as a Mode of Domination and Stability in Society
the regulatory association, was described to me as the most terrifying secret
society in the community. The Fon himself is removed from the violent and
coercive aspects of
and from war. Members of the dynastic core unit may not join
though sons of princesses may. It is said that '
is the father of the Fon' and this implies that it wields more power than
the ruler. Though
could not physically remove a Fon from office, it could fine and ostracise him
for any act which the society considered anti-social whereupon, as one of my
key informants put it, 'all his wives would run away'.
non-members are prohibited from
meetings and may not approach the house where it's weekly meetings are
held, most of its activities being secret. Whenever it appears in public the
identity of its members is concealed by various masks. These are the symbols
of the magical and religious powers which it still maintains over the people.
The council of elders of the association enjoy considerable administrative and
judicial powers. As Drummond-Hay remarked 'The chief and council
dictates the policy of the clan in peace and war; before the chief and elders
are brought those who have transgressed against clan law and custom; whilst in
his sacerdotal office, the chief assisted by the elders makes those prayers and
sacrifices to the gods and ancestors so necessary to the welfare of the
clan' (1925: 19). It inflicts punishment, decreed by the Fon, against
crimes such as witchcraft, murder and adultery with royal wives, as well as
disciplining its own membership.
is a gender-specific institution: no woman may become a member. Membership of
reinforces the social status and prestige of senior males.
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