Category Archives: Nwerong

Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 6)

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

Nso culture

Cult members by virtue of their power, influence and societal standing are expected to be epitomes of moral rectitude. Some of these members are actually so required by their occultist rules and regulations, especially given their positions within the Court. Compared to the rest of the public, cult members generally receive harsher punishment for the same crime because they should have known better. Cult members could even be expelled and rusticated from their cult groups (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) for the simplest of violations.
Cult members are seriously monitored for character deficiencies like adultery, public drunkenness, gossiping, irresponsibility towards their families and other misdemeanors that could easily lead to expulsion.
It is forbidden for a cult member (or anyone else for that matter) to covet the King’s wife, sit on the Royal throne, commit rape (especially that of a child), harm a pregnant woman, commit murder or commit any similar high crime for which they easily possessed the wherewithal to effect, thanks to the occultist weapons they handled by virture of their cult membership. The punishment for such high crimes by any cult member is generally a sentence to death, when non-cult members are exiled.
Crimes against pregnant women are generally so abhored that even the Kibaraŋko masquerade would stop and make way on approaching a pregnant woman. A pregnant woman also has the right to stop the carriers of the King’s wine (bom) and ask for a sip if she felt thirsty.
Sitting on the Royal throne is considered to be a very serious criminal offense. Punishment for a cult member who is a prince of the rank of Sheèy wo Ngang, Sheèy Wan Nto’ or above is a sentence to death because the culprit is assumed to be trying to usurp the throne. In 1910 Sheèy Wan Nto’ Mbinkar Mbiŋlo is said to have tried to usurp the throne from his uncle Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) and was sentenced to death, but he escaped with the help of Shúufaáy Sov and his clansmen (Visov). The Nso’ remained forever grateful to Visov because Sheèy Mbiŋlo later became Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) and is renowned to be the Father of Nso’ Development.
Another example of a prince who attempted to usurp the throne but was spared the death penalty was Sheèy Wan Nto’ Rәәvәy. In 1907 when young Sheèy Rәәvәy learned that the Germans had executed his father Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) in Bamenda where he went to pay royalties to the German colonial administration, Sheèy Rәәvәy seized the throne and sat on it. Sheèy Rәәvәy was condemned to death but saved from death by his youthful ignorance and the fact that his mother was not of Mntaár origin so he really could not be King, making his usurpation of the throne an irrelvant act. Even though Sheèy Rәәvәy was spared from death, he still needed to be pardoned by his father the new King Fòn Mapri (1907-1910).

To pardon his nephew, Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) imposed that neither Sheèy Rәәvәy nor his immediate children could ever be elevated to a Faáyship or Shúufaáyship for fear that they might attempt usurping the throne again or they may declare themselves Fòn and form another Dynasty like Dom, Mbiame or Oku. Sheèy Rәәvәy protested this restriction saying that he had voluntarily relinquished the throne and that as a Sheèy Wan Nto’ his children were by right eligible for elevation to Faáy or Shúufaáy. The Fon stood firm on his decision but agreed that Sheèy Rәәvәy’s grand-son or great-grand-son could be elevated to Faáy or Shúufaáy.

