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)
By unmasking the egwugwu, Enoch has committed a sin, especially since he baited the egwugwu into striking him. The action of unmasking is, in effect, killing the spirit because once revealed as a human body, he is made mortal. Many of the sins in Umuofia relate to killing family members. Here, Enoch, in a sense, has killed a family member because the egwugwu are ancestral spirits.
[Obierika on Okonkwo’s corpse]: “It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it. That is why we ask your people to bring him down, because you are strangers.” (25.15)
Suicide can be seen as a crime against the earth because the goddess provides people with life, therefore spilling your own blood is disrespecting the gift of life that the earth goddess granted.