Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday in an elaborate ceremony combining a state funeral and all its military pomp with the traditional burial rituals of his Xhosa clan to ensure he has an easy transition into the afterworld.
Many South Africans will revere Mandela, who during his life became a global symbol of peace and reconciliation, even more now that he has died, since ancestors are widely believed to have a guiding, protective role over the living.
Around 46 percent of the population practises some form of traditional African religions, according to a 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a Washington-based research centre. The same report said 87 percent of South Africans self-identify as Christians and only four percent as animists, meaning many combine beliefs and customs of Christianity with their older tribal traditions.
Mandela, of the abaThembu people and South Africa’s first black president, died a week ago at the age of 95. Thousands of people have filed passed his body as it lies in state in Pretoria this week.