To punish Sheèy Rәәvәy for protesting despite the fact that he was kind enough to pardon him for his crime, Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) threw a curse on Sheèy Rәәvәy. The Fòn told Sheèy Rәәvәy that he would never live to see his grand-children. It happened as was foretold, Sheèy Rәәvәy died in the 1920s. History however has a way of correcting for its wrongs. Recently in December 2010, Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) elevated Dr. Willibroad Shasha (a grand-son of Sheèy Rәәvәy) to the rank of Shúufaáy Nso’Bahti. The new Shúufaáy Nso’Bahti returned to the United States of America to a thunderous welcome by many of his constituents.
Despite all these mishaps, cults and their members and Title Holders that walk their halls continue to thrive in the ever expanding and changing culture of the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’. Before we examine the effects of modernity and conclude this essay let us look at the history of the relationship between the cults, an aspect of the culture that has shaped its evolution more than anything else in this modern era of change.
The Shiswaa and the Ŋwéròŋ cults have enjoyed a very deep and collaborative relationship perhaps because all members of the Shishwaa cult are also ranked among the most senior members of the Ŋwéròŋ cults. The relationship between the Shishwaa cult and the Ŋgírì cults has been cordial (but not deep) because the Shishwaa cult from time to time requires assistance from the Lords of Sacrifice (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri) who are all senior Ŋgírì cults members.
The Taa-Mbàn cult compound is next door to the Ŋwéròŋ cults compound in the layout of the palace. Thanks to this proximity the Ŋwéròŋ and Taa-Mbàn cults enjoy a close relationship. Taa-Mbàn cult members because of the mortuary and divine services that they provide within the Palace, have also enjoyed close ties with the Ŋgírì elderly members among the Lords of Sacrifice (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri).
The Taa-Mbàn cult and the Shiswaa cults share some annointing, emissary and protective services roles and because of this reason the members of the two cults have enjoyed a close and collaborative relationship over the centuries.
The Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults however have enjoyed a rocky relationship in the last century. As we noted earlier in the historical highlights above, the Ŋwéròŋ cults were re-introduced into Nso’ society sometime after 1450. From then till the late 1800s and early 1900s the Ŋwéròŋ cults reigned supreme in the land, and even usurped some of the fraternal duties that were supposed to be performed by the Ŋgírì cults as was the case in Rifem from where the Nso’ people came.

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)

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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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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 3)


If you missed part 1 & 2 you can get them here and here:

Nso culture

Over the last 600 years cults have enjoyed a lot of power and assumed numerous functions in the administrative, political, social and cultural life of the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’. With the advent of colonialism, independence and the birth of the new nation state of the Cameroons, the role of these cults have evolved. In this section we examine the roles, responsibilities and functions of these cults as they existed then and as they obtain now.

The main functions of the Taa-Mbàn cult are:
 Royal mortuary services
 Cleansing of lineage heads/compounds
 Inquisitions of suspected witchcraft
 Exorcism of evil spirits and other abominations
 Conduct of expiatory (atonement) sacrifices
The Taa-Mbàn cult members are often assisted in their duties by lower court servants (Vimbaa and Vitan ve Ŋwéròŋ).
The Shishwaa cult performs mainly the following functions:
 Protecting Nso’ institutions from destruction
 Acting as State peace envoys and ambassadors
 Conducting appeasement sacrifices to keep famine at bay
 Preparing the State for periods of drought, infestations and low harvest
 Interceding with the Gods to keep devastating natural disasters at bay.
In addition to the seven Atárnto’ who were automatic members of the Shishwaa cult, other prominent Ŋwéròŋ Lords like Faáy Kuykishwang, Faáy Liiwong and others have been appointed into the Shishwaa cult and co-opted by Ŋwéròŋ as Atárnto’ of the second category.
The Ŋgírì cults group as a primarily fraternal cult has pretty limited responsibilities but performs the following roles:
 Junior traditional administrators (whenever assigned)
 Royal mortuary services (Vibay ve Dùy ve Kpù)
 Royal/member funeral services and celebrations
 Conduct of general state sacrifices (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri)
 Blessing of hunting expeditions (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri)
 Royal Hair care and manicure services (Vibay ve Dùy )
As we shall see below Ŋgírì has not always been happy with this limited role in State government and this has led to various clashes with Ŋwéròŋ.
Since its re-introduction into Nso’ society, the Ŋwéròŋ cults group has played a co-equal role with the Fòn in the administration of the state. As the saying goes “dze wong Fòn wun Ŋwéròŋ ” (the State belongs to the Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ).
The Ŋwéròŋ group has played principally the following roles:
 Executive arm of State government
 Senior Court Stewards and Priest (Atárnto’ ve Samba)
 Guardians of the Royal household (Atárnto’ ve Samba)
 Royal mortuary services (Atárnto’ ve Samba)
 State regulatory officers (hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Vilumsi) as impartial state police)
 Royal messengers, envoys and emissaries
 Custodians of royal property (raffia palm bushes, kola nut trees, goats, chicken, etc.)

