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. http://sheytatah.dk/titles-and-cult-membership-in-nso-part-1/

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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