These people are tied too much to tradition and this was seen especially when the missionaries wanted to introduced Christianity in the community as they rejected them at the beginning. The missionaries wanted to violate some of their most important traditional laws. At the beginning, the missionaries wanted to change their names which they considered as a curse to them but the traditional chiefs refused and chased them away. These people have been practicing monotheism for a very long-time as they belief in the existence of the only God that is; the supreme God of creation, the God which has created man called ntodobe. These people make good use of the elements of nature for morale and spiritual protection since for them ntodobe created nature for man to live with all what exists within it and there exist a direct relationship between living beings and nature. Before these people converted themselves to Christianity, they believed in their ancestors and never neglected their rites. Stability and harmony was maintained in the community thanks to these rites.
The traditional society of this community had established a set of spiritual beliefs which contributed to the unity of the group and to the regulation and prevention of some social deviances. These people belief so much in the supernatural that is they belief so much in the existence of so many gods especially to ancestral spirits. Ancestral practices include
- Fetish and totem were means of protection to this community which was done mystically. To the Mvele, totems are like angels to Christians so, totem was considered as protection to them. Its protests them in good and in bad times. There exist an invisible short man who was considered as a messenger and transmitted bad news and signal when a family member was to die.
Rituals and local practices.
There are so many rites carried out and practiced by the Mvele and according to them, it can be defined as separation from sins. It consist of some important aspects of life in the group through came protection and abstinence from doing certain things. All the community was expected to respect all the rites in order to preserve harmony among them. A simple transgression could destroy all the generation and to repair this, certain rituals were carried out to start a normal life. Certain rites were connected to education, health and costumes. Among the different rites, there existed the rites of initiation to life, rites of purification, rites of reconciliation, rites of expiation and rites of intensification like funerals. The most practiced and important rites in the community is the rite of purification and initiation which are rites of passage and it is subdivided into three which are;
- The purification rite: “Esie”
It is a family prayer said during a family meeting which the goal is to eradicate the evil which was affecting the family. It can also use as a prayer to seek heal for illness people.
- The purification rite: “Ntun”
It is mainly used by the family chief when there is a problem inside the family or by the village’s chief if the problem concerns the entire village. For example, a Bad harvest or other Weir situations.
- The purification rite: “Tso’o”
It is a new rite. It has been created after the colonization period. It is used to purify, to heal and protect a person. It is not executed by everybody but by specialize practitioners.
Other rituals practiced by the Mvele tribe include:
- The initiative rite<<So>> which is practiced when they want to introduced a new chief. The initiative rite “So” It is one of the most important rite in this tribe. It is divided into two categories: “So Esam” and “So Eson”. Before colonization, the person who had not been initiated, was considered as a non-Mvele person, and therefore could be sent out of the tribe. In addition, the sins which permitted the execution of the so as means of purification, we can have, Incest, murder, witchcraft, violence and so on.
- The initiative rite of sex; Here, young men or women are learning how to become real men and women. For the boy, the father or the mother can put their son in a sexual relationship with a girl of the village. The rituals are very different from that practiced by the other Beti tribes. They don’t pay a great attention to this as the Beti does.
- “Mevungu” mostly practiced by women of the community. It was regularly practiced by women of the village the rite was headed by a woman who was considered as the chief and it is aimed at purifying a woman or family as a hold as it takes place when there is misfortune in a family.
- Another important ritual practice by the Mvele is “l’evodo”. L’evodo is also practice by women only. Some women regard this rite as the ‘’Mevungu’’ but for others it is a ritual call “ngas” where a group of women judge another woman when she does something which is against the village requirements.
- “l’onguda “is also a rite practice by women but the aim of this one is very different from the others. It is define as an initiation to sexuality. So, this rite is carried out when a woman is to be initiated to sexuality.
Witchcraft and Magic
After talking about all these rites, we can say that before the implantation of christianism the Mvele had a lot of rites which were related to witchcraft. The belief in magic and witchcraft is something which started long time ago in the community and continue still today. Witchcraft is regarded as a spiritual weapon in this community especially to their ancestors and was very common around the 1930s. It was mostly practiced when these people wanted to chase strangers like colonial masters, missionaries and other Beti from their land. According to ‘’Nyengue Sebastian’’ a Mvele was able to transform one portion of land mystically into rocks in order to prevent and stop the construction of roads by the Germans. As far as witchcraft is concerned in this group, there are certain things which are considered as inoffensive like the evu enyin for production, evu mvom which brings happiness and mbembe which is the symbol of prosperity and others are pejorative; incarnation of evil actions which thereby troubles people spirits and exists in an individual. Evil spirits in this community are attributed names like the mbe evu which is link to wickedness, evu metom for destruction and evu awu which drags to death. These are personal powers which existence is revealed in exceptional circumstances. Those who have these spirits evu in them have special powers and double it when they want to good and bad things. We have to precise here that this group belief firmly in the visible and invisible world. The invisible world has some evil spirits the members of this community are influenced influenced by these spirits like in 1938, children of Chief Ze Mendouga had a dispute with Mvog Melingui. The later decided to take over the chapel constructed in their village mystically. This was done at night and was a considered as an important event as warlocks powers took over the powers of the chief. Also, the first Catholic Church constructed in Mvele was disputed by warlocks and the one with more powers won the war.
