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Ichi is facial ritual scarification worn by mainly men of the Igbo people of Nigeria.
Ichi scarification is not a tribal mark, but a sign of status, rank, or nobility. The scarification indicated that the wearer had passed through initial initiation into the highest society Nze na Ozo. It was taboo for persons thus marked to perform any menial task, such as to carry a load on the head; their persons were privileged and sacrosanct and they were never molested. It was also customary for the local native police, if sent to apprehend such a person, never to handcuff him.
The scarification was found among men in the Awka-Nri areas and among a few women in the Awgwu and Nkanu areas. Its wearers were authorized to perform ritual cleansing of abominations and to confer titles on people. People with facial marks were regarded as Nri men and were less likely to be taken as slaves.
There are two styles; the Nri style worn in the Awka-Nri areas, and the Agbaja style worn in the Awgwu and Nkanu areas. In the Nri style, the carved line ran from the center of the forehead down to the chin. A second line ran across the face, from the right cheek to the left. This was repeated to obtain a pattern meant to imitate the rays of the sun. In the Agbaja style, circles and semicircular patterns are added to the initial incisions to represent the moon. These scarifications were given to the representatives of the eze Nri; the mbùríchi. The scarifications were Nris’ way of honoring the sun that they worshipped and was a form of ritual purification.

 

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