The mysterious bone cleansing ritual is also known as ‘the cleansing of the holy remains of the dead which is familiar to very cultures. In a town in Pomuch, the bone cleansing ritual is practiced and taken very seriously. In this town, its residents exhume the dead every year. When a person dies in Pomuch they bury them just like most cultures do.
Three years after the deceased is buried, the body is taken out. In three years, the worms feed off the flesh of the body; therefore, it’s left with nothing except bones. When the body is dug out, they take the bones and put them in a special box. After that, they clean the bones each year. This custom is passed down to generation up to this date. The village exhumes its dead every year.
The Origin of The Bone Cleansing Ritual
To understand the bone cleansing ritual of Pomuch, one needs to remove the Western concept of the process of death. The cleansing of the holy remains of the dead is an ancient tradition of the pre-Hispanic era. Even though during the years the ritual has changed in certain elements, it has not lost the pre-Hispanic essence. For instance, when they used to exhume the remains of the dead, they would also put them in boxed, but then they hung them from trees. They also used to take the remains of the dead to the houses.
However, the issue of hygiene and health came along, and the practice of taking the bones home was prohibited. Now, all the procedures are done in the cemeteries. It is essential to clarify that the cleansing is not exclusive to the day of the dead; it can be done on birthdays or the death anniversaries of the deceased.
However, the Day of the Dead is when the process is mostly complete because not only do they clean the remains but also do a renovation of the tombs. The residents clean the bones and tombs and even paint them. The residents paint the ossuary the same color as the color of the former house of the deceased. The whole family also participates in the process.
Cemetery: The Place of Joy
A cemetery is a place of joy, according to the Pomuchans. A cemetery is a space where residents grow close to their ancestors. It’s a space where they talk to the dead and know that in some way they can be in contact with the deceased in a physical way. According to this culture, death is just part of a process and not a way to fully part from their ancestors. The act of preserving human remains is an act of love, respect, and veneration towards ancestors.
The Cleansing Ritual
When the individual arrives at the cemetery, he/she enters the ossuary and takes out the boxes with the bones. The person then cleans the inside of the ossuary. He cleans the ossuary very well; he even mops it the same way you could mop your house. The person then proceeds to clean the bones with a new piece of cloth. After proper cleaning, the bones are arranged again inside the box. Changing the cloth is a symbol of dressing them as if they were alive because when they were alive, they changed clothes too.
Each year the residents put them in new clothes, new embroidered cloth, whatever they can do.
“You dress them up, and they look pretty, with their clean clothes. They are clean for their parties. Just like we dress up whenever we go out to a party, they are like us too. You must also dress up spirits for their parties,” says one of the residents.
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