Ancestral Bone Flute
He set down his cup, walked to PledgeKept’s pack, and retrieved a bone flute. He walked back and handed it to PledgeKept. “Explain this. This is human bone, is it not?” PledgeKept wiped his mouth. “Yes. My flute is the most important thing I own.” “What else do you do with the bones of your enemies? Drink from our skulls, perhaps?” Fear gave way to indignation. “We would never play the bones of our enemies. This is my grandfather. We play our ancestor’s bones at festivals to remind ourselves that, alive or dead, they are always a part of us.” “You eat each other?” Indignation gave way to disgust. “Never! We go back a year after burial and pack the bones into a special basket which we place in a burial cave. If the flute we make ever gets broken, we put it back respectfully with the other bones. My grandfather was a good man. Whenever two men disputed, he would do all he could to bring peace between the two. I remember as a boy how safe I felt when he held me. It is my honor to play his flute.”
The bone is bored out with drill, chisel and knife. The metal is beaten over the bone, fitting snugly, then pinned into place with glue and fine pegs or pins. The decorative tassel is braided and pinned to the end.
A memento most Southil People families have. Beloved elders promise their thigh bone to any musically inclined children or grandchildren before their death. It is then up to that family member to retrieve the bone after decomposition and craft the flute. They will also compose at least one song about that elder and tech it to the next generation. It is thought that the living breath passing through the bone summons some essence of the elder, and their songs are particularly moving.
1 kilo (2.2 lbs)
35 cm (14 inches)
Raw materials & Components
1 human thigh bone, precious metal, (usually gold or silver) cord of leather or cloth, and decorations that evoke something of the loved one such as beads, seeds, shells, etc.