 Royal/member funeral services and celebrations
 Conductors of State Commerce and Trade
 Peace keeping and crime prevention
 Fire fighting and prevention
 State judiciary officers (with Vibay – State Councilors)
 Execution of death and other sentences
 Law enforcement officers (hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Vilumsi) as impartial state police)
 State sanitary inspectors
 Palace house keeping
 Management of palace reconstruction and maintenance repairs
 Managers of public works (road, bridge, public hall and other construction projects)
Over the years Ŋwéròŋ has done its best to keep this stranglehold on power to Ŋgírì’s detriment and with sometimes devastating consequences.
To the naïve observer, the Paramount Fòn of Nso’ appears to be the almighty Monarch whose word is law and whose decisions are final. That is how the Nso’ people would like the world to see their King, because the King is Nso’ and Nso’ is the King and the Nso’ think of themselves as the most powerful Kingdom of the Savannah grass fields. The reality is however different. As a wise people the Nso’ are painfully aware that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. For this reason, the Nso’ people in the last 600 years have put some real checks and balances on the power of the King, through the cults. The Taa-Mbàn and Ŋwéròŋ cults have the power to discipline the King for negligence of duty, autocratic behavior, recalcitrance or any other behavior unbecoming of a King. They may even judge, condemn and execute the King for treason or other serious high crimes and misdemeanors like extrajudicial murders, full incapacitation or complete dereliction of duty.
Ŋwéròŋ disciplines the Fòn through a process called “kur Fòn”, which literally means “tying the King”, but which in reality amounts to putting the Fòn under “House Arrest”. The King is not allowed to leave the Palace, and no one is allowed to visit him. The Palace is put on lockdown and only select Ŋwéròŋ pages (Nchiyselav) are allowed to enter or leave the Palace. No music or noise making is tolerated in the Palace or in the city within a certain perimeter from the Palace. Only Ŋwéròŋ is allowed to play some funeral and mournful music continuously until the situation is remedied. This continues for as long as it takes for the Fòn to repent, pay the stated fine and promise to act like a King deserving of Nso’ people going forward.
In recent years Fòns have been subjected to milder versions of this punishment, when they are summoned to the Ŋwéròŋ compound, put against the Ŋwéròŋ inner court wall, and literally scolded as if they were children.
Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) is the only King in recent memory who was subjected to an actual “kur Fòn”, during the early part of his reign when he had serious disagreements with his senior wives. He humbled himself greatly after that punishment.
The Taa-Mbàn cult disciplines the Fòn through a protest called “sah kifu ke Mntaár” or “sah Mntaár” in short, which means “Mntaár leaf protest”. When the Mntaár landowners are dissatisfied with the way the state is being run or with some Palace edicts or with the Fòn’s negligence of certain atonement and appeasement rites, they show their protest by their leaders coming together and invading the Palace in the early hours of the morning armed with nothing but plant leaves (usually the kikeng leaf – dracaena peace plant) in their hands. They silently stand in the open Palace square (Maandzә Ngay) until the King
comes out and addresses their grievances to their satisfaction. The King’s reaction on such occasions is usually very swift because the Taa-Mbàn cult members are “owners of the earth” (Atar Nsai) who could easily invoke the spirits of the ancestors to smite the King. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) and Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) are known to have endured this Mntaár protest during their reigns.
Cases where an actual King was judged, condemned and executed by Ŋwéròŋ and the Mntaár Lords are rare. Very often victims of such executions are ambitious princes who have attempted to usurp the throne. However in 1910 Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was executed because he had ordered the extrajudicial killings of some princes who were his rivals for the throne and of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (Tsәmaloŋ) when he disagreed openly with him. Ŋwéròŋ and Mntaár ordered his execution and Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was assassinated at Vikuùtsәn (near Sov) when he was on his way to pay royalties to the German colonial administration in Bamenda.

