Poro

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The Poro, or Purrah or Purroh, is a secret society of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Structure[edit source | edit]

Only males are admitted to its ranks, but two other affiliated and secret associations exist, the Yassi and the Bundu, the first of which is nominally reserved for females, but members of the Poro are admitted to certain ceremonies. All the female members of the Yassi must be also members of the Bundu, which is strictly reserved to women.

Of the three, the Poro is by far the most important. The entire native population is governed by its code of laws. It primarily represents a type of fraternal society to which even infants are temporarily admitted, the ceremony in their case consisting merely of carrying them into the Poro bush and out again. But there are also religious and civil aspects of the Poro. Under the former, boys join it at puberty, while under the latter it is practically the native governing body, making laws, deciding on war and peace, etc. In Liberia, the female equivalent of the Poro is the Sande society.

Practices[edit source | edit]

The Poro has its special ritual and language, tattooing and symbols, but details are scarce, due to an oath of secrecy. It meets usually in the dry season, between the months of October and May. The rendezvous is in the bush, at an enclosure, separated into apartments by mats and roofed only by the overhanging trees, serving as a club-house. There are three grades, the first for chiefs and big men, the second for fetish-priests and the third for the crowd. The ceremonies of the Purrah are presided over by the Poro devil, a man in fetish dress, who addresses the meeting through a long tube of wood.

The Poro can place its taboo on anything or anybody; and as no native would venture to defy its order, much trouble has been caused where the taboo has been laid upon crops. In 1897 the British local government was compelled to pass a special ordinance absolutely forbidding the imposition of the taboo on all indigenous products. Of the affiliated societies the Yassi appears to some extent to be an association for providing men and women, who believe themselves ill through fetish, with medical treatment, on payment of certain fees. The women's Bundu is in many ways a replica of the men's Poro, though without political power.

"The ceremonies of the Purrah are presided over by the Poro devil, a man in fetish dress, who addresses the meeting through a long tube of wood,known as a bull-roarer (voice distorter which delivers a bloodcurdling stream of sounds, and is made from a tube with holes cut into it over which discs of membrane from the egg sags of a particular spider are spread over)" Liberian Poro is little different when it comes to ceremonies. A ceremony with women, children and non-members part-taking, the Poro devil stays out. The Gbetoo is the only "fetish dressed up with long tube of wood" thing that you will see around. The poro devil is also invisible even to most members.

In 2009,Ed rock-throwing Poro members protested attempts by Elizabeth Simbiwa Sogbo-Tortu to become became the first female chief of the Niminyama chiefdom in eastern Sierra Leone.[1]

Prominent members of the Poro[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ "Sierra Leone woman barred from becoming chief". BBC News. 15 December 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2009.