Basically, once a year the family tomb is opened and the bones of the dead are brought out. Each set of bones is unwrapped from a silk shroud, wrapped in a new shroud, and treated to a day of feasting, singing and drinking. The bones get to catch up on the news of the previous year. If there has been a wedding, the bones are 'introduced' to the new family members; if a new house has been built, the bones are given a tour.
If it's your first year to be bone-turned, the initial part of the day is spent with your relatives picking away your putrid flesh. Then you can catch up with the rest of the dead in their escapades.
There's a really practical interpretation of life as super-transient, and death as a permanent (much better) state. So what if you live in a mud hut wearing raffia clothes, because life will soon be over, and when you're dead you will get to live in a stone house, and wear silk.
The ancestors protect the land, so if someone dies away from home they need to be brought back to 'live' in the family tomb. As a result, you get some kooky lists of taxi fares:
- Journeys up to 2km - 50 francs
- Journeys over 2km - 100 francs
- Weddings, funerals, exhumations - Price to be agreed
At the end of the day of celebration, the bones are taken for a final dance around the land, to bring fertility. Then they're brought back to the darkness to rest for another year. Remarkable.
There's an account of a bone-turning from earlier this year here.