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Ntoro


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Africa

Literal meaning: ‘spirit’. The Ashanti believe that every person receives a sunsum, ‘ego’, and a kra, ‘life-force’. They also say that a man transmits his ntoro to his child. In this sense sunsum and ntoro are syonymous. The kra might be thought of as a tiny portion of the creator deity that lives in every human being. In earlier times there existed twelve distinct ntoro groups and members of each group were thought to manifest the same characteristics. Membership involved the observance of certain taboos and the use of set greetings. Today, the Ashanti are the less strict about ntoro divisions and the notion of the inherited ‘spirit’ is more individualistic.

The twelve traditional ntoro were thus described; the tough, the human, the distinguished, the audacious, the eccentric, the fanatic, the chaste, the truculent, the virtuoso, the fastidious, the liberal, and the chivalrous. A myth explains how the bosommuru ntoro, ‘distinguished spirit’, first arose. Long ago a man and a woman came down from the sky, as did a python, which made its abode in the Bosommuru River. Since they lacked desire and a knowledge of reproduction, the couple had no children. One day the python asked if they had offspring, and on being told they had not, it said it would cause the woman to conceive. The python sprayed their bellies with water, and uttered certain words, after which it told them to return home and lie together. In due course the first children were born and they took Bosommuru as their ntoro, each male passing on this ntoro to his children. This is the reason why those belonging to this group will bury a dead python should they chance to encounter one.

Subjects: Religion — African Studies.


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