Lions and widows on the path of mourning: náayeri practices surrounding the absence of intimate partners
(Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
Paper short abstract:
Based of ethnographic data, I will analyze the role played by widows in the mourning process of the rest of the kinship group. Despite their exclusion from ritual activities surrounding their spouse’s death, widows become the means whereby the relationship between their deceased partner and the larger community is mediated.
Paper long abstract:
Based on my ethnographic observations among the Náayeri of Western Mexico, I will analyze the role played by widows in the funerary rituals celebrated following their spouse's death. Widows are excluded not only from operations centered on their husband's corpse, but also from any contact with objects relating to their husband's life. Exclusions of this kind are identical to those prescribed for the parents of a dead child. However, the role assigned to the surviving partner seems to trigger more complex processes. From the first negative prescriptions that appear immediately following the spouse's death, up until a ritual celebrated five years later in which the dead person's possessions are finally inherited, the deceased is made physically present to the residential group through the intentions and animosity attributed to his widow. By comparing the widow's ritual transition (from the position of passive participant to that of active intermediary between the deceased and his kin group) with modern Náayeri narratives dealing with the absence of conjugal partners, I will explore the role played by the surviving spouse and other "dangerous" creatures in mediating the relationship between the deceased partner and the larger community.
Mourning, intimacy and the special character of the conjugal relationship