1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Egbo
EGBO, a secret society flourishing chiefly among the Efiks of the Calabar district, West Africa. Egbo or Ekpé is a mysterious spirit who lives in the jungle and is supposed to preside at the ceremonies of the society. Only males can join, boys being initiated about the age of puberty. Members are bound by oath of secrecy, and fees on entrance are payable. The Egbo-men are ranked in seven or nine grades, for promotion to each of which fresh initiation ceremonies, fees and oaths are necessary. The society combines a kind of freemasonry with political and law-enforcing aims. For instance any member wronged in an Egbo district, that is one dominated by the society, has only to address an Egbo-man or beat the Egbo drum in the Egbo-house, or “blow Egbo” as it is called, i.e. sound the Egbo horn before the hut of the wrong-doer, and the whole machinery of the society is put in force to see justice done. Formerly the society earned as bad a name as most secret sects, from the barbarous customs mingled with its rites; but the British authorities have been able to make use of it in enforcing order and helping on civilization. The Egbo-house, an oblong building like the nave of a church, usually stands in the middle of the villages. The walls are of clay elaborately painted inside and ornamented with clay figures in relief. Inside are wooden images, sometimes of an obscene nature, to which reverence is paid. Much social importance attaches to the highest ranks of Egbo-men, and it is said that very large sums, sometimes more than a thousand pounds, are paid to attain these dignities. At certain festivals in the year the Egbo-men wear black wooden masks with horns which it is death for any woman to look on.
See Mary H. Kingsley, West African Studies (1901); Rev. Robt. H. Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa (1904); C. Partridge, Cross River Natives (1905).