This people belief in plants (medicinal plants) and it is an esoteric practice. Plants have always played a great role in this community and the principals plants used are what they called meyan such as ayan nsu against poison; ayan feg criminals; ayan fam for male procreation; ayan feg for wisdom, bark of trees were also used such as essingan, esock, atui, ekuk. These plants were used in rituals and in healing. Their protection is also based on plants but its usage was reserved to those who were initiated notably aged women and men, and shaman.
They belief that a woman could easily procreate if she does good farming so to ensure themselves that a woman could procreate she has to do farming. If the woman soil makes good yield, it will mean that she can easily procreate if not, it will mean that she can’t easily procreate. They belief in this because procreation is a very important thing in the Mvele land and if a woman and man cant procreate, they will not get married because having children in the Mvele land is considered as a very important thing. After the initiation to sex, if the woman the man had sex with is not pregnant, they will just say that that man is not more a man since he is not able to procreate. The missionaries finally succeeded to introduce Christianity in the region and the region thus became completely Christianized.
INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY IN MVELE
When the Germans colonized Mvele, their aim was to eradicate their traditional beliefs by introducing Christianity in the region. Mvele people came in contact with Christianity at around 1923 after the French mandate has been asserted in Western Cameroon and was considered as an innovation at that time. At the time Christianity was introduced in this area, the people were divided into two that is; into the catholic and the Presbyterian but the catholic dominated. The Catholic Church was built firstly in Nkol Avolo in 1925 by some missionaries against the wish of people and their chiefs (Ze Mendouga and Ngoa Evina). It should be notice that the Mvele people were against the introduction of Christianity in the area and opposed all what the missionaries were doing in the area because it was against their tradition. Mission priests therefore encountered serious difficulties in spreading Christianity and in the course of doing so, one of them Rev Father De Maupeou was assassinated by a fanatic polygamist. This priest was assassinated because he wanted to give Christian surnames to some traditionalist.
In spite of all these heavy contrasts, Christianity evolved and transformed the Mvele people in their faith and intellectually. From Nkol Avolo in 1925, Catholicism spread in the region taking over Protestanism forcing the protestants to leave in 1943. When the Protestants left, other problems arose and instability emerged within the minds of Old Catholic Christians. All the same, up to 1964, the whole Mvele region was covered with Christian churches. Other problems emerged when Cameroonian priests took over. In order to reduce local people hostilities, they tried in many ways to conciliate the Christian religion with local traditions. It is at that time that the big church found at Esse was built.
REACTION OF THE MVELES TOWARDS CHRISTIANITY
When Christianity was introduced in Mvele, people reacted in different ways and the first people to accept Christianity were women and youths. From one of our sources, we found that the youths (especially boys) quickly accepted Christianity because the German missionaries constructed schools which could be attained only by those who accepted to be converted. As such, many of them accepted Christianity and started attending school. These schools were mainly for boys and for the young girls to have such an opportunity, bordering schools were created ( they were called sixa ) and only those who accepted Christianity attended the bordering school. These youths were later baptized and missionaries objectives were partly attained.
Christianity was welcome by all Mvele women because it was considered as liberation to them and none of them hesitated to do so. We were told by a speaker that Christianity was to make as such that women could have a say and it is Christianity which brought personal dignity. Some women also accepted Christianity rapidly because they could have all what they wanted. At the time they did so, they were immediately baptized and got married from that moment religiously.
Almost all the population of the region later accepted to be converted and some people did it because of shame and wanted to be as others as they were baptized. The region was fully Christianized and catholism dominated in the area. It should be noted that, other religious groups such as the Protestants appeared later in time.
By 1939, this community was totally transformed as almost all the region was Christianized. Catholic and Presbyterian churches exist in the region although Catholicism is dominating the region. However, local traditional beliefs still persist. After independence, there was an increased resurgence of traditional practices. Today, many of them go to church services on Sundays, and then continue their traditional practices during the week. They now do the two at the same time. It is now a law in this region that everyone must go to church on Sundays if not the person will be punished in one way or the other.
Divination is an important part of the Mvele culture and religion and the soothsayer is the one consulted in this community in case of anything which has happened and its cause is uncertain or could not be explained. In this community, the soothsayer is there to answer all these difficult questions. There are two main ways used by soothsayers to answers questions in the Mvele culture which are:
- Divination by Animals.
This is done after the soothsayer has listen to the people questions and after listening, he goes in front of a hole and beside that hole, there is an animal. He then places some fresh leaves of different colors (meaning different questions) beside the hole. It should be noticed that the leaves used by the soothsayer comes from a particular tree. The day after the soothsayer goes where he kept the leaves and if the leave is destroyed, it would mean that the answer to that question is negative and if the leave is as he left, it would mean that the answer to that question is positive.
- Divination by Spirits
Here, the soothsayer possesses the spirit of one parent of the client. So, to answer his/her questions, the soothsayer just uses spirits he possesses to do that.