To be continued…

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)


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Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 2)

Last week, i shared part 1 of the paper by Shey Shemlon Shighan Stephen on MEN OF TITLE, POWER, INFLUENCE AND CULT MEMBERSHIP IN THE PARAMOUNT KINGDOM OF NSO’. It was about SENIOR COURT COUNCILORS (VIBAY VÈ KOV) & COURT STEWARDS (ATÁRNTO’). Today we shall continue from where we stopped and if you missed part 1, do not worry as you can still read it here.

In the court there exists a class of councilors called the Great Lords of Sacrifice – all Dùy , whose role is religious (Vibay ve Ntaŋri). They are also in charge of the State mortuary services (Vibay ve Kpù). The most senior of these Lords by order of rank (1-7) are:
1. Shúufaáy Bashwin
2. Shúufaáy Njavnyùy
3. Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv-ntìntìn
4. Shúufaáy Dzәm
5. Shúufaáy Bambùy
6. Shúufaáy Kooŋgir
7. Shúufaáy Taaway
All Vibay ve Dùy are princes of the Ŋgonnso’ Dynasty.
Since these Lords are of the extended Royal family they are some of the most senior members of the Ŋgírì Fraternal cults. As the lateral cult opposites of the Atárnto’ they are forbidden from membership in the Ŋwéròŋ cults. In recent times it appears this restriction on Vibay ve Dùy is being reviewed even though it has not been lifted by the Fòn and Ŋwéròŋ . It is however noteworthy that a few times in history some members have left the ranks of the Lords of Sacrifice in order to gain membership into the Ŋwéròŋ cults as un-restricted Lords. This happened during the reign of Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-

1947) when Shúufaáy Tsenla’ Yer left the ranks of the Vibay ve Kpù to become a ngang (cult member of) Ŋwéròŋ.
Among the Advisors of the court is a special group of counselors that is given preferential treatment by the King (Fòn) because they are his in-laws. These Advisors are called Won Jemer ve Fòn (the Fòn’s sisters’ sons). All of them are of the aboriginal Mntaár lineages (or have been assigned) and are fathers of the Fòn’s mother. Here by rank (1-7) are the seven most senior Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba.
1. Faáy Nsà’me (aboriginal Mntaár)
2. Faáy Mbìvtinmbaŋ (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kiluun prince claiming Fònship)
3. Faáy Ki’ Mbala Nsәәnè (original Mntaár who absorbed renegade Mbiŋon/Kijem princes)
4. Faáy Jèm Njavnyùy (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kijem prince claiming Fònship)
5. Faáy Menjey e Tò’óy (joined Nso’ as a Fòn)
6. Faáy Jèm Kiŋgá’ (joined Nso’ as a renegade Kijem prince claiming Fònship)
7. Faáy Ki’ Kiyán (original Mntaár who absorbed renegade Mbiŋon/Kijem princes)
In addition to the Three Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár), all seven Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba are members of the Taa-Mbàn expiatory cult.
Like the Three Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Vitaar ve Nso’ Mntaár), the Faáy Won Jemer ve Samba cannot be members of either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults because of the Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. As noted earlier this is an unnecessary restriction nowadays and it may be time to consider lifting it given the unsavory consequences it has produced of late in Do’ Ruun and Do’ Ŋgvәn.
Over the years, many Men of Title have been elevated to the rank of State Councilors (Vibay). The membership of newly created or elevated Vibays in either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults is generally determined by whether they belong (or are assigned to) the Ncheèlav , Dùy or Mntaár lineages. There is a customary rule that all Dùy Vibay are members of the Ŋgírì cult, all Ncheèlav Vibay are members of the Ŋwéròŋ cult and all Mntaár Vibay are neither members of the Ŋwéròŋ nor Ŋgírì cults.
A Kibay’s (pl. Vibay) membership in both Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults is a matter of negotiations (that could take years), and some extreme intrigue that may be connected to some seemingly un-related events, individuals or lineages.
A look back at the history of the elevation of some of these honorable men to councilorship exposes some of the most intricate and entertaining machinations in social and political power positioning to ever rock the fabric of the Nso’ Paramount Fòndom.
After the Nso’ Palace was moved from Kovvifәm to its present location in Kimbo (before or around 1825), it took more than 100 years for a Court Councilor to be added to the ranks of the Lords of Kovvifәm (Vibay ve Kov). This happened in 1929 during the reign of Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947). The State Councilor who was elevated was Shúufaáy Sov. Two surprising things happened during this elevation. Firstly, Shúufaáy Sov was elevated as a Mntaár Lord, despite the fact that everyone knew that the Sov lineage was Dùy. Secondly, to everyone’s surprise Shúufaáy Sov was also immediately made a member of the Ŋwéròŋ cults group.
We have to take a century walk back in history to understand this apparent contradictory power play. When Sov joined Nso’ (around 1815, shortly before the move to Kimbo) under Faáy Seh, Sov was put under Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv’s wing and the Sov lineage was considered Dùy. Faáy Seh’s successor Faáy Foinso’ fought hard to extract the Sov lineage from under Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and establish his own identity. To help him do this the then Paramount King of Nso’ Fòn Tar Manjoŋ (1840-1875) who was Faáy Foinso’’s personal friend, attached Sov to the Ncheèlav lineages and made Sov a member of the Ŋwéròŋ cults (ngang Ŋwéròŋ ).

