It’s a characteristic of funerals all over the world to be emotional as people bury their loved ones. Some will wail loudly, others may faint and others will be dumbstruck staring in disbelief at the loss. But in some funerals, what you may not know is that some of the people wailing the loudest have been contracted to do so and are in fact professional mourners, an art that dates as far back as ancient Egypt.
Also known as moirologists, professional mourners are popular in many African cultures and can be found even in Asia, the U.K. and especially in China. But what inspires the art of professional mourning?
“If people don’t cry in a funeral, it implies that the person was not loved and that is shameful for the family. We go there and cry endlessly to show that the deceased was loved,” revealed Mary Atieno, a Kenyan professional mourner as she spoke to Citizen Truth. “In our culture, if a family member does not cry loudly, people will know that he or she did not love the deceased and if the deceased died under mysterious circumstances, that family member will be suspected to have bewitched them,” she further added.
The services offered by professional mourners come in packages and are priced differently. For instance, Atieno said normal loud crying will cost you $10 while crying hysterically while rolling on the dust will cost you $20. In some instances, the professional mourner will wail, pretend to faint and even threaten to jump into the grave to be buried together with the deceased. For that, Atieno says it will cost you $50.
Asked whether any moirologist has ever jumped into the grave, Atieno was affirmative; “yes, occasionally one of my girls will jump into the grave and wail from in there. It gets the crowd emotional and that funeral will be the talk of town for a while.” Citizen Truth could not verify her claims though.
Through a program called Rent a Mourner, the services of professional mourners can also be found in the United Kingdom. The family of the bereaved hires actors from the company’s website who then meet up with the family, get briefed on the history of the deceased and take up a role as a family member or a close associate of the deceased. They will then appear on the day of the funeral and wail emotionally which drives the rest of the crowd to emotions. At the end of the day, the actor will pocket any amount between $30 and $120.
In Asia, especially China and India, the art of professional mourning is widely practiced where the professional mourners are tasked with creating a somber mood. Toward the end of the funeral, they are then tasked to through song and dance lighten the mood and send people away being sad no more.
While the services of professional mourners continue to gain popularity, a question lingers in mind; could the people going to such extremes in the name of showing love be trying to cover up the fact that they never showed love to the deceased or never loved him/her altogether when alive?