Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
One of the greatest crimes a man could commit was to unmask an egwugwu in public, or to say or do anything which might reduce its immortal prestige in the eyes of the uninitiated. And this was what Enoch did.
The annual worship of the earth goddess fell on a Sunday, and the masked spirits were abroad. The Christian women who had been to church could not therefore go home. Some of their men had gone out to beg the egwugwu to retire for a short while for the women to pass. They agreed and were already retiring, when Enoch boasted aloud that they would not dare to touch a Christian. Whereupon they all came back and one of them gave Enoch a good stroke of the cane, which was always carried. Enoch fell on him and tore off his mask. The other egwugwu immediately surrounded their desecrated companion, to shield him from the profane gaze of women and children, and led them away. Enoch had killed an ancestral spirit, and Umuofia was thrown into confusion. (22.9-10)
Unmasking an egwugwu spirit in public is akin to murder because it reduces the god to mortality.
[After the unmasking of the egwugwu]: That night the Mother of the Spirits walked the length and breadth of the clan, weeping for her murdered son. It was a terrible night. Not even the oldest man in Umuofia had ever heard such a strange and fearful sound, and it was never to be heard again. It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming – its own death. (22.10)
To mourn the death of her son, the Mother of the Spirits laments loudly and strikes fear into the hearts of the Umuofia. The ancestral spirits are closely tied to humans and the land they live on. Thus, it seems the murder of one ancestral spirit portends the coming death of his people and the desecration of his land.