‘succession’ is Googled approximately ONE million times per month globally.
One of those faint memories that I’m sure seems funnier as a memory than a tangible moment of enjoyment is when I was six years old and it was time to bury the skull of my great uncle. At this time, I was only a mere spectator and simply followed the cues of those older and wiser than me. After the flesh of an ancestor’s body had time in which to fully decay, the tradition of our village was to dig up the skull and ceremonially re-bury it in the “kitchen” area of the family dwelling, whispering a benediction that would ensure long prosperity for the entire household in years to come. As a child, this ritual probably seemed as weird to me then, as it does to you now. The prospects of digging up a body that was last seen with flesh intact, gave me a sense of queasy expectation, until an unexpected wave of excitement rolled through the troupe at the initial sighting of the sunken eye sockets in the ground. Any naïve question of why we were actually digging up a dead relative would quickly be drowned out by the final revelry that resulted when the skull was held high as if an Olympic winner was donning a first time gold medal.
The confusion that ensued wasn’t enough to keep me from somehow falling into line like a good soldier, marching with an African swing behind the person who followed the person in front of them and so on, until we all made it to our destination and a select few entered our village home for the actual re-burial. Once we arrived, there had been a few who stayed behind to prepare simple delicacies, such as boiled pig meat and cassava that would be eaten as a culmination to the celebration. I’ll never forget my oldest brother’s raw enthusiasm as he lasciviously licked his fingers, informing me that the meat was courtesy of our deceased great uncle, and that the elbow meat would be served next. Though pig meat was such a rare delicacy, I politely forewent it this time. I even passed on the cassava. In retrospect, my brother’s passing humor was probably a well thought strategy to fill his coffers with more pig meat, as it was not a common treat and usually only reserved for the oldest or those of nobility.
Three years from that time, at nine years of age, as my grandfather’s successor, I would be responsible for the re-burial of his skull. Thankfully I’d been pre-exposed and the second time around would feel more like a muscle memory – instead of a happenstance freak show, motivated by the mandate of dead ancestors.