In Xhosa culture, the dead are considered ancestral spirits with whom the living can and should communicate. Xhosa umkhapho is a ritual accompanied by cattle slaughter, which facilitates the movement of the recently deceased to the afterlife.

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The isiXhosa language is spoken by many distinct clans including the Thembu, Bomvana, Mpondo, and others.

The Xhosa people of South Africa believe that when a person dies, umkhapho rituals should be performed in order to facilitate the movement of the deceased to the realm of the ancestors. Such a movement is considered necessary so that they can be free to return and advise the living later.

Ritual slaughter is required for the umkhapho ritual. The nature of the animal slaughtered depends on the social status of the person being buried. Oxen may be slaughtered for a very important person, while a goat may be slaughtered for others.

Before a Xhosa umkhapho slaughter takes place, the officiator calls on the ancestors of the clan by name. After the ritual throat slitting, blood is collected in a dish and a small strip of meat, known as the intsonyama, is cut from the inside muscle of the right foreleg and roasted. No salt should be used on the meat.

Male kin, followed by the female kin, in order of seniority, each eat a small portion of the meat. The general feasting will only take place after the intsonyama has been consumed. This is a very sombre occasion and no fermented sorghum beer is consumed.

After a variable period of mourning, the umbuyiso ritual is performed. Umbuyiso literally means to bring the spirit of the ancestor back home. The umbuyiso ritual is often prompted by dreams in which the deceased person appears to a member of the family and says that they are hungry. An ox is slaughtered and the intsonyama is again cut and consumed.

Unlike the umkhapho, the umbuyiso is a very festive event involving the brewing of fermented sorghum beer, some of which is offered to the ancestors, with the living drinking the rest.

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