Belize, Central America
Friday night, and the plain pine coffin stood on three unpainted sawhorses in the middle of the floor. Mourners murmured among themselves as they gathered under the white tent and stood directly in front of the coffin looking down at the almost angelic face of the deceased. A copper penny had been placed on top of each of the deceased’s eyelids in true Garífuna fashion. The toes of the new white socks had been attached together with a shiny safety pin; that too was a Garífuna tradition, origin unknown. The copper pennies were vaguely representative of the “toll” that the dead would have to pay to get a pass from Saint Peter into heaven. Yes, you couldn’t always tell, but Garífunas, one of which the deceased was, believed in heaven, hell, and an afterlife.
Sure, they dabbled in Obeah, the Belizean-African system of spells, hexes curses, and magic, and they regularly participated in Dugú, a voodoo-like healing ritual, in the Dabúyabah (Temple) to appease the spirits, but they wanted to make absolutely sure the deceased paid their way into heaven. They, functioning in the shadowy, dual world of Christianity and spiritualism, wanted to make sure that all bases were covered, just in case the deceased needed help to get to meet their maker.