By definition, a bachelor is a man who is not and has never been married even though he lives independently, outside of his parents home.In luhya bachelors are popularly referred to as wasumba, These are men who the community believes needed to have married and sired but died before making these perceived “achievements”.in most cases, such kind of men usually face ridicule in the community all through their lives and that also influences their sending off ( burial )
According to Tuko news publication, majority of Luhya sub-tribes have unique burial rites which are observed religiously within the community.
As from the source, a common tradition that is observed by many Luhya sub-tribes like the Bukusu, Isukha, Idakho, Tachoni is that when a bachelor dies, “a thorn must be inserted in his backside before he is finally laid to rest“.
Funerals in the Luhya community are not only occasions to mourn the departed ones but to celebrate their greatness and contribution to society. Different sub-tribes have special burial rites for newborns, individuals that are suspected to have been killed, those that have drowned or taken their lives, divorced and the community elders. Locals have various ways of celebrating the life of the departed.
A common tradition that cuts across many Luhya sub-tribes like the Bukusu, Isukha, Idakho, Tachoni and others is inserting a thorn in the backside of bachelors before burying them.Other rites that wasumba undergo include having other thorns pricked into their legs, bodies moved through the windows and not doors like other family members and their bodies being buried outside the compound. Antony Tella Mwaka, 78, an elder from Indangalasia village in Lurambi Constituency, Kakamega county believes that dying before marriage or having children for an adult is taboo. “They will have the thorns put on the backside of their legs, few people attend the burial and no meat or food is served. Mourners leave hungry,” said Mwaka with a straight face. The elder, citing the good book said the key purpose of life is to multiply and fill the earth. “It is like a taboo, the essence of life is procreation. The plot by young people to make marriage optional is unwelcome. That’s why in our community we don’t give them a good sendoff because they had nothing to show,” added the elder. According to him, during the burial ceremony for wasumbas, mourners are required not to wail or shed tears because there is little to document about the departed. The tradition, nonetheless, overlooks foster parents and uncontrollable factors like infertility which Mwaka feels there should be special cases when executing this bizarre tradition. “Young people these days adopt the Western culture which contravenes efforts made by our forefathers. However, there are modern challenges like infertility that were rare back in those days which should be addressed in a special way,” he explained.
The elder reiterated that adults, whether male or female should marry and try to procreate, even warning the unmarried to be cautious not to attend burial ceremonies of those who died without marrying. “Wasumbas who die inside their houses are put in a coffin which is taken out through the window and not the door. This is to ensure the deceased’s brother doesn’t use the same door a man who died unmarried used for they could end up the same way,” he stated. The elder also narrated that the thorn known as likunga that was pricked on the right hindquarter was meant to remove a curse so that the deceased is well-received by the ancestors. Wasumbas were also wrapped with animal skin on their heads and waists to symbolise that they had unfinished business back on earth. According to Josephat Shitzanga, 42, from Ikolomani Constituency, his grandfather would perform rituals for the departed wasumbas.
He said the wrapping of the skin on the head and waist was to ensure relatives are protected against stubborn spirits associated with the departed. “On several occasions I watched my grandfather perform some rituals for them (unmarried dead persons), these group was treated as an outcast but things are gradually changing with coming in of education,” Shitzanga said. He explained that during these burial ceremonies only elderly members of the community were allowed close to the grave and not young people without families. “It was believed that if they attended a spirit would come from the deceased and enter into them thus would end up like the late,” added Shitzanga. He said the rituals were usually done at sunset in very unusually short memorial services. It was believed that during sunrise, there are morning blessings from a superior being hence they do not want such blessings to interact with the spirit of the departed bachelors.