Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/90

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8o A Priest King in Nigeria.

The reason for this restriction is that, up to a few years ago, any man who succeeded in killing him would reign in his stead.

The whole prosperity of the town, especially the fruitfulness of farm, byre and marriage-bed, was linked with his life. Should he fall sick, therefore, it entailed famine and grave disaster upon the inhabitants, and there is reason to believe that in such a case facilities were offered to a successor. Under no circumstances did the term of ofifice last for more than seven full years. This prohibition still holds ; but now another of the same family, who must always be a strong man, is said to be chosen in his stead — at any rate this is stated to have been the case with regard to Cliief Ileshi. No sooner is a successor appointed, however, than the former holder of the dignity is reported " to die for himself." It was owned quite frankly that, before Government came, i.e. not more than a dozen years ago, things were arranged differently, in that, at any time during his seven years' term, the priest might be put to death by any man strong and resourceful enough to effect this.

In answer to the question as to whether, in view of the fate known to follow after so short a period, it was not difficult to find men willing to succeed to the office on such terms, Mr. Braid, Native Court Clerk of Elele, answered in a somewhat sur- prised tone : " Oh, no ! Many men wish for the post, because so much wealth is brought them at the annual festival, that they become very rich — past all others in the town."

The compound, in which the priest of Ayaeke dwells, amid all the cult of fetishes, is said to be full of carved figures, which were described to us as resembling those of the " ancestors " set up, each in its separate shrine, in the houses of New Calabari chiefs. It is probable that, in this case, each represents a former priest of the Juju.

During his term of office, Chief Ileshi has only been known to pass beyond the compound walls for one reason. The occasion was as follows :

A fellow townsman accused him of making a Juju to kill the complainant. The case came into court, and all unknowing of the excitement which such a proceeding must cause, the Chief was bidden answer the charge. He came, attended by all the