Poro: Discover some mysteries of this strict African secret society
There is no shortage of secret societies, and as you know, just having the word "secret" attached to your description will arouse the fascination of all and the stories about them begin to circulate. Besides, you know how things are ... Humans can't keep their teeth out for a long time, and part of the secret always ends up leaking!
For today we here at Mega Curious will reveal to you some mysteries about a secret society aimed at men from West Africa. She is called Poro and represents a kind of fraternal society. Their leaders are responsible for establishing codes of conduct and laws that are strictly obeyed by other group members.
Only for men
Poro is a male secret society - think of a kind of African Freemasonry - whose influence is very strong in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea. Its origin is associated with the culture of the mandé peoples, who arrived in West Africa over a thousand years ago.
Poro is currently responsible for governing the native population and regulating the political, social and cultural activities of its members. The organization has sufficient power to enforce its laws and codes even against the will of lesser decision-makers and traditional rulers, and it is its chiefs who decide on fertility issues in agriculture and military training.
However, its main role is religious, and one of Poro's goals is to control spirits and ensure that their intervention in men's affairs is beneficial. Once accepted by society, new members are introduced to religious secrets and the powers of witchcraft. Members are prohibited from revealing the knowledge they receive during meetings and rituals. Those who do not obey the rules can be put to death.
Due to the vow of secrecy that members must make when they are accepted into Poro, there is not much detail about what happens during meetings, but it is known that this society is structured in hierarchies and has its own dialects, rituals, marks and symbols. . In addition, encounters usually take place during the dry season - between October and May - in sacred forest locations near villages.
During meetings held in sacred places, members often discuss community issues, and such meetings are prohibited for nonmembers. The ceremonies are presided over by a chief - a kind of Grand Master - wearing ritualistic clothes and accessories.
The ceremonial costume usually consists of a large mask or headdress made of wood and a staff, and these pieces are often adorned with skulls and other human bones belonging to former group leaders. In addition, the boss addresses the group by speaking through a long wooden tube that distorts his voice. In some regions, women and children may attend meetings, but on these occasions the chief does not appear with the ritual equipment.
Structure and rite of passage
There are three levels of hierarchy in the organization, the first of which corresponds to the chiefs, the second to the priests or sorcerers, and the third to the other members of the group. Poro members are responsible for organizing the rite of passage that prepares boys and adolescents for adulthood, and this rite involves spending a few days in isolation in a forest camp.
During this time, boys receive moral teachings through traditional songs and stories that emphasize values such as solidarity and respect for their elders. In addition, boys who are not yet circumcised undergo this procedure at the beginning of seclusion and are given a Poro name. At the end of the rite of passage, participants undergo a series of tests and experiments to prove their manhood.
In the past, boys also received the secret society signal on their backs and shoulders through ritualistic cuts that left scars, but this practice is falling out of favor. For a member to become a master, they must pay a fee, as well as undergo a period of training in the use of medicinal potions and undergo an initiation ritual performed by someone who already occupies the position of chief.
Only for women too
Like Poro, in Sierra Leone there are also secret societies Yassi and Bundu, which are reserved for women only. To be part of Yassi - which allows Poro members to attend ceremonies - members must necessarily be part of the first female Bundu. In Liberia, this strictly female secret society is called Sande .
In some countries, the Bundu and Sande have had to reformulate some of their practices to accommodate the demands of today's society, but even so, they continue to exert strong influence in their areas and their prohibitions are strictly adhered to.
With regard to the rituals of passage involving female secret societies, during the period of seclusion, girls learn about religious rituals and may undergo some form of genital mutilation, but this practice - luckily - is no longer being followed in some regions.