Learn More about Funeral Rituals of Asmat Tribe in Papua

Asmat Tribe's Art & Culture – The Tribal Landscape in Papua
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Some tribes in Indonesia establish uniquely special, and some who live in Papua and West Papua practice traditional rituals, which makes them more special. People of Asmat had unique funeral rituals. The following information discusses some for you to follow.

West Papua
Sumber : Super Adventure

Belief about Death in Asmat Tribe

People in Asmat Tribe managed to have distinctive funeral rituals. They didn’t bury the dead as they believed that death was not natural to occur. These people assumed that a person might die because of black magic if he was dead with no sign of homicide.

In Asmat tribe funeral, there was also a difference dealing with death to individuals who were still young and those who had already been old. The death of a newborn child was believed that it was common to happen as they assumed the spirit would proceed to the realm of spirits. 

On the contrary, they would deeply be in grief when an adult person died and considered it was uncommon. A strange death was likely assumed to be caused by evil deeds initiated by magical power or physical forces. In their belief, it was a must to take revenge for the dead victim.


During a Hard Time

During a hard time, close family members were about to sit around an old, sick member. They would be fully in grief for him and give no attempts to cure or feed him as they believed he would soon pass away. Some even didn’t really want to get too close as another beloved member of the family was assumed to be taken with him, too.

Beside the house of the sick were series of fences made from branches of a native tropical palm tree called nypa. The people kept crying, and it got harder when the sick was gone. Once dead, he would be hugged by them, then they came out and rolled over their body in mud. Meanwhile, during Asmat tribe funeral, other people around the mourning house blockaded all holes and entrance paths but the main path for preventing the evil spirits from entering and roaming during a hard time.

People in Asmat Tribe showed their deep condolences by crying every single day until several months. They also rubbed their body with mud and shaved their hair. Those who had been married normally vowed not to make another relationship, but some eventually would. They would cover their head and face with a hat to appear less attractive to other people. 


After the Hard Time

The dead body was normally placed on “para,” a sort of bamboo webbing placed far away from the village and left rotten. In the future, the bones of the dead were collected and kept on trees. The skull was also kept and used as a pillow as a symbol of love to the dead.

People of Asmat assumed that the spirit of the dead, or “bi,” remained in the village. The belief got stronger to hold once it was manifested in the form of a tall wooden statue in 5 to 8 meters high named “mbis.” Another way was to place the dead on a long wooden canoe completed with sago and its caterpillars. The canoe was then sent through the river and sea to the realm of spirits. The spirit of their ancestors they devoted was also represented in outstanding wood carvings on canoes or shields. 

After being externally influenced, now people of Asmat bury the dead underground with the heirlooms. In Asmat tribe funeral, a male dead body is generally buried naked, while a dead female body isn’t. People in the tribe have no public funeral and no tombstone. Instead, the dead body is buried in the forest, by the side of the river, or amongst the tall grass. The family of the dead is naturally able to find him wherever he is buried.

That is some about the unique funeral rituals in Asmat Tribe. It isn’t surprising that many researchers learn about the people and their lives in Papua and West Papua that is so special.