This did not sit very well with Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. Later, Faáy Foinso’ made the mistake of being too popular with Ŋwéròŋ and of also making unauthorized friendships with the Oku Fòndom and associated vassal states. Faáy Foinso’ was assassinated and the Sov lineage lost their Ŋwéròŋ cults membership in the aftermath. So, when Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) elevated Faáy Sov to Shúufaáy in 1929 and made him a ngang Ŋwéròŋ he was just giving Shúufaáy Sov what was his, almost a century before.
Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv was very unhappy with the fact that Shúufaáy Sov was now both a Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults member. This led to friction between Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv and the Paramount King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947), culminating in the Ndzәәndzәv Crisis of 1956 (finally settled in 1968).
Now, why was Shúufaáy Sov made a Mntaár Lord? Because, if he remained a Dùy Lord he would have been ranked 18th after the Lords of Sacrifice (Vibay ve Dùy ve Ntaŋri). So Shúufaáy Sov was made the 4th ranking of the Aboriginal Lords (Vibay ve Mntaár Nso’) so that he could be the overall 11th Lord of the Court after the Ten Lords of Kovvifәm (Vibay ve Kov). Shúufaáy Sov benefitted here from his personal friendship with the Fòn and from the fact that Ŋwéròŋ owed him payback as compensation for killing his father Faáy Foinso’ more than eight decades earlier. In addition, even though Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv (the 1st ranking Councilor) was not happy with this elevation, Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (the 2nd ranking Councilor) was elated because Faáy Sov had revenged the killing of his father Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm during the infamous Nso’ war with Din around 1860. Then Faáy Sov (Ndzәmah) later led an expedition to Din around 1880, captured and decapitated the Fòn of Din, brought his skull to the Paramount Fòn of Nso’ and Manjoŋ (The War Society), and gave the Fòn of Din’s scabbard and staff to Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm as compensation for the loss of his father Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (who was Faáy Ndzәmah’s personal friend) in the Nso’-Din war of 1860.
Shúufaáy Sov’s elevation to Kibay opened the way for many more deserving men to be elevated to the rank of Councilor (Kibay), but their induction as dual members of both the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults was not always guaranteed as was the case with Shúufaáy Sov.
The case of Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv (Professor Nso’kika Bernard Fònlon) is an interesting edification of character and personal conviction that was once the hallmark of Nso’ Men of Title. Professor Fònlon was the unlikeliest of candidates for a Shúufaáyship. His parents were very devoute Catholic christains and Professor Fònlon himself almost became a Priest of the Catholic Church. So, Professor Fònlon’s devotion to the Nso’ traditional ways (which were considered heathen by his Catholic faith) could be considered at best tangential. However, in 1976 Professor Fònlon brought portable pipe-borne water to his people in the capital Kimbo and the then reigning King Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn II (1972-1983) rewarded Professor Fònlon with the title of Faáy Ntoondzev, which was later elevated to Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv (Great Lord of the water source) by Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn III (1983-1993).
As a Shúufaáy, Professor Fònlon was not interested in integrating either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults. Many believed this was due to his Catholic faith, but the reason was elsewhere. In the 1960s while Professor Fònlon was very active in The Cameroons partisan politics, he was appalled by the corrosive effects of partisanship on the traditional institutions of the Nso’ Paramount Kingdom. In 1965 Professor Fònlon wrote a book titled “To Every Son of Nso’” in which he admonished his brethren and called on them to keep politics out of the Palace, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. In the 1970s and 1980s when he was elevated to Shúufaáy he chose to practice what he preached. He decided that he was going to keep himself and his politics out of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì.

