The Dugu is an ancient funeral ceremony practiced traditionally by Garifuna people. The Garifuna people inhabit the Caribbean coast of Central America in Belize, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, the mainland and the island of Roatan. They are basically the descendants of Carib, Arawak and African slaves. The Dugu ceremony may last up to two weeks and seeks to bring the dead ancestors of the Garifuna people to the present to appease him and relieve the misfortunes of a particular individual or family such as droughts, accidents, illnesses and so on.
The Dugu evokes a feeling of respect, appreciation and need for communicating with the ancestors. The preparation of the ceremony involves inviting friends and relatives not only from the local community but also those residing abroad. Food and alcohol are procured with special efforts to appease the ancestors. Once the date of the Dugu is fixed the Shaman( Buyai)makes arrangements for the three bass drummers ( Segunda) and singers (Gayusa) and performers (Afunahountinya)dressed in red. The ceremony consists of four types of dances performed in a particular manner. All the rituals are done to appease the Gubida ancestors.
The official religion of the Garifuna People is Catholicism though there are some who follow other religions rooted in traditional beliefs. The traditional beliefs of the Garifuna People have been influenced by the voodoo rituals followed by some African tribes. Mystical practices and traditional rituals are inherent in the religion of the Garifuna People. Interestingly the Dugu ritual is more rampant in recent times than in the earlier eras of the 1850s due to the fear that the government would ban the traditional ceremony. Today the Dugu is practised mainly in Belize and all through Central America, The main purpose of the Dugu ritual is to bring the Garifuna people together and make its presence known as an ethnic group.
The Dugu is a funeral ceremony performed with the purpose of making the families and the community assembles together. The Dugu ceremony may last for two days or may extend to two weeks. The ritual of Dugu serves a psychological purpose leading to a marked improvement in the condition of the people and relieving the sick person of his illness. Besides the ancestral rites are performed with the participation of the entire community and seek to assert the unity and solidarity of the Garifuna people. The rituals of food, dance and music accompanying the Dugu ritual serve to unite the people in a strong group who can face the severe circumstances by mutual support.
The Dugu ceremony aims to cure the illness of people who have contracted the disease because of displeasing the spirits know as Gubida by the Garifuna. Families summon the gubida to the festival by singing and playing the drums. The Ceremony is conducted by the Shaman known as Buyai who organizes all the aspects of the ceremony such as the sacrifices to be done, the clothes, food and the length of the ceremony. When the Buyai feels that the spirits are present at the ceremony, the sick person is relieved of his sickness by feeding him food and drink and sacrificing the remaining food.