Category Archives: Nso Family Union (NFU)

Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Final :Part 10)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here , part 6 here , part 7 here , part 8 here and part 9 here: This part ends with the references/bibliography of the whole paper.

In the days of old it took many years for a newly inducted member to learn the rules and regulations of the cult. The training on the handling of the cult medicines and fetishes took decades. It took serious training to rise from one rank to the next within the cult house. It took decades before one could become a “samba wir”. This training and tutelage should be re-instated in all cults. If a cult member is unwilling to go through the training they should not be allowed to rise in rank or come out as an escort for the cult masquerade (their financial wherewithal not withstanding). How can such a member who has not learned to manipulate the cult’s occultist spirits and medicines, stroke the totem in the cult masquerade in any public arena?
If the new members were to go through the mandatory training they may also come to realize that if they advance to certain ranks in some cults their diet may be restricted at certain times during some rituals. For examples some cults may restrict their members to weeks of only eating “vikuou, mbaar, shinyaa and ntee – cocoyams, cocoyam leaf soup, eggplant soup and groundnut soup”, no meat products or any starchy foods. Any member who is ready to endure this for the rest of their lives may then want to advance to the ranks of “samba wir”.
When some of these potential senior cult members learn through their training that if they rise to given ranks or assume certain totem stroking functions in either the Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì cults for example, they may be forbidden from being buried in a coffin (even a bamboo one) because their spirits could no longer be allowed to be imprisoned (in a coffin), they will consult their families and their other gods before seeking senior ranks in either Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì cults.
What is happening today is tantamount to someone coming to a University, registering for classes, paying all their tuition and fees, and refusing to attend classes, but insisting that they should be given the Masters Degree or PhD anyway because they just do not have the time to study and/or attend classes and that by-the-way they have already paid all their tuition. Any University worthy of their name will throw such a person out.
The University model should be adopted at the level of the cults. Anyone who is unwilling to go throw the mandatory training should be thrown out of the cult. This will make sure that new comers will take the time to learn to become worthy members as was the case in the old days. With such a requirement, if the Fòn proposes a title to a visitor who is unwilling or unable to spend the time to learn the roots of Nso’ culture, that visitor can refuse the title and the Fòn will be sympathetic to their decision.
In the old days cult membership and titles came with lifetime obligations. In 1970 a Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋwéròŋ or Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋgírì contributed an average of 200 FCFA (Two Hundred Francs CFA) on a monthly basis for the upkeep of the cults and other Palace institutions when all their donations throughout the year were averaged. If this amount is compounded as above, it comes to about 2,150 FCFA (Two Thousands One Hundred and Fifty Francs CFA) today. If the system required a Sheèy to contribute 2,000FCFA, every Faáy to contribute 3,000FCFA and every Shúufaáy to contribute 5,000FCFA on a monthly basis, enough would be generated for the upkeep of all cults, all Palace institutions and all lineage, clan and sub-clan compounds.
Again all heriditary Title Holders who need the help would be assisted by their families to meet this obligation, especially given that their compound would also be helped by this contribution.
Many would think deeply when a Titled cult membership is proposed to them and examine whether they can meet this monthly lifetime obligation before accepting. Those who can not keep this obligation will not accept the Titled cult membership.
We also posit that if current Title Holders were given the choice of keeping their titles and meeting up to the monthly obligations or giving up the titles, some will give up their Titles and allow themselves to be “washed” voluntarily. Those who choose to keep the titles and refuse to keep up with the monthly obligtions should be involuntarily “washed”.
We have proposed the re-introduction of various streams of income that used to get to the Palace in cash and in kind from various Men of Title. To manage these funds we propose the creation of an Ex-Officio Palace Advisory Board whose only role shall be financial oversight and related financial management. This Board will be responsible for setting up a Palace Office with a salaried Manager, Assistants and Secretaries to manage the streams of income enumerated herein and insure that they are disbursed and used efficiently.
The second role of the Advisory Board shall be to work with the Fòn, Vibay, Atárnto’, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì, to set up permanent income generating streams to make sure that for the next 500 years, the Nso’ Palace institutions are as autonomous as those of successful Kingdoms like those of the United Kingdom and other European Kingdoms.
Such an Advisory Board should be elected from among current and committed Titled cult members (ladies included) and should be given a mandate to complete their task within a specified period of time.

It is our hope that this detailed analysis has provided a good insight into the inner working of the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom Palace and its institutions, the most important of which are male-dominated cults.
Hopefully our suggestions for the future will be followed so Nso’ culture can be modernized responsibly in a way that will ensure its survival for the next 500 years.
As time marches on, Nso’ culture will evolve. We pray that the Nso’ people should remain conservative and glued to their traditional norms as they advance and modernize their culture to suit the evolving times as their forefathers did for 600 years under circumstances that were more trying and more turbulent than the present.


VIII-1. “An introduction to Nso’ Culture”, Vol. I, by Faáy Woo Lii Wong (Joseph Lafon), 2001 VIII-2.”Introduction to Nso’ History”, by William Banboye, 2001
VIII-3. “The Ndzәәndzәv Dispute: From its beginning to its ending”, by Faáy Woo Lii Wong (Joseph Lafon), 1999
VIII-4. “Nso’ Historical Timeline: An Illustrated and Annotated History of the Paramount Tikar Kingdom (Fòndom) of Bui in Northwestern Cameroons”, by Sheèy Shiyghan Stephen Shemlon, PhD, (to be published).
VIII-5. “The Core Culture of Nso’”, by Paul N. Mzeka, 1980.
VIII-6. “Sov! Sov! Our Glorious Heritage”, by Rev. Fondzefee Charles Tangwa, 2008.
VIII-7. “Dr. Bernard Nsokika Fonlon: An Intellectual In Politics”, by Prof. Daniel Noni Lantum, 1992.
VIII-8. “Fon Nso’ Sehm Ataar (1947 – 1972): Father of Nso’ Development”, by Prof. Daniel Noni Lantum, 2000.
VIII-9. “Royal Succession In The African Kingdom Of Nso’: A Study In Oral Historiography”, by Bongfen Chem-Langhëë and Verkijika G. Fanso, 2008.
VIII-10. “A History Of The Church In Kumbo Diocese (1912-1988)”, by Joseph Lafon (Faáy Lii Wong), 1988. VIII-11. ” Ŋgonnso’ Cultural Festival 2010 Magazine”, by NSODA, 2010.

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 9)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here , part 6 here , part 7 here and part 8 here :

There has been a lot of talk lately about the rapid degradation and modernization of Nso’ culture. Some have postulated that this has been caused by the cheapening of the cults and the admission of foreigners to master our occultist secrets and thereby gain too much power and influence in the Nso’ Kingdom both within and outside the Palace Court. Some have pinpointed to specific examples of individual influences of these recent immigrants (still considered foreigners) in our Palaces and cult groups, and claimed it as the root cause of this degradation.
Looking back at Nso’ history we can note that immigration and the structured absorption of immigrants has been the greatest strength of Nso’ culture over the last 600 years. The reaction from those who consider themselves authentic Nso’ has as expected always been resistive to the integration and empowering of new comers. This is what happened when newbees like Ndzәәndzәv and Taaŋkùm were catapulted to the number two and three spots in the land while old Mntaár Lords like those of the original Mbiiŋgiy lineage were relegated to Tárnto’ status. It was even new comers like Tsenla’, Do’ Ruun and Do’ Ŋgvәn that became recognized as Mntaár Lords while some original Mntaár Lords could only be promoted to Faáy Won Jemer ve Fòn with their moribund Taa-Mbàn cult.

Such rapid promotion of the newcomers often led to serious resentment that at times resulted in assassinations like that of Faáy Sov (Foinso’) in the 1840s.
In this debate some have even questioned whether someone of Berber origin (Mbororo or Fulani) could be a senior ranking member of a Nso’ cult or even the Paramount Fòn of Nso’. When we look back at history we realize it may already have happened given the Nso’ Kingdom’s very efficient policy of assimilation and acculturation by at times forced intermarriage. It is very possible that a Mntaár Lord could have married a Berber woman whose daughter, grand-daughter or great-grand-daughter became the Fòn’s wife (wiyntoh) and produced the next King, afterall the only requirement was that the future King’s mother should be from the Mntaár lineage. Recent Fòns’ matrilineal lineages have been traced to Kitukela-Ndzeng, Dzekwa, Meluf, Nturkui-Kikaikelaki and Sangfir-Mbam. Given the integrated nature of the families in these communities with the Fulanis and Mbororos in the last few centuries, can we be so certain that none of these Fòns have Berber blood through their matrilineal lineages?
Pushing the argument further, we have many vibrant Mntaár sons in the diasporas like Wo Ngomrin and his siblings. If one of these young men marries someone of European or Asian descent who later produces a daughter or grand-daughter who becomes a wiyntoh, isn’t it conceivable that we could have a kimbang (white) Fòn? As Africans, thanks to Kenya we are proud to have an Obama in the American White House, so may be we should accept the possibility that decades from today a Cherokee (American Indian) King could proudly say: “My son ‘Ŋkarjume Thasungke Witko Nso’bani (Ŋkarjume Crazy Horse Nso’bani) is the Paramount King of the Powerful Tikar Kingdom of Nso’ in the African Savannah grass fields”.
From the analysis we just made in this essay we posit that these apparent degradations cited above are just symptoms of a deeper desease that is eating into Nso’culture in this modern era, a disease that must be cured if the culture is to survive. In this last section we examine this disease and propose some remedies for it, in a bid to save Nso’ culture from eventual collapse.
The problems affecting Nso’culture are four-fold:
 The collapse of the system that maintained our traditional institutions (from the Palace through the cults to our individual lineages) structurally, morally and financially.
 The relative ease of induction into the cults which has led to an avalanche of unworthy Men of Title being admitted into the inner fold, with full powers and influence in the Palace Court.
 The collapse of the required mandatory period of training and apprenticeship for cult members as well as members of the inner Palace Court.
 The collapse of the system of checks and balances that has led to corruption within the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults as well as the inner Palace Court.
All these problems can be corrected if we can just go back to what used to obtain in the old days and modernize it appropriately as we propose below.
Some of the skirmishes that have been encountered lately with the Mntaár Lords and their associated lineages which recently exploded in the Do’ Ŋgvәn Crisis of 2010 can be remedied by allowing the Mntaár lineages to belong to the Ŋwéròŋ cult, since most of them are free commoners. If this is accepted we can then allow the leading Three Aboriginal Mntaár Lords to belong to both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults as is the case with the other Seven Lords of the Court (Vibay ve Samba).
We propose that the conditions for admission into the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults should be severely revalued upwards. In 1970 it used to cost (in goats, fowls, palm wine, salt, oil, firewood, constuction and roofing materials, etc.) about 150,000FCFA (One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Francs CFA) to become a Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋwéròŋ or Sheèy wo Ngang Ŋgírì. If we compound this amount at an average 3.0% – 5.0% annual inflation rate (conservative estimate here) and add the 50% devaluation of the FCFA this amount is about 1,650,000FCFA (One Million Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Francs CFA) today. If we tell any Tukov Kimbinin who wants to become a Sheèy wo Ngang today that it would cost him 1.5 Million FCFA to do it, he would think twice before accepting that tan, kibam or bar that he is trying to buy from a Sheèy or Taafu in the dark corners for 10,000FCFA. Tukov Kimbinin will even say NO if the Fòn calls him and tries to give him a title. It would also stop the Sheèy and Taafu from distributing titles indiscriminately.
Titles are a prerogative of the Fòn (even aSheèy who are kishers of lineages must be approved by the Fòn), so the traditional institutions must make sure that only the Fòn can award a title.
Such an amount will be very helpful in that it would provide enough for the other cult members to feast on and enough would be left over to distribute to Kibam ke Fòn, Kibam ke Vikiyntoh and Kibam ke Ŋwéròŋ and/or Kibam ke Ŋgírì. It will also be enough to provide for the upkeep and upgrade of all Palace institutions.
In addition, the cults will be ridden of unworthy candidates if they apply the same upgrades to their initiation and rank promotion fees.
The amount will be upgraded commensurately for aFaáy and aShúufaáy. For the inherited titles, the new Title Holders will use the opportunity to bring their families together to contribute for the enstoolment. Part of these family contributions will also go to the upgrade and upkeep of the new Title Holder’s compound, thus preserving a vital part of the Nso’ culture that is also falling apart (the lineage, clan and sub-clan compounds).

