


Featured image: Mabel Amber/Pixabay/ Public domain, CCO


  1. Kyla Matton Osborne

    I can see why people would be afraid of the curse of suicide. It can often be linked to mental illnesses such as depression, which are inherited. So it makes sense that nobody would want to marry into the family of a suicide victim. It’s a protection for the community against an increase in depression, which even with expensive medicines and treatments can be difficult to treat.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne

      I actually do not totally disagree with suicide. In fact, I am quite in favour of doctor-assisted suicide for people who are terminal and suffering greatly. I watched too many of our elderly die very painful deaths when I was younger. To me, it’s cruel not to help when someone is ready to die.

      That being said, I understand the taboo and the desire to control the spread of depression. It’s a very debilitating disease, especially when drugs are not affordable or the patient cannot find a medication that works for him.

  2. Gil Camporazo

    In thn their social sense, Africans treat suicide as a worse sin their fellow has committed. They want to stress that kind of ending one’s life is taboo. Since the dead person died of suicide cannot be punished while he is living, they want inflict such punishment by beating their corpse. That is, as for me, one way of telling the people, that they curse such practice of killing oneself.

    1. Gil Camporazo

      You are correct. Some of them have been doing that for several years already and it becomes their “panata” or a vow to fulfill every Holy Friday of the year.

  3. Rex Trulove

    I can understand the reason behind the beating, but can’t help but think that it is not only extreme, it is senseless. The beating isn’t going to hurt the dead person in the slightest, so it would simply be an act aimed solely at making the living people feel better, and I’m a little doubtful about the living people feeling better by beating a corpse. In Christianity, suicide is a big sin, but only Jesus can judge the person for that sin, so there is nothing at all that living people can do, one way or the other. For that matter, every one of us is only responsible for ourselves, anyway.

    1. Rex Trulove

      Yes, it is a mystery, but there are many mysteries in the world and over reacting to them doesn’t make a lot of sense. It certainly doesn’t show wisdom.

  4. Dawnwriter

    I agree with everything @rextrulove has said here. Committing suicide is a major sin in Islam too because it shows that a person has no faith in Mercy or Grace of God. As Muslims we believe that any calamity is a test of faith and if faced with patience and prayers, it becomes an expiation for our sins, and perhaps we will meet Allah on Day of judgement with no burden of sin. However, this ritual of beating up a corpse shows extreme fear born out of ignorance and superstition. May all of us be guided on the right path. Ameen

  5. Treathyl FOX

    Suicide has nothing to do with the traditions of man. Suicide is a sin against God and thrashing a body that no longer is no longer a living soul is not a punishment. The soul has already departed to meet his or her Maker and their final judgment will be decided by The One Who gave them their life. Thrashing the body is for the living. It really has no impact on the deceased whatsoever. By the way, assuming that more than one suicide has been committed, since it’s a “tradition”, that means the process has been repeated many times. That also means it didn’t scare the person from doing it! Seems like thrashing didn’t work. If something doesn’t work, maybe a different approach should be used.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *