Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/89

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A PRIEST KING IN NIGERIA.

The following communication from Mr. P. A. Talbot, District Commissioner at Degema, South Nigeria, has been kindly forwarded by Sir J. G. Frazer, who writes: "This seems to be a notable discovery of a fresh African parallel to the priest of Nemi. Taken with Dr. Seligmann's dis- covery of a similar line of priestly kings among the Shilluk, it seems to show that the institution was widely spread in Africa " :

While collecting information concerning the festivals held at Elele — an Ibo town of about five thousand inhabitants in the north-west of Degema district — chance brought to light that the dominant Tuju of this region is called Ayaeke, the present priest of which is a powerful chief named Ileshi. At the feast of new yams, before the new season's crop may be eaten by anyone in this neighbourhood, the head priest of Ayaeke must eat a yam which has been kept over from the last harvest. This is the first which he has eaten from the year before, and is therefore called his "new season's yam," because he may never take fresh yams in his mouth. Every year, on this occasion, a great feast is given, during which each man, woman and child in the town bears a gift to the priest. Even little babes, too small to stand alone, must be carried to his compound, where the mothers press a gift into the tiny hands and then hold them out towards the chief, that not even the smallest should fail to make offering. The compound, where the Juju is kept, is called Omo-kpuruku, and in this, from his election until his death, at most seven years later — even should the full term of ofiice be completed — the priest dwells, carefully guarded by all his people, and never once crossing the threshold unless summoned forth by some grave emergency.