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 7)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here and part 6 here:

During the Nso’-Bamoun war of 1885-1889 the Nso’ army (Manjoŋ) ransacked the Foumban Palace and looted both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults occultism (shiv), as well as artifacts and masquerades. After the war the loot was used to enhance especially the Ŋwéròŋ cults of Kinghaayasi and Jwiŋwéròŋ. The reigning Paramount King Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) then decided to use the remaining loot to re-introduce the Ŋgírì cults to Nso’ land, with the strong backing of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. As was to be expected Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (who re-introduced Ŋwéròŋ to Nso’ society) were incensed by this re-introduction of the Ŋgírì cults. Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv refused to back down. However, to pacify Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm they agreed to limit Ŋgírì’s power substantially. According to their agreement Ŋgírì was never going to assume any of the Judicial, Administrative or Regulatory roles that were then under Ŋwéròŋ’s authority. Ŋgírì was limited to the role of Palace fraternity for the boys (princes). This did not sit very well with some senior princes who were barred by virtue of their princely birth from belonging to the Ŋwéròŋ cults.
As expected, when one of the disgruntled princes who was a senior member of the severely limited and hamstringed Ŋgírì cults became King he decided to give the Ŋgírì cults more power. This happened in 1907 when a senior Ŋgírì cult member became the King Fòn Mapri (1907-1910). Of course Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm objected to this augmentation of Ŋgírì’s power. In fact Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was so incensed that Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was breaking the agreements they had with his predecessor that he opposed Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) in public. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) could not digest this affront to his authority and ordered Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm to be killed. Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was assassinated within the Palace grounds in 1909 and his staff was sent back to his people (the Taaŋkùm people still sing Laala about the incident to this day). The assassination of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was the last straw for Ŋwéròŋ which had tolerated quite a few killings from Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) who was purging the Royal family of all his potential rivals. Ŋwéròŋ decided that Fòn Mapri (1907 -1910) needed to be taken to the execution site in Kisée (near Mbuluv) and executed (laar – made to disappear). However before Ŋwéròŋ could put their plan into action another opportunity presented itself. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was ordered to Bamenda station to pay submissive tribute to the German colonial Governor. Ŋwéròŋ plotted Fòn Mapri’s (1907-1910) assassination at Vikuùtsәn when the Fòn was on his way to Bamenda in 1910. To this day in Nso’ folklore Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) is referred to as Kinforkir ke Vikuùtsәn (the one who died prematurely at Vikuùtsәn) and is recorded as the second casualty of the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì squabbles after Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (Tsәmaloŋ).
To bring back peace to the Palace, Fòn Mapri’s (1907-1910) successor Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) rescinded the increased Ŋgírì powers that Fòn Mapri (1910-1947) had ordered and returned to the 1890 agreements between Ŋwéròŋ, Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv, Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm and Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) that led to the re-instatement of the Ŋgírì cults. There were still however some recalcitrant princes who were unwilling to relinquish the new Ŋgírì powers and return the cults group to a mere fraternity. Surprisingly in the background within the court, these recalcitrant princes had the full support of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv who was still nursing his own grudges against Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947). So, more trouble was brewing for Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì in the background and it was not going to take long before it exploded in the open.
Despite their tense relationship, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì collaborated fully in matters that threatened their mutual interests. In 1912, Catholic missionaries arrived the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ and the Fòn graciously received them and gave them a huge piece of land at Shisong, for their church and hospital. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì were not thrilled with this largesse from the Fòn towards the misssionaries. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì both saw these new comers (like the German soldiers) as a threat to their power and influence. Despite the Fòn’s explanation that the missionaries were not a threat, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì maintained their position especially after their meetings with Mfoome Ba’ and Nfoome Gham (leaders of the Manjoŋ war society) had convinced them that the missionaries were Germans who hailed from the same place as the German soldiers that had defeated Manjoŋ and killed the Fòn in 1907.
In a meeting with Ŋwéròŋ, Ŋgírì, Maŋjoŋ and the Councillors (Vibay), the Fòn came to a compromise and agreed that the missionaries should be confined to Shisong and not allowed to venture anywhere else. Luckily for the Nso’ traditionalists, Germany lost World War I and the activities of the missionaries were abruptly halted as all German missionaries were ordered out of The Cameroons. However, that suspension of missionary activities did not last for long because the Germans were replaced by French missionaries and evangelization resumed. The Christians even became more daring and expanded their activities to Kimbo where they built a church at Mbìvtinmbaŋ, less than a quarter of a mile from the Palace. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì could not stand the insult from the Christians any longer. They told the Fòn that they were going to burn the church down if he did not order the catechist Paul Taŋgwa (Ba’njav) to take his catechumens back to Shisong as had initially been agreed. The Fòn refused to oblige and Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì acted, and burned the whole church compound including the surrounding houses to the ground.
The ring leaders of the conspiracy to burn the church were Faáy Faanjaŋ (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì), Mfoome Ba’ (Manjoŋ and Ŋgírì), Mfoome Gham (Manjoŋ and Ŋwéròŋ), Sheey Tavtin of Mbiiŋgiy (Tav Ŋwéròŋ) and Faáy Bambùy (Tav Ŋgírì – not yet elevated to Shúufaáy in 1920). The catechist and his flock immediately reported the incident to the Fòn who was livid because he feared retaliation from the colonial administration in Bamenda. The Christians reported that it was Ŋwéròŋ under the leadership of Faáy Faanjaŋ that burned the church. The Fòn immediately summoned Faáy Faanjaŋ to the Court. When the other conspirators heard that Faáy Faanjaŋ had been summoned to the Palace, they all showed up in a delegation of more than twenty(20). Seeing the contingent and knowing what had happened to his predecessor Fòn Mapri (1907-1910), Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) must have been frightened. The Fòn asked the Christians if they could identify the Faáy Faanjaŋ that was standing before them as the culprit that torched the church building. They all said that the arsonist was a hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Kilumsi), but that they were convinced it was Faáy Faanjaŋ who was inside the mask. The Fòn then told them that since they could not identify the culprit, there was nothing he could do apart
from send all the suspects to the Colonial Administration for punishment and then help them rebuild their church.
After the Christians left the Fòn convinced his Councilors, especially Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv that the church had to be rebuilt. He reminded them of the disgraceful treatment the Germans had mitted to them a few years earlier after the Nso’-German war, and asked if they wanted a repeat. They all replied in the negative and he assisted the Christians to rebuild their church with no objections from any Councilor. Twelve culprits (including the above ring leaders) were sent to jail for two months and ordered to pay heavy fines. Even though he never converted to Christianity, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) was absolutely convinced according to his closest confidants that Christianity and the development it brought was good for his Kingdom.
Despite this brief incident of comity, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was short-lived.

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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 5)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here:

Nso culture

As a general rule, all Ncheèlav including some Dùy and some Mntaár are members of the Ŋwéròŋ and all Dùy, some Mntaár and exceptionally some Ncheèlav are members of the Ŋgírì cults.
A young boy is generally introduced to the cults (taken to the cult compound for the first time) by the Shúufaáy, Faáy, Sheèy or a designated senior member of their clan, when they are old enough to be sworn to secrecy (about the ages of 6-10), at about the same time they are introduced to non-Palace family cults like Rum or Nsang.
The boys are often brought in when the cult orchestra is playing. Some frightening rituals are performed on them and a slimy liquid is poured over them in a series of incantations which are at times so mumbled that they are not decipherable. The older boys, who had already been introduced, then take their turn welcoming the new boys to the club with a little whipping, pinching or even rubbing with poison ivy (kimbin or even woondzә). This is meant to scare the living daylight out of the lad, to ensure that he never tells what ever he sees or hears in the cult compond because the consequences of telling will be worst than the poison ivy.
Generally this is an exciting and highly anticipated time for the young boy (at least it was for me), as the boys are tested by their female siblings and even their mothers and aunts when they come back home after their initiation, to see if they can really keep the secret. It was common for the inducted boys to shout “ee wiy yey” (lady beware) even to their mothers (pending a few conks on the head) to warn the female folks that they were now seers and keepers of the secrets of Rum, Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì. Surprisingly there are actually no secrets to keep for the young inductee. The young initiate only has access to the general courts and halls of the cult compound. He cannot enter any of the cult houses until he is old enough to be fully initiated.
The process of full initiation into a particular cult is called “tang shiv” literally meaning counting the occultist spirits. Initiation even to the lowest ranking cult of Shiŋkaŋ rarely occurs before the teen years. The initiate is expected to bring jugs of palm wine, fowls, goats or even cows and some special accoutrements that vary from cult to cult. In the old days for example to tang Wanmabu required at least 2 goats, 2 fowls, 2 bundles of groundnut pudding (mboo), 2 jugs of palm wine and 2 large trays (djuy) of cooked corn fufu. Even though things may have changed nowadays, initiation still requires provision of some variation of these feasting elements.
After initiation the member is expected to get into apprenticeship and learn the occultism and medicines of the cult. After such training the member rises in rank by providing the things that are needed to rise from one rank to the next (palm wine, fowls, goats, etc.). Most cults have ranks that may go as low as 3 above the regular member or even 5 above the regular member. Rising from one rank to the other has its special requirements. Ranks also bring special admiration when the members escort their masquerades out for public display. In the case of popular cults like Wanmabu and Kibaraŋko, the rank determines the markings on a masquerade escort’s body (nche’ se ngang), who handles the masquerade’s cup (bar shiv), who handles the adorned spear (kilun or shinya’), who handles the special open gourd (kighin ke shiv) and who handles the masquerade’s bag (kibam ke shiv).

