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Mende Pitek, Emily


The Mende have historically lived in Western Africa; this entry focuses on the Mende living in the vicinity of the town of Bo, Sierra Leone around the time of 1945. At this time, a section was the basic political unit and consisted of several towns and villages. A section chief held political leadership of each section, and a paramount chief led the chiefdom as a whole. Secret societies, namely the Poro and Sande, served crucial roles in transmitting social norms, rules of conduct, and performance of ritual activity. The secret societies held a close connection with certain spirits and rituals, and embodied supernatural power. The chief, although a secular figure, “acted as general patron of the more important secret societies, such as the Poro and the Sande, and was expected to sponsor the various ceremonies called for in connection with the ancestral cult and related forms of worship and propitiation” (Little, 1951:182). Supernatural beings, in addition to ancestral spirits, included non-human spirits, and a supreme high god who created the world but is said to not have an active role in the day-to-day life of humans. Because religion permeated almost all aspects of life and culture, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with society itself.

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Attribution 4.0 International