African anthropologists and researchers in the Nso tribe one of the ethnic groups (Kingdoms) in Cameroon have come to the conlcusion that a Ritual known as “Kidiv” (burying the Hatchet) is a major tool to resolve conflicts:
Although many have defined a ritual as anything you do frequently and almost always the same way each time. Wikipedia puts it as a “set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers.” This definition is cemented by Peter Prevos using Moore et al to define a ritual as a traditional and ordered sequence of communal actions in which a sacred purpose is achieved by means of an inter-play between the sacred and the mundane world. (B. Moore and N. Habel, 1982, p. 204.). They go further to state that many cultures perform birth rituals, puberty rituals, marriage rituals and death rituals; In the Catholic Church for example these turning points in life are celebrated with Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony and the Extreme Unction.
If one goes by these definitions then one is tempted to conclude that Rituals do not only exist in Traditional and Cultural settings but also in religious settings. A typical example of such will be with the Christian Religious rites. The “Catholic Encyclopedia describes the religious meaning of these rituals or sacraments as follows:
“By Baptism we are born again, Confirmation makes us strong, perfect Christians and soldiers [. . . ] Matrimony, primarily affects man as a social being, and sanctifies him in the fulfillment of his duties towards the Church and society. Extreme Unction removes the last remnant of human frailty, and prepares the soul for eternal life”.( D.J. Kennedy, ‘The Sacraments’, in:: Catholic Encyclopedia, (New Advent, 2001))
This therefore means that for the Catholic, these rituals are an inseparable part of religious life, one can not
be a Catholic if these rituals are not performed.” So too is the relation between the Nso Clan and the rituals. It is often said that if there is a society that is so attached to its cultural and traditional values, like the Catholic Church, it is Nso. (I am using these two examples mostly because i am born a Nso then baptized as a Catholic). This attachment also to the ancestors is often demonstrated either through the offering of sacrifices and celebrations or other ceremonies. When this fails to happen there is a tendency that the ancestors can get angry and may sometimes punish them accordingly.
According to Mbinkar John Bosco researcher and Editor of the “Shuy Nso Magazine”, “Ancestral anger in Nso religious circles is manifested through illness and many problems.” There befall tragic deaths and incurable diseases that can lead to a serious calamity. On the other hand when these practices are performed, the Nso man is blessed through many ways, good health, wealth, peace, progress, more children, good harvest etc. It is therefore the role of the priest referred to in (lamnso) as “Nga ngam” who has the “Yam and the knife” if such sacrificial rituals are necessary.
“Among the Nso people in the North West region of Cameroon, there exists a strong bond between the living and the dead or Ancestral-Angveh. This bond accounts for the numerous and various rituals performed by these people to seek ancestral Blessings, protection and appeasement” Mbinkar reiterated.
This assertion is highly supported in the same magazine by Mzeka Paul stating that “Rituals in Nso are an important aspect of culture forming its most pervasive and dynamic elements. They (rituals) legitimize names, confer titles, initiations and affirm cleansing after pollution.” Above all rituals in Nso resolve conflicts.
Lots of rituals are still performed in Nso today though some have disappeared with the advent of Christianity. Amongst some of them that still exists the “Kidiv” ritual performed to seek ancestral approval to end conflict.
|The Kidiv ritual|
This word Kidiv is very difficult to explain in english but explanations from some colleagues in the Nso world wide chat forum called “Shundzev” have tried to break it down. One famous contributor from this forum is (Nchilav) Sakah Tatah a man versed with the norms of the Nso culture was close to expalining what kidiv in english stands for: He states “"Kidiv" is a lamnso word with a cultural and traditional meaning linked to its origin. It would be very difficult to find an English word befitting the true meaning of "Kidiv". In other words; "kidiv" is beyond mere words, it takes your body, soul and spirit to be submitted to acceptance in a specific freely elected forgiveness of any wrong doing that might have occurred concerning you and your families. So it is beyond peacemaking which at times could be described as the absence of war.” He went further to substantiate that he did not have enough time to bring out the “wrongs/criminalities and most importantly, the Anger that are the root cause of kidiv, as well as the requirements for a consummation period to be reached to warrant its performance”; he explained further… “We get to the procedure with a freely elected forgiveness from within that is compared to Immaculate White or more properly to God's Mercy in forgiveness. It has to do with bringing the families together in Godly purity where nothing what so ever shall impair the reasoning of any member of the concerned families to regret any step ever taken to undergo it. Other different reasons might come up thereafter not comparable to leading to “kidiv” in future.”
|Sakah Tatah in whitecap with Prof Fanso in red cap|
Mbinkar John Bosco of Shuy Nso magazine inline with the above definition saying that this ritual a consequence of disagreement is performed by one person to another, more people to others, by one community to another or by the living and the dead. On such occasion a chief priest rather than the leanage head (Fai) is contacted to perform the sacred exercise. He translates the English word for Kidiv as “Burying the hatchet”
|Chief Priest & persons involved|
Case Study: Read Mbinkar John Bosco for original version.
The “Kidiv” Ritual begins with the preparation of a small hearth at the courtyard of the compound. Family members surround the hearth together with the disagreeing parties, the chief priest sets a calabash containing liquids of traditional herbs on fire; a small straw is placed at the top of the calabash. In case one of the disagreeing parties is dead then the leanage head represents him or her.
|begining the Kidiv ritual|
While the liquid is being heated, the Ancestors are called upon to intervene and end the conflict.
The names of the ancestors are called with incantations words like; “Shaffee, Dule, Anger has been tearing your people aside, bitterness, pure bitterness has destroyed the family…Your children have discovered and recognised their weaknesss and are here before you to ask you to “unite” them. You the ancestor should not deny your children the opportunity to right their wrongs”.
|Calling on Ancestors|
The ancestral approval is recorded when the frothing liquid from the calabash pushes the straw into the fire and on the left hand side. If this does not happen, there is a tendency that both parties have another score to settle which has to be identified and sorted out.
|Pushing the straw into fire|
On the other hand when the approval takes place, the priest breaks the calabash into the hearth, then follows a sacred and solemn process of reconciliation known as “New Religious circles or in Lamnso “Kiman.” ”
|The Kiman process|
The “kiman” has its own process too. The chief priest takes the wings of the sacrificial chicken and wipes the face of the disagreeing parties and family members. Using the chicken is agreed and believed by the Nso tradition that the Evil that transpired between the disagreeing parties’ thereby causing anger, disagreement and conflict amongst them has been transferred to the chicken. The priest then uses the bamboo sacrificial knife to rift out the possesed heart and bile of the chicken. This is a cruel slaughtering of the chicken but traditionally it shows the difference between slaughtering chicken for food and for sacrifice. The heart and bile of the chicken are rubbed in mud with the Blood of the chicken and put on the leaves and both parties are asked to burry in the heart as sign of reconciliation “Kiman”. The bile in the Nso Tradition is what caused the anger and the anger they assert is felt in the heart. Burying them could also mean burying the Hatchet as such the meaning of the word “Kidiv”…The ritual ends by asking people to cleanse themselves through washing of hands with clean and fresh water which marks a new and fresh beginning:
|Slaughtering of the chicken|
Shey Tatah Sevidzem (Wo Scandy)