Irrespective of the number of ranks in the cult house, the highest level is always held by 7 members called “samba wir” (group of seven). These are the last custodians of the particular cult’s occultism and are only replaced upon death or serious incapacitation. Any member of the cult (without discrimination) can rise to the level of “samba wir” as long as they satisfy all the criteria set by the cult, abide by the rules, do their time and acquire the needed training, and provide all the necessary things to rise to the highest rank.
It is important to note here that membership in any of the cult houses could also be gained through inheritance upon the death of a father, uncle or even sibling who was a member. However, anyone who so inherits membership is expected to perform all the initiation rites and rise to a level as high as the individual they are replacing with time.
A member is expected to be initiated in all the cults from the lowest Shiŋkaŋ through Shigwàála’, Wanmabu, Kibaraŋko, before they can be inducted into the highest cults of Yeŋwéròŋ and Yeŋgírì. Since Yeŋwéròŋ and Yeŋgírì are the real custodians of the penultimate Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì occultism, medicines and other fetishes, initiation into these higher cults is really intricate. As we saw earlier someone can gain membership into Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì by virtue of nomination by the Fòn who grants them the minimum title of Sheèy wo Ngang. Someone could also gain membership into Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì by inheritance.
Initiation into Yeŋwéròŋ often depended on whether the new member was a Ncheèlav, Dùy or Mntaár. Ŋwéròŋ created a simpler initiation process called “ko’ kitav ke Ŋwéròŋ” (climbing into the Ŋwéròŋ store) for the Ncheèlav. Dùy and Mntaár members went through a more costy and very involved two step process of “tee shishur she Ŋwéròŋ” followed by “tang Ŋwéròŋ”.
The “ko’ kitav ke Ŋwéròŋ” process required 2 bags of salt, 2 jugs of palm wine, 2 fowls and 2 large trays (djuy) of cooked corn fufu, with additional requirements on the day the member was being led to the store (kitav) to see the occultist sacraria and other medicines and fetishes of Yeŋwéròŋ.
By contrast the “te’ shishur she Ŋwéròŋ” is a much more expensive process. The initiate is given a list and he supplies everything in a minimum of threes, fives or sevens. It could be 3-5-or-7 goats, 3-5-or-7 fowls, 3-5-or-7 jugs of palm wine, 3-5-or-7 bags of salt, 3-5-or-7 trays of cooked corn fufu or even more. Additional things are demanded on the day the new member comes to see the Yeŋwéròŋ occult. After this process the member now has the rights of someone who has done the “ko’ kitav ke Ŋwéròŋ”.
The “te’ shishur she Ŋwéròŋ” or “ko’ kitav ke Ŋwéròŋ” is often followed by the initiation of the new member into the Manjoŋ war society called “Fhuum Mfuuh (Gham or Ba’)”. As a next step, the young men and boys often follow this with their own process called “Kingaah” which is a courtesy visit to the compound of the new member where they are entertained with a lot of food and drink.
After “te’ shishur she Ŋwéròŋ” or “ko’ kitav ke Ŋwéròŋ” the member is expected to get into apprenticeship and learn the occultism and medicines of the Yeŋwéròŋ cult. After training the member rises in rank by providing whatever is needed to rise from one rank to the next (palm wine, fowls, goats, etc.). The highest level in Yeŋwéròŋ is held by 7 members called “samba wir” (group of seven). Getting to this level takes years of appreticeship and training that can only be shortened by a”tang Ŋwéròŋ”, an intricate process that is not meant for mare mortals.
The “tang Ŋwéròŋ” process goes beyond the occult to the realm of totems. It is a process that takes years and even decades to complete. It is such an expensive process that few people in living memory have been known to accomplish. The member who is doing the “tang Ŋwéròŋ” is asked to provide everything in 70s. It could be 70 goats, 70 fowls, 70 jugs of palm wine, 70 bags of salt, 70 trays of cooked corn fufu, cash for the Fòn (Kibam ke Fòn) and more. Around the early 1900s a Faáy Mbiiŋgiy is said to have practically bankrupted his family to do a “tang Ŋwéròŋ”. Of course the said Faáy Mbiiŋgiy decided that he now owned Ŋwéròŋ after his “tang Ŋwéròŋ” process was completed. His mates thought he was joking but he was not. After Faáy Mbiiŋgiy died it took some years for Ŋwéròŋ to extricate the Yeŋwéròŋ occult from under the late Faáy’s influence.
It should be noted that after the “tang Ŋwéròŋ”, the member is automatically admitted into the highest ranks of the Yeŋwéròŋ “samba wir” even if the member who is to be replaced is still alive. If there is no one among the “samba wir” who has completed the “tang Ŋwéròŋ”, the other members could even make him their overall leader and prime Lord of Yeŋwéròŋ, elevating him to the highest rank in the Ŋwéròŋ cults group.
Initiation into Yeŋgírì cult is simplified for princes. A prince who is judged worthy of initiation does a “te’ shishur she Ŋgírì” which unlike the “te’ shishur she Ŋwéròŋ” or “ko’ kitav ke Ŋwéròŋ” is just a rudimentary process of initiation when it comes to princes. Non-princes do the real “te’ shishur she Ŋgírì” by providing 12 goats, 7 fowls, 12 calabashes of wine and 12 trays of cooked corn fufu. Upon completion of this process, the member then completes the training that permits them to rise in the Yeŋgírì cult up to the rank of “samba wir” or inner sanctum with rights and prerogatives that are reserved for such rank.
After the “te’ shishur she Ŋgírì” the new Yeŋgírì also does “Fhuum Mfuuh (Gham or Ba’)”. The young Ŋgírì men and boys then follow with their “Kingaah” process to the compound of the new member.
The “tang Ŋgírì” process is even more complex because in addition to providing all the items above for the first stage of “te’ shishur she Ŋgírì”, the member also provides a male attendant to the Palace court as well as a wife for the Fòn. In addition the member who is doing a “tang Ŋgírì” also provides a hefty bag of cash for the Fòn called “Kibam ke Fòn”.
All the cults have a set of complex rules that their members must abide by. Any violation of these rules could cost them their membership in the cults. For this reason, all cults usually have a day of the 8-day Nso’ week (for example Kilovәy for the Wanmabu cult) when members meet to fraternize and learn the rules, regulations and ways of the cult. The members also learn how to handle the cult’s occultist spirits, fetishes and medicines in stages. In the old days, the training took time and it was only when one stage of training was completed before a member could move up in rank in the cult. It is for this reason that it took decades for anyone to rise to the level of “samba wir” in any cult or for lower cult members to be acceded membership in Yeŋwéròŋ or Yeŋgírì cults.
Poor training of cult members could lead to an inability to properly handle cult masquerades and their accompanying spirits and medicines during public displays. Such occurrences are said to have often angered departed senior members who could show their displeasure by deranging the masquerade or confusing their escorts. The Kibaraŋko debacle during the death celebration of Shúufaáy Sov in 1982 was cited as the case of a senior cult member expressing his displeasure with the cult even from the grave. Things got so bad that the deranged Kibaraŋko broke the huge Manjoŋ wine jar (kiing mfuuh). The most senior members of Ŋwéròŋ had to come out and lead Kibaraŋko back in chains after appeasing the late Shúufaáy and getting his permission to get Kibaraŋko under their control.

