The “Onoku” is a female cult whose members are accorded the cultural status of men in Ebira society. According to traditional belief, some strange circumstances, occurrences or signs during the birth of a female child or in her later life often help to identify a would-be “Onoku”. Such strange occurrences include the invasion of the room where the new born baby girl is.
kept by a large swarm of bees or soldier-ants milling around her and later dispersing without stinging or biting anybody. Strange noises or strange behaviours by the child may also serve as a clue to the special status of the girl. When such signs are noticed, the parents go for divination to unravel the mystery. If the girl is confirmed to be an “Onoku”, the leader of the female cult is contacted. At an auspicious time determined by the senior members of the cult, a public initiation ceremony is organized during which the new initiate sits with and dances with masquerades and other members of the cult.
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A member of the “Onoku” cult is always dressed in immaculate white with an “oroko” feather stuck close to the side of one ear and holding a gourd rattle (ahihyia). Though it is taboo for women to inquire or know the secrets of the men masquerade cult, the “Onoku” is an exception. These dual personalities who are believed to possess some spiritual powers have the
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privilege of being involved in masquerade activities alongside the men. They too, however, keep their knowledge of the masquerade cult as a top secret from other women non-cult members. At cultural ceremonies such as burials, chieftaincy installations, and festivals which they often attend in groups, they have their own special type of drum-beat which only their members are allowed to dance to.
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Thanks a lot for that information. That’s very interesting.