Elombo rite in Gabon

Created by Nkomi from the Fernan Vaz region, Élombo is one of the numerous traditional rites practised in Gabon, in particular by the Myéné populations from Ogooué Maritime. Originally, it is a therapeutic cult performed by female initiated societies, based on the faith in spirits, which have the purpose to heal diseases during an evening of dances. The participants in the Élombo rite are generally women, but not exclusively, in particular the percussionists and the players of Ngombi (eight ropes harp) are always men. The Aganga (the priestess) organizes the initiations and the ceremonies, and addresses the spirits which engulf followers during the trances. Throughout the ceremony, the participants are going to consume some powder of iboga roots for its stimulating and hallucinatory properties, and put on several costumes. In Port-Gentil,​ Élombo ceremonies generally take place during the weekend, in two phases: Saturday early in the afternoon, followers go into the forest, on the road of Ntchengué or Cape Lopez, for rites of initiation and purification; then, at the beginning of the evening, they proceed to the ceremony itself at the Aganga's place where stands the Mbandja. The Mbandja, generally a simple hut, is the temple used for ceremonies: inside, benches are arranged along the walls and, in its center, burns the ritual fire in honor of the ancestors. The ceremony, which can be public or private, will be followed by a succession of songs, dances and trances which will end on Sunday morning, at the end of an exhausting sleepless night.

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