In 1972 during the death celebration of Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) his successor Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) noticed that cult member’s inadequate training was impeding their ability to control the masquerades and their accompanying occultism when they came out for public diplay. In a space of two days, 3 people died thanks to the inability of Wanmabu and Kibaraŋko cult escorts to control their masquerade’s occultist spirits and medicines during public dispay. The Fòn was infuriated by these deaths and warned both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì that he would stop their displays if they proved themselves unable to control their masquerades free spirits. He followed through with a worst sanction. To the dismay and violent protestation of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult members, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) banned the handling of any occultist spirits and medicines by all cults during public displays. “Keh fo len shiv goo ii koko” (from now on the occultist medicines shall remain in the cult house) the Fòn declared to the futile protestations of Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult members. The Fòn’s order has remained in effect to this day, despite the fact that cult members often skirted around the Fòn’s edict when the cult went for a death celebration in a senior member’s compound where all of Ŋwéròŋ and/or Ŋgírì had an overnight stay.
In general since cult members especially the senior ones are often also Title Holders (Sheèy wo Ngang, Faáy and Shúufaáy) they are expected to conduct themselves respectfully in public and to maintain a certain level of dignity and decorum. They are also looked upon as role models by society.
Cult members are expected to play the role of custodian of Nso’ culture and traditions. The cults are expected to educate their members on an ongoing basis so that they can know, understand and/or interpret every aspect of Nso’culture that relates to them correctly.
As cultural custodians of their institutions, cult members must ensure the preservation and the promotion of Nso’culture and the institutions to which they belong. They are also expected to provide moral and material support for the up-keep of their cults.
Cult members are expected to assist the Fòn and the overarching cult groups like Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì materially and financially in the performance of their duties as well as the preservation of the Nso’ culture.
Cult members are expected to fully participate and to provide leadership in public functions of all forms and to assist in religious ceremonies. They are also expected to provide leadership and financial support in community activities like the building of public halls, roads, bridges and markets.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)


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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 4)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here: and part 3 here

