Africa has a long history of cults and secret societies that have allegedly played a hand in the continent’s economics, politics and law enforcement. The Internet has shone light on many secret societies, rendering them not so secret. Here’s a little light on 12 cults and secret societies of Africa.
Poro, aka Purrah or Purroh, is a secret society for men and within it there are sub-groups that denote a member’s level in society. Becoming a member can involve circumcision. The group has a lot of power in politics in Liberia, and some believe one cannot even hold political office in the country unless he is part of Poro.
The Sande is a female component of the men’s secret society, Poro. Until someone has been initiated into one of these societies, some villages will not acknowledge her as a member. Becoming a member can involve circumcision, or being “kidnapped” and taken to a special school where Sande candidates learn about the society’s history and culture. It’s rumored that a special school for initiates takes place in the bush with special markings around it to let outsiders know they cannot come in. At one point, trespassing the bush school was said to be punishable by death.
The Leopard Society was allegedly a cannibalistic society in the early-to-mid 2oth century in Sierra Leone, Libera and Côte d’Ivoire. Group members would disguise themselves as leopards, wearing leopard skins, carrying claw-like weapons, and attacking their prey. They believed feasting on a human strengthened their bonds.
The Ekpe is a secret society that lives mostly in Nigeria and believes its members are messengers between dead ancestors and the living. It is a male-only society, and members are bound by secrecy. The society is somewhat akin to a freemason group and does some unofficial law enforcement. Freemasons are a fraternal organization that can be traced to the 14th century and who regulate members’ interactions with authorities and clients. Residents in Ekpe villages often go to the group to help them seek justice when they’ve been wronged.
The Ogboni is a fraternity indigenous to Nigeria, Benin and Togo. To be a member, one must be a part of Yoruba nobility. Allegedly, the group has a strong influence over the high courts when it comes to capital offenses. Recently a member who left the group spilled details about Ogboni, saying they promise to make members rich but never do.
The Osirica is a black Egyptian masonic order that existed in ancient Egypt. Many believe this group’s village at present day Deir el-Medina was the original location where freemasonry began. This village was originally named Ta Set Ma’at. Archaeological evidence found that the group was extremely advanced in education for its time, and headed the construction of the Valley of the Kings.
The Pyrate Confraternity was a secret fraternity started at the University College in Ibadan, Nigeria, in the 1950s. The fraternity was founded on the belief that all university students either fell into the category of very wealthy students from powerful families or poor students trying to fit in with the wealthy ones. The Pyrate, also named “The Magnificent Seven,” sought to differentiate themselves from these categories. The group fought against any actions they saw as elitist taken by the school or students. Once the secret was out, after some turmoil, the group was pulled from schools but members simply started new groups under different names.
The Okonko was an ancient society that unofficially enforced the verdicts of village assemblies. The Okonko and the village members had unspoken understandings, like when a palm leaf was left behind a man’s house, that meant that man had to face the court of the Okonko. Only men who didn’t have any shame in their pasts were admitted as members. During the initiation ceremony, the Okonko priests would reveal seven secrets to the new member that must never to be shared.
The Neegee or Crocodile Society is considered evil by the Poro and Sande groups. The Neegee is a cannibalistic group that feeds on human flesh to satisfy their God, and to gain power from that God. The group believes that when they eat human flesh, they gain the ability to transform into a crocodile. The group allegedly staged murders to make it look like a crocodile attack.
Abakua is an Afro-Cuban men’s secret society related to the Ekpe. The group is a mutual aid society known for elaborate street dances and very high expectations of the members to prioritize the group over their own families. The group has managed to stay mostly hidden for over more than 100 years.
Based in South Africa, the Desteni is getting a reputation as a cult that is into thought control, censorship and financial profit. It’s a new group that grew via the Internet over the last four or five years. Its figurehead is a woman who says she channels anything and anyone from dead celebrities to inanimate objects. Many say the group is a socialist dictatorship because it has very strict economic and industrial rules for its members. It is said to use democratic procedures for an antidemocratic cause.
In the 1990s a man named Joseph Kibweteere ran a cult in Uganda that emphasized apocalypticism. The cult allegedly died in 2001 when many of its members committed suicide after Kibweteere’s prediction for an apocalypse did not come true.