Lynne explained that in order to keep demons away, the slaves had made sure there were no right angles in the ridge safeguarding the graves. Within this rounded sanctum, the souls of ancestors dwell, taking part in the everyday tragedies and celebrations of the living and providing protection from evil spirits. The east–west orientation of each grave is in harmony with the African belief that the patterns of life and death follow the movements of the sun. Mankind awakens as the sun rises in the east, then he works, struggles, dances, plays, sings, cries, laughs, and loves until the sun has set in the west. The placement of the graves might also suggest that the slaves had woven Christian doctrine into traditional African customs.
The slaves chose a wooded area because, through the generations, the elders and the griots had taught them that the roots of trees guide the spirits of the dead to the realm of the underworld. To prepare the soul for its journey, mourners placed the last item the deceased had touched onto the body. At midnight (midday in the land of the dead), the departed’s strengths and talents leave the object and enter the dreams of descendants in order to inspire them.
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