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Ten interesting religious and cultural practices

By Christopher Owuor
Wednesday, November 18th, 2020
Religious and cultural practices on dowry payment.
In summary

The age of enlightenment and increased Internet connectivity has caused many to question their cultural and religious exercises. This has led to some of them being labelled as bizarre or antiquated. Nailantei Norari compiles a few that though still practised, are as divisive in opinion 

DOWRY

Dowry is a practice wherein monetary and, or material possessions are gifted to the wife’s family in most marriages in Kenya and African.

The dowry is supposed to be a show of appreciation to the bride’s family for bringing up the girl.

This practice has come under close scrutiny in the recent past with many Kenyan netizens questioning the algorithm used to reach a sum of money or animals to be given to the bride’s family.

Why can’t the dowry be also given to the husband’s family as a sign of appreciation for bringing up the man? In some extreme cases, families have been plunged into poverty due to high dowry demands from the bride’s family.

FEMALE GENTAL MUTILATION

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a rite of passage where a woman’s genitalia are mutilated. It is still practised in Kenya despite laws criminalising it.

Most communities who practise it defend it by saying that it is an important marker of culture and integrity as their forefathers passed it down to them.

They also claim it helps make young girls into faithful wives as it allegedly curbs sexual desire in women.

Despite many girls in Kenya and across East Africa bleeding to death, FGM is still being practised in secret.

EXORCISM

Exorcism is the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities from a person or place believed to have possessed.

The practice is quite ancient and still part of the belief system of many religions, though it is seen mostly in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches and in most Kenyan churches.

In Nairobi, it is common to see televised sermons of pastors slapping evil spirits out of people as the people writhe on the ground.

BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD

Baptism for the dead, vicarious baptism or proxy baptism is a religious practice of baptising a living person on behalf of an individual who is dead; the living person is acting as the deceased person’s proxy.

The person being baptised on behalf of the dead has to be of the same gender as the deceased. It has been practiced since 1840.

THE E-METER

An e-meter is an electronic device manufactured by the Church of Scientology at their Gold Base production facility in America.

It is used as an aid by Dianetics and Scientology counsellors and counsellors-in-training in some forms of auditing in the application of the techniques of Dianetics and Scientology to another or to oneself for the express purpose of addressing spiritual issues.

They claim that the e-meter can measure spiritual as well as physical wellbeing.

FINGER CUTTING

In some Kenyan communities, the wife to the deceased had to cut off their hair as a sign of grief.

This has been taken to greater extremes by the Dani tribe in Indonesia where when a family member passes away, women from this tribe have to suffer physical pain as well as the obvious emotional grief.

They have to cut off a part of their fingers in order to satisfy ancestral ghosts.

KAPPAROT

Kapparot is a traditional Jewish religious ritual that is performed by grasping a live chicken by the shoulder blades and moving around one’s head three times, symbolically transferring one’s sins to the chicken.

The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor, preferably eaten at the pre-Yom Kippur feast.

In modern times, Kapparot is performed in the traditional form mostly in Haredi communities.

The ritual is preceded by the reading of Psalms 107:17-20 and Job 33:23-24.

EARLY MARRIAGE

Early marriage is a common practice in many regions, particularly in rural Ethiopian and Kenyan communities where it is thought to ensure virginity.

Parents often wish to see their daughters married and to see grandchildren before they die.

Dowry is also a common motivator, especially in poor families who marry off their young girls to older richer men to escape poverty.

People also practise early marriage for traditional reasons. If a girl is not married at an early age, other members of the community may think she must be too unattractive or ill behaved to get a husband.

This attitude usually causes shame to both the girl and her family.

MARRIAGE BY ABDUCTION

Marriage by abduction is the unlawful carrying away of a woman for marriage.

It was practised in many Kenyan traditional societies and in parts of Ethiopia.

The man would spot a girl he liked, carry her off to his home, stay with her for a week then report back to the girl’s family for a traditional marriage to be arranged.

Though frowned upon today and deemed to be a form of sexual violence against the woman, the practice was quite common and even encouraged by the girl as it was seen to be proof of her attractiveness. 

EATING THE DEAD

Sure one misses their loved one’s when they pass away, but eating their ash to remember them forever, a little much you would think. You would be wrong.

That is exactly what the Yonamamo tribe from Brazil and Venezuela does. Since tradition forbids them from keeping any body part, it is burned and crushed, and the remains are divided amongst the family members and consumed by all.

There are no known detrimental health benefits associated with the practice.

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