By Humphrey Thomas

The World has advanced through modernization and globalization and some other factors which affect the lives and progress of the society. Societies are improving, so is expected that man’s activities, practices, thinking and other ways of doing things. Human rights and fundamental freedoms are taking the center stage. This does not in any way suggest we must write off our culture and traditions. NO. But they have be refined to maintain some standards acceptable other reasonable minds who may not even be interested.

Poro Society associated with the Mende in the South East and Temne in the North of the country

Poro Society associated with the Mende in the South East and Temne in the North of the country

In Sierra Leone, there has been persistent reports of harmful practices carried out during the period of secret societies leading to loss of lives, properties, injuries to individual members and nonmembers. Secret societies like Poro and Bondo for boys and men and Bondo for girls and women respectively have become too powerful playing major role in local politics in Sierra Leone. They have also gone to the point of becoming dangerously unacceptable in and civilized community. The have become dangerous for reasons that children below the age of seven are often ‘initiated’ into various paramilitary societies and asked to perform rites of passage (i.e. atrocities which were often under the influence of drugs and alcohol).  These young soldiers are seen wearing ‘masks’ such as wigs, bridal dresses, while performing their deeds of war.  The warlords become the new chiefs and teachers who will teach the next generation or batch of initiates. There are taboos for non-initiates that are so uncertain that it is easy for a non-initiate to fall into the trap of a secret society. A non-initiate or member should not see the “devil or say anything in public pertaining to the secret societies. The punishment in extreme cases is death, which should not even be subsequently discussed in public both by initiates and non-initiates. The punishment also for doing so is death.These two secret societies are also notorious for ritualistically murdering their victims and making it look like the victim was attacked by a wide animal in the bush.  The tell-tale signs of the ritualistic murder however is that certain body parts are missing from the victim.  Their body parts are esteemed for their purported ability to instill specific powers in the person who eats them under the proper guidance of the chief initiate.  Part of that ceremony seems to involve the fetish-god being fed some of the victim’s blood and fat.  Once that spirit is satisfied then the initiates eat specific body parts for specific powers themselves.  The distribution of these body parts is usually determined by the rank of the members with the highest ranking getting the choice parts. Poro Society associated with the Mende in the South East and Temne in the North of the country  is known for this ritualistic cannibalism and  has been assumed  to have  historically engaged in these sort of practices.  This could stem from the fact that new initiates are described as having been eaten by the society spirit while in the devil bush for four or more years during which they taught the secrets and the crafts of their tribe. They learn how to build huts, how to make traps to catch animals, how plant crops; they learn all the characteristics of their tribe some individuals are also taught traditional magic. Another disgusting thing happening in these society bushes is the circumcision, to which the scarification-tattoos on chest and back follow. Without a scarification–tattoo the initiation is not possible.  This is believed to be a way one can tell whether an individual is part of such society by these scars and answering of some secrete questions.

The children stay in the bushes for years missing western education and cannot be seen at all by many of their family members even though they show a lot of interests in the fate of their children in the bushes and tries to find out whether they are still alive and how they are doing, but everything is kept secret.

When the entire initiation process is completed, the new initiates return with a long howl sounds, a warning that the devil is on his way and that all women and non-members should hide. The will process and accompanied by screaming flutes as the approach a town. The flutes sounds like people in pain, lasts for long period and represents the pain of the Poro Devil, because the people believe he suffers labor pains and is delivering the new members of the community who are usually called “chiefs”.  Many times the human rights of nonmembers are violated as they are chased out of their homes, humiliated, sometimes beaten and their belongings taken away. Animals like goats, sheep fowls etc found around are claimed to be owned by the Poro Devi and not even the Paramount Chief has the power to question that. Huge amount of food is wasted during this period and the homes are left empty with severe hunger during rainy season.

Something similar happens to the girls, but it should be noted that the same area never has both a Poro and Bondo bushes and the two societies will have initiation at the time.

Publish on: Mar 20, 2016