There is variation among cultures in the degree of interaction between the living and the dead, however, as well as in the intensity and concern a people may have for the deceased. Eskimos are never free of anxieties about ghosts,while pueblo Indians of North America constructed elaborate ghost beliefs, while the Siriono of South America, although believing in ghosts, paid little attention to them.
Perhaps humans have some basic need that causes us to believe in ghosts and to worship ancestors: to seek verification that although the mortal body may die, the soul survives after death. The nineteenth-century sociologist Herbert Spencer speculated that the beginnings of religion were in ancestor worship-the need for the living to continue an emotional relationship with their dead relatives. A major problem with Spencer's argument is that many societies at the hunting-and-gathering level do not practice ancestor worship.
One writer has pointed out that two major attitudes are widely held about the dead: they have either left the society or remain as active members (Malefijt 1968:156-59) in societies thay separate the dead from the living social group, any possibility of the dead returning is regarded as undesirable because they could disrupt the social order and daily routine of life. In such cultures, Malefijt believes, the dead are likely to be greatly feared, and elaborate belief system-a cult of the dead---is constructed and practiced in order to separate them from the living. The primary function of cults of the dead is to aid survivors in overcoming the grief they may feel about the dead. Such cults are not found in societies where the dead are seen as active members of the group; instead, funeral ceremonies are undertaken with the hope the deceased will return to society in their new status. These beliefs, according to Malefijt, results in the development of ancestor cults instead of cults of the dead.
The study of ancestor worship among American and British anthropologists has emphasized the connection between the identity and behavioal characteristics of the dead, on one hand, and the distribution and nature of their authority in both domestic and political domains of the society, on the other (Bradbury 1066: 127) Although the belief in ghosts of ancestors is universal, the functions ancestors play vary greatly among societies. It is also clear that variations in ancestor worship are directly related to social structure and that this relationship is not based on mere common religious interests alone: rather, the structure of the kin group and the relationships of those within it serve as the model of ancestor worship (Bradbury 1966: 128). Among the Sisala og Ghana, for example, only a select number of Sisala elders, based on their particular status and power within the group, can effectively communicate with the ghosts of ancestors (Mendonsa 1076: 63-64). In many other parts of the non-Westren world, non-elder ritual specialists, such as heads of households, are responsible for contacting the ancestors. A cross-cultural study of fifty societies found that where important decisions are made by the kin group, ancestor worship is a probability (Swanson 1964: 07-108).
Many, but certainly not all, non-estren societies believe ancestors play a strong and positive role in the security and posperity of their group, and anthropological data is full these kinds of examples. It is important, however, to recognize that ancestors are but one of several categories of spirits whose actions directly affect society.
John S. Mbiti's study of East and Central Africa shows that the status of spirit;s may change through time. Ancestor spirits, the "living dead," are those whose memory still exists in the minds of their kin, and who are primarily beneficial to the surviving relatives. When the living dead are forgotton in the memory of their group and dropped from the genealogy as a result of the passing of time (four or five generations), they are believed to be transformed into "nameless spirits," non-ancestors, characterized as malicious vehicles for misfortune of all kinds (1970).
In keeping with Mbiti's model, the Lugbara of Uganda recognize two types of dead. The first group, simply called "ancestors," comprises nameless, all deceased relatives; these are secondary in importance to the recently deceased, called "ancestor spirits" or "ghost," who can be invoked by the living to cause misfortune to befall those whose acts threaten the silidaryity of the kin group. (Middleton 1971:488).
Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion Third Edition Lehmann and Myers