#15 A Murderer Must Hang Himself

Homicide is an offense against the earth deity. If a villager is involved, the murderer is expected to hang himself, after which the daughters of the village perform the rite of sweeping away the ashes of murder. If the murderer has fled, his extended family must also flee, and the property of all is subject to raids. When the murderer is eventually caught, he is required to hang himself to enable the [daughters of the village] to perform their rites. It is important to realize that the village has no power to impose capital punishment. In fact, no social group or institution has this power. Everything affecting the life of the villager is regulated by custom. The life of the individual is highly respected; it is protected by the earth-goddess. The villagers can bring social pressure, but the murderer must hang himself.

[#15] Igbo: “A Murderer Must Hang Himself,” from Victor C. Uchendu, The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965, pp. 42-43.

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