MΩMOΣ IX. The Archaeology of ritual - Proceedings of the IXth conference of researchers of prehistory (Supplementum 3.)

Boys Becoming Men. Male initiation rites in a North-Eastern Nigerian village

Published February 6, 2020
How to Cite
Galántha, M. (2020). Boys Becoming Men. Male initiation rites in a North-Eastern Nigerian village. Dissertationes Archaeologicae, 4, 281-296. https://doi.org/10.17204/dissarch.suppl3.281


The Chadic-speaking Fali of the southern Mandara Mountains live in well-organised, compact villages of thousands on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. They are subsistence sorghum farmers whose communal and personal existence depends on having several children and a good annual harvest. Unsurprisingly, these two existential facts determine both the fundamental values and much of the daily life of the Fali. An examination of the biennial initiation cycle and its main rites also reveals that, at the ritual level, these manifest a symbolic equivalence to the developmental cycle of their staple crop, sorghum, and are attuned intime to the agricultural cycle. In my presentation at the IX. MΩMΟΣ conference (Miskolc, 2015) I described in detail, and showed pictures of the 2007 Fimbidi rite (Figs 6–13), the greatest of the initiation rituals of the Jilvu Fali. In this short paper I intend to overview the main characteristics of the whole of the Jilvu male initiation cycle, drawing attention to the complicated web of social relationships, underlying beliefs, personal and communal ambitions behind the rites. Although this picture cannot be but sketchy, I hope it will nonetheless be of interest to archaeologists.This presentation is derived from my husband’s, anthropologist James H. Wade’s early work among the Falifrom the 1970’s onwards, and our joint fieldwork from the 1990’s to 2010. The accompanying pictures, like those of my 2015 presentation, were taken by him.