Nso culture



The Ŋwéròŋ cults group has a huge fenced compound next to the inner and outer palace court yards. The Ŋwéròŋ compound is composed of many open courts, large halls and various multi-storey and basement apartments to house each of the cults. The compound is arranged in residential quarters each headed by a Sheèy who spends nine (now seven) years as a page of the Ŋwéròŋ cults and is assisted by various Nchiyselav (junior pages).
The Residential quarters are:
 Lav ye Ku-un (Senior House)
 Lav ye Teri (Junior House)
 Lav Ngaŋsi (Senior Escorts’ House)
When the Sheèys graduate after their years (7 or 9) of tutelage and apprenticeship they are ranked among the highest members of the Ŋwéròŋ cults group as a Tav Ŋwéròŋ, second only to the most senior Palace Stewards (Atárnto’).
The rest of the compound is divided into cult houses that may each have physical levels of initiation as deep as 3 or even 5.
Ŋwéròŋ has the following cult house:
 Shiŋkaŋ cult – All members
 Shigwàála’ cult – All members
 Kibaraŋko cult – Ŋwéròŋ wo Teri (Junior Ŋwéròŋ )
 Kingaayasi cult – Ŋwéròŋ wo Teri (Junior Ŋwéròŋ )
 Jwiŋwéròŋ cult – Ŋwéròŋ wo Teri (Junior Ŋwéròŋ )
 Yeŋwéròŋ cult – Ŋwéròŋ wo Ku-un (Senior Ŋwéròŋ )
Each cult has a distinctive masquerade that displays during funeral and other celebrations. The level of occultist knowledge and training, and the rules for initiation and promotion vary from cult to cult.
The highest cult and controller of all Ŋwéròŋ is Yeŋwéròŋ with the highest level of Ŋwéròŋ occultism called Ŋwéròŋ wo Wiy or Ŋwéròŋ Vitsée. All senior Ŋwéròŋ members (ngang se Ŋwéròŋ ) are members of the Yeŋwéròŋ cult, but not all of them see Ŋwéròŋ Vitsée. The members rank from the lowest to the highest members of the inner sanctum, the highest of whom are seven members called “samba wir” who control Ŋwéròŋ wo Wiy. Once a member has attained the highest rank, they are only replaced after death.
Member initiation is generally conducted from the lowest Shiŋkaŋ cult through Shigwàála’, Kibaraŋko, Kingaayasi, Jwiŋwéròŋ to the highest Yeŋwéròŋ cult. A member cannot be initiated fully into Yeŋwéròŋ when they have not fully completed initiation into the cults below. A Yeŋwéròŋ member may also choose to go to a lower cult like Kibaraŋko, in order to become a senior member (samba wir), but this is an uncommon occurrence because of the prestige and power that comes with Yeŋwéròŋ membership.
Ŋwéròŋ also has a distinctive music that is produced by a combination of many types of instruments. All cults have a special meeting day for member fraternization and training that may be different from the general Ŋwéròŋ meeting day of Ntaŋrin (one of the days of the Nso’ 8-day week). Outside of death celebrations Ŋwéròŋ music can be played on a special Ntaŋrin when all members (irrespective of cult) are gathered to fraternize, eat, drink and celebrate.


The Ŋgírì cults group has a fenced compound next to the royal burial ground called Fәm. Like the Ŋwéròŋ compound, the Ŋgírì compound is composed of open courts, large halls and various multi-storey and basements apartments to house each of the many Ŋgírì cults. The compound is tended by a Senior Sheèy and a Junior Sheèy called Taafu (who both spend nine (now seven) years as pages of the Ŋgírì cults). The Ŋgírì compound is divided into cult houses that may each have physical levels of initiation and ranking as deep as 5.
When the Sheèy and Taafu graduate after their years (7 or 9) of tutelage and apprenticeship they are ranked among the highest members of the Ŋgírì cults as a Tav Ŋgírì, second only to the most senior Ŋgírì Lords (Vibay ve Dùy).
Ŋgírì has the following cults:
 Shiŋkaŋ cult
 Shigwàála’ cult
 Wanmabu cult
 Rifem cult
 Moo (Taa Maandzә) cult
 Shiŋwar Ndzә cult
 Nchiy Kibah cult
 Jwiŋgírì cult
 Moomvem (Mbiy a Bami) cult
 Yeŋgírì cult (Ŋgírì Vitsée)
 Subi (Kikum ke Ŋgírì) cult
Each cult has a distinctive masquerade that displays during funeral and other celebrations. In addition Ŋgírì has its distinctive Kikum cult called Subi (a gift from the Oku Fòndom) with a vast array of wooden masks for display during funeral celebrations and other occasions.
The highest cult and controller of all Ŋgírì is Yeŋgírì with the highest level of Ŋgírì occultism called Ŋgírì Vitsée. A Yeŋgírì member may also choose to go to a lower cult like Wanmabu, in order to become a senior member (samba wir), but this is a rare occurrence because of the prestige and power that comes with Yeŋgírì membership. The case of the late Sheèy Isaac Lukong (Sheèy Lukong Docta) is however notable. He chose to forgo Yeŋgírì for the lowest cult Shiŋkaŋ, where he rose to the highest rank that this lowest of cults ever bestowed on a member. To compensate for this choice to sink so low, Sheèy Lukong elected to become a high ranking member of the Ŋgírì cults in the Fòndoms of Mbiame, Oku, Ŋkar, Nsә’ and Kiluun; something that was quite remarkable for a Sheèy to accomplish (some say that is why he baptised himself shuSheèy).
In addition to Subi music, Ŋgírì also has a distinctive music that is produced by a set of varied instruments. All cults have a special meeting day for member fraternization and training that may be different from the general Ŋgírì meeting day of Rәәvәy (one of the days of the Nso’ 8-day week).
It is very easy to differentiate between some Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ masquerades but others are rather difficult to discern. Kibaraŋko for example is this dreadfully ugly disproportionate beast with a huge head, while Wanmabu is a handsome looking agile and athletic space alien with red lips. The very tall, agile and feathered Kingayasi for example is a Ŋwéròŋ-only masquerade which is easy to discern. There are also other Ŋgírì-only masquerades like Moo (Taa Maandzә), Nchiy Kibah (Yeye Boy), Moomvem (Mbiy a Bami), Shingwar Ndzә and Rifem, that are easy to spot. Ŋgírì also has the flamboyant Subi cult (Kikum ke Ŋgírì) with its beautiful masked dancers that Ŋwéròŋ does not have.
Other shared masquerades are however pretty difficult to differentiate except when viewed with a trained eye. In general it is often easy to distinguish the masquerades from their hooded escorts (Vilumsi – sg. Kilumsi), The Ŋgírì Kilumsi is often more colorful and adorned with a few feathers, while the Ŋwéròŋ Kilumsi is often just plain looking with no spotted feathers.
Masquerades like Shiŋkaŋ (pl. Meŋkaŋ) are often easily discernible by their headgear and wear. The Ŋwéròŋ Shiŋkaŋ headgear is often more conservative and the Ŋgírì Shiŋkaŋ headgear more progressive. Ŋgírì Meŋkaŋ are also known to be more daring (especially during the Ŋgvәn funeral ceremonies) where some have been known to come out practically naked wearing just g-strings. The Meŋkaŋ are also often distinguished by their bags and their cups with the Ŋwéròŋ Shiŋkaŋ always carrying a distinctive Ŋwéròŋ bag and cup (bar Ŋwéròŋ).
The Shigwàála’ can be distinguished by the structure of their masks. The Ŋwéròŋ Shigwàála’ mask has very distinctive and human-like facial features with the mouth opening to the skies while the Ŋgírì Shigwàála’ has animal-like facial features with the mouth opening to the front.
The Jwiŋgírì and Jwiŋwéròŋ masquerades are rather similar in appearance with the sole difference that Jwiŋgírì has a royal (sometimes leopard) pelt around its waist line while the Jwiŋwéròŋ is controlled by two special cloth yarns that are tied around the loin and controlled by its attendants.
The Yeŋwéròŋ and Yeŋgírì masquerades are distinguished by their masks like the Shigwàála’. In addition the members of the Yeŋgírì and Yeŋwéròŋ convoys have distinguishing staff, the Ŋwéròŋ staff (mbang Ŋwéròŋ ) is a bamboo or wooden staff with distinctive alternating black rings painted on the upper extremity of the staff. The Ŋgírì staff (mbang Ŋgírì) is made of bamboo or wood with short wooden or bamboo blades inserted on the top-most part of the staff on both sides at a 180 degree angle. The Yeŋwéròŋ convoy at times also carries two wooden child effigies called Won Yenso’ or Won Yensa’ (children of Yenso’ or Yensa’) that signify the two sons of the founder of the Nso’ dynasty (Ŋgonnso’ or Yenso’).

