Eating Tortoise Head

As I was thinking about superstition and Africa, I remembered when my brothers and I fought over the head of a tortoise. Being the second son in the family, I was not entitled to the head of any animal slaughtered in my homestead let alone my younger one. The practice in my Igbo culture is that the head of any animal belongs to the first son of the household, and I, being the second was only entitled to the jaw. But in this occasion under reference, we had to break custom and struggle to control the head of the amphibian. Previously, my elder brother had stealthily thrown away the snake-like head and none of us gave a hoot. But on this particular occasion we were all eager to take a bite off the animal’s head at all cost. Why?

It so happened that we had got wind of the fact (from grandmother) that those who ate the tortoise head don’t cry. And true to the notion elder brother had forced himself, closed his eyes and ate the head under contention. Next day in school, he tried out a trick that earned him six strokes of the cane and he shed no tears. Big brother who was known by all to turn to butter at the sight of a cane now made faces as he received his half dozen! It was the holiest time on record!

All the pupils in the school started fishing for tortoise in the rivers and streams.

Though I never got the opportunity to taste the head of a tortoise, I’m not yet certain if this story is superstitious.