The Baga believe that the world was created by the god Kanu and that Somtup is the spiritual being created to govern the Simo male initiation society; female societies are governed by a-Bol, the wife of Somtup.
Elekel shrines created to worship Kanu, Somtup and lineage ancestors are stored in the family homes of villagers in an effort to appease ancestors and as a centre for sacrificial offerings in exchange for protection against evil spirits and witchcraft. According to Denise Paulme, "the shrine includes a flywhisk made from a cow's tail, sacred stones, bundles of vines and bark reddened with spit-out juices of kola nuts, enormous snail shells containing powdered leaves and bark mixed with magical ointments, bodies of dead scorpions or claws of crabs. A basket protects the whole assemblage".2 During the rainy season, an elek (meaning 'medicine') head, believed to be a physical representation of Kanu, sits on top of the basket.
The dry harvest season heralds in ceremonies, community festivities and male initiations during which elek heads are taken out and danced. Elek heads are also used during the funerals of lineage heads and other important community leaders.
NOTE: Elek heads are called by a variety of names including a-Tshol, a-Nach, anok, anuk, atiol, masoli, matiwoli, maty uali, kuye and ma-Tshol.