In this paper we have examined the four main male-only Palace cult groupings. We did not touch on female-only cult groups like Chong, Kor and Laalir (Lafelir). Even though non-Palace cults were not the object of this paper we would like to make a comment about these cults because some of them do have a direct impact on the Palace cults, and on the social, political and military activities of the Kingdom.
The Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ is organized into lineages made up of clans and sub-clans that are physically built around large communal settlements called compounds. A village may be made up of many compounds comprising various lineages and sub-lineages that may not necessarily be related. Some of the lineages joined the Nso’ as either junior Fòns or very powerful sub-lineage heads. Many of them came along with very powerful cults some of which were surrendered to the Palace and were integrated into the Palace cults, and some of which remained with the lineage.
Most lineage and sub-lineages that are headed by a Faáy or Shúufaáy will generally have a Rum, Nsang, Kikum (Kikum ke Vitsée), Shi-Kpù-Laa-Dzer, Ngang and other cults, or some combination of male-dominated cults. The Rum cult it must be said was a female-only cult that was abandoned in an unknown river when the women could no longer handle the Rum occultism (shiv se Rum), and the men picked it up downstream, rehabilitated it and then surprisingly banned the women from the Rum cult. The favorite Rum cult chant when it comes out at night is “ee wiy ya ki baa ndzee ey” (ladies beware of the madness curse) putting the ladies on guard to stay away.
Some clans and sub-clans have powerful cults (generally male/female) that they preserve to this day, as can be gleaned from the few examples below.
The Do’ Ruun clan in Kitiwum has a very powerful cult called Maakibu that has been a source of conflict between them and the Palace apparently because the Do’ Ruun clan was supposed to surrender the cult to the Palace (specifically to Ŋwéròŋ ) when they joined Nso’ but they refused to do so and have continued to harness the cult.
When the Taaŋkùm clan of Kimbo joined Nso’, they surrendered the Ŋwéròŋ cults to the Palace as we have seen above, but it is rumored that the original Taaŋkùm leader Shúufaáy Tsәmaloŋ kept some of the Ŋwéròŋ occult for his people. To this day, the Taaŋkùm people still claim the remnant cult that they call Laala (Vitsée).
The Sov clan in upper Dzәkwa is known to have produced some of the greatest warriors that Nso’ has ever known. When the Sov lineage joined Nso’, they came with a powerful warrior cult called Mentsәngoŋ, that was principally a chemical warfare outfit that was always dispatched to neutralize the enemy before the main army (Manjoŋ) arrived and decimated them. The Sov still keep their Mentsәngoŋ cult today, despite the difficulties encountered at times by the clan in controlling the Mentsәngoŋ occultist spirits (shiv se Mentsәngoŋ), difficulties that many observers attribute to lack of member training (as was customary) in the art of managing the very complex chemical concoctions of the cult.
The power and influence of a Man of Title depends on their initiation and their level of authority within the cults. It is also dependent on the amount of time spent by an initiate to ingrain the rules, occultism and/or medicines and chemicals (shiv) of the cults.

Many observers believe the recent weaknesses that are being noticed in the execution of certain cultural norms are thanks to the fact that many of the cults have either relaxed their membership rules or have not evolved them adequately to suit modern times. To understand this better we must examine what it takes to be initiated and to advance in rank within the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults.

To be continued…

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)

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