This did not go down well with both cults and with the Fòns who had elevated him, but Professor Fònlon stood firm on his decision. When Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv died in 1986, even though he had not gone through any of the traditional initiation rites of either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn III (1983-1993) ordered both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults to mourn Shúufaáy Ntoòndzәv’s passing, and they did with aplomb.
In the last three decades, many worthy Men of Title have been elevated to the prestigious level of Shúufaáy. Some have sought initiation and acceptance into either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults successfully, some have sought membership in both cults at the same time with varying degrees of success, and some are still waiting to be credentialed. In the ranks below them many who have already been initiated into either cults group are anxiously waiting to see if they could be elevated to Shúufaáy and given a chance to integrate into the other cults group.
Men of Title of ranks lower than Shúufaáy or Tárnto’ (aFaáy and aSheèy) who are not Mntaár generally belong to either Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults groups but not to both, except in extremely rare cases where such low ranking members may be members of both cults by Royal Appointment. As a general rule all Ncheèlav aSheèy and aFaáy belong to the Ŋwéròŋ cults group, all Dùy aFaáy and aSheèy belong to the Ŋgírì cults group, and the Mntaár aFaáy and aSheèy belong to neither cults group. Except in rare occasions, membership in both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults groups is often accompanied or preceded by elevation of the member to the rank of Shúufaáy.
As we have seen above, membership in the cults is very regimented. However, over the centuries Nso’ Kings have asserted their right (albeit very limited) to appoint members into either the Ŋwéròŋ or Ŋgírì cults who otherwise would not have been admitted under normal procedures.
After a new Fòn is installed in Ndzәәndzәv, he chooses a day to visit the senior Ŋwéròŋ cult Yeŋwéròŋ (Ŋwéròŋ Vitsée) for the first time. The new Fòn on this first visit is allowed to select up to two males of his choice (be they Dùy, Mntaár, Ncheèlav or even his brother princes) to accompany him. Whoever is chosen to accompany the Fòn on this occasion is inducted as a Yeŋwéròŋ cult member (ngang Ŋwéròŋ ). If the individual who is chosen to accompany the Fòn is not titled, they automatically become a Sheèy. If the individual is already a Ŋgírì cult member, they will become a member of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults. So, it is possible to see a simple Sheèy who is a member of both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults if they gained access by accompanying the Fòn on his first Ŋwéròŋ visit. If the individual who accompanies the Fòn during this first visit is a Faáy, they may be elevated to a Shúufaáy. In 1947 when Fòn Sehm III (1947-1972) was visiting Ŋwéròŋ for the first time he chose his brother prince Faáy Mbisha to accompany him. Faáy Mbisha was elevated to Shúufaáy Mbisha after that visit.
It was enshrined during the re-introduction of Ŋgírì into the Nso’ Palace in the 1890s that the Fòn could take whomever he choses along with him (carrying his bag or stool-kava) on the rare occasions he visited the Ŋgírì cults, and that the Fòn could send any high ranking official of the Court to represent him (in addition to Faáy Taawong) in the highest echelons of the Ŋgírì cults (Yeŋgírì). Over the years Ŋgírì has resisted this power of the Fòn but to no avail. This is how Faáy Faanjaŋ (a Tárnto’ and Ncheèlav) ended up as an executive of the Yeŋgírì cult. Some senior Palace pages and attendants (Nchiylav Faáy) also ended up as Ŋgírì cult members this way even though they were Ncheèlav. Sheèy Laisin who was an attendant to Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) ended up as a Ŋgírì cult member by accompanying the Fòn on one of those Ŋgírì visits, even though he was a Ncheèlav and already a Ŋwéròŋ cult member.

