Clint Vernoy with
a Sanema man
body upon the pyre. There is no smell quite like the smell of human flesh being
consumed by fire.
At this point, the witch doctor really began to whip it up. I saw the women
even more excited. This dancing and crying went on all day…all night…until, at
last, the fire was allowed to die. The ritual is not over yet though. Now comes the
most important part! The most vital thing one must do for their dead loved ones—
the drinking of the bones.
The women scraped through all the cinders, sifting through their fingers
every last little bit. They are careful to catch each piece of bone left. These bits of
bone are ground to a fine powder with a primitive mortar and pestle. Once this is
prepared, it is stirred into a banana drink.
All the immediate family members of the deceased come forward and begin
to drink the bones. The gourd solemnly passes around from one to another. Even
the tiniest baby must swallow some as well. NOW, they can relax and rest in peace.
Their departed loved one will now be okay! By drinking the bones, they have guar-
anteed their family member will live on in them. The deceased will have eternal life
by being part of the living. The cycle continues when those still living die; they will
be consumed along with their ancestors by the next generation.
Why is it important to know this? It might explain to the missionary that the
father who refuses to allow the sick child to fly out to town for medical treatment
is not being a monster. No, he loves his child too much to risk his dying out among
the criollos and being buried! For who would drink his bones? Who could guaran-