The latest example of Ŋgírì cult membership initiation by accompanying occurred in 2004 when Faáy Faa America visited the palace with Fòn Sehm Mbiŋlo I (1993-Present) who was returning from medical treatment in the United States of America. Faáy Faa America (a Ncheèlav) who was carrying the Fòn’s bag accompanied the Fòn on his visit to the Ŋgírì cults. Faáy then became both a Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cult member and was elevated to Shúufaáy Faa America.
The founder of the Nso’ Dynasty Ŋgonnso’ was a woman, so she was not a member of any of the male-only cults (including Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) that existed in the Tikar capital Rifem (Kimi or present day Bankim) when she led her followers out sometime after 1387. So Ŋgonnso’ and her followers did not take any of the State institutions (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì) and their occultism along with them when they left Rifem even though these institutions were in existence because her two brothers Nchare Yen (founder of the Bamoun Dynasty in Foumban) and Mfombam (founder of the Ndjitam dynasty in Bafia) all left with these institutions.
The first cult that the Nso’ Dynasty really had then was the Taa-Mbàn cult that belonged to the Visale (Mntaár) and was preserved after the Nso’-Mntaár Kovvifәm Agreements of 1411. This cult has gradually lost its power and influence as we have seen especially with the re-introduction of the Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults.
It is not very clear when the Shishwaa cult was introduced. However since this was a cult, one of whose primary functions was to keep famine at bay, it can be conjectured that the Visale (Mntaár) must have had a variant of this cult before they merged with the Nso’ in 1411. The Shishwaa cult actually gained power and influence during the extended periods of drought, periods of protracted wars that led to famine, incidents of locust infestations that devastated crops, and periods of other natural disasters that brought about hunger. The Shishwaa cult was already very prominent and extremely powerful by the time the Nso’ left Kovvifәm around 1820 to settle in Kimbo.
The Ŋwéròŋ cults were re-introduced into Nso’ by the Taaŋkùm clan (an offshoot of the Tikars from Rifem also) sometime after 1450. Recently the Tsenla’ Mbam clan has claimed that even though Ŋwéròŋ may have been introduced by Taaŋkùm, Ŋwéròŋ was actually their occult (shiv) that the Taaŋkùm clan usurped. There is however no doubt that Taaŋkùm brought Ŋwéròŋ to Nso’ because in Nso’ folklore and to this day, Ŋwéròŋ is still referred to as the Taaŋkùm occult (shiv ye Taaŋkùm).
The Ŋgírì cults were re-introduced around 1890 by the warrior King Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907), after the Nso’-Bamoun war of 1885-1889. The Nso’ army (Manjoŋ) looted both the Bamoun Ŋgírì and Ŋwéròŋ cults and brought back occultist artifacts that were used to enhance the existing Ŋwéròŋ cults and to create the new Ŋgírì cults. The late re-introduction of the Ŋgírì cults generated some resentment from Ŋwéròŋ and created a rift that still exists to this day as we shall see in the next part….

Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)

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