A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE TRADITIONAL AKAN RELIGION in AMERICA
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AKANS IN AMERICA
In 1965, the late Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu I, whose research had revealed to him that his ancestors came from Ghana, traveled to the Akonedi Shrine in Ghana for an oracular consultation, which was done by Okomfohemmaa Nana Akua Oparebea's mother. Nana Dinizulu was directed to his ancestral home through divination. He was completely overwhelmed. He was initiated and upon his return brought to the USA, Nana Asuo Gyebi, Esi Ketewaa and Adade Kofi shrines. In 1967, he established the traditional African religious and cultural organization, Bosum Dzemawodzi in New York.
In 1971, the late Nana Dinizulu requested, received and established the Akonedi Shrine in the U.S.A. Nana Dinizulu was given the titles of Omanhene and Okomfohene of Akans in America, as he was the first to introduce Africans born in America (African Americans) to the Deities of Ghana, West Africa. He invited Okomfohemmaa Nana Akua Oparebea to visit the USA.
In 1971, Okomfohemma Nana Akua Oparebea accepted the invitation and traveled to America. Once here she established Nana Asuo Gyebi, Esi Ketewaa and Tegare shrines in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, California and Toronto, Canada. When returning to Ghana, she took young men and women to train at the Akonedi Shrine at Larteh . She taught Nana Dinizulu how to train Okomfo (traditional Priests and Priestesses) to serve the Deities. Since that time, many other Shrines and Deities have been brought to America by other Akomfo who were trained in Larteh, at other Shrines in Ghana, and by accomplished Akomfo in the USA.
Akomfo serve the Deities by following their guidance and heeding their taboos. Akomfo receive divination, healing, interpretation, discerning and other powers from the Deities. The Akomfo take on the characteristics of the Deities when possessed and are able to dance, sing and relay messages from the Abosom. After a number of years of formal training (usually three (3) or more), the Akomfo are able to establish their own Houses.
THE RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
PART I: The Supreme Being
By tradition, Africans on the continent have a firm belief in the Supreme and Almighty God. So it is with those of us in the Diaspora who follow Akan Akom Tradition which is indigenous to Ghana, West Africa and is also found in Ivory Coast, Togo, the Congo, the Caribbean as well as here in the United States. Akans believe that God is the supreme, uncreated, self-existent being in whom all things end up, upon whom all things are dependent. God is everywhere but also far away beyond the reach of humans. We know Him by many appellations such as Otweidiampon, Okokroko, Onyame, Awurade, Odomankoma-the One who can give us grace, Nyankopon, Asasse Yaa-Mother earth, pure, unpolluted, motherly, protective, fruitful---He is the Great one, the dependable One, Eternal, Infinite, the Mighty of Mighties, transcending everything, able to satisfy, Aja -our Father, Awurade-our Lord, our King, our Judge.
PART II: The Abosom (Lessor Gods)
Despite this firm conviction, the traditional Ghanaian does not worship God directly. God is too unique. Besides the Supreme Being, we believe that there exists in our world a world of spirits. We believe that Spirits are everywhere. The Supreme Being is the father and creator of those spirits. We believe that these spirits are ministers of the Supreme Being. They are known as the lesser gods, in that they have no power unto themselves but the power is from the Supreme Being. They however are able to work independently, doing the good work of healing and protecting the people who worship them. These lessor gods have a generic name which is different from the names given to the Supreme Being. They are called Abosom(plural) or Obosom (singular) and sometimes referred to as the Deities. These spirits are embodied in the wind, rivers, oceans, streams, trees, mountains, rocks, animals, and other objects. Through the Abosom, we receive blessings, prosperity, protection from dangers and difficulties, direction and guidance for all aspects of our lives, and much more. The role of the Abosom in the traditional Akan religion, therefore, is great.
In Ghana, there are a multiplicity of Abosom, some rated very high, well known, well organized, very popular, effective and flourishing. Following is a brief list of some of the popular ones.
Akonedi, Nana Akonedi, Akonedi Abena. Her shrine is at Larteh Kubease, in a Sacred house, sacred groves and sacred streams. She meets out justice and gives the final decision in difficult disputes related to chieftancy, hierarchy, property, land, family and other major issues.
Nana Asuo Gyebi is a very popular ancient river Deity originally from Northern Ghana who traveled and resides in Larteh as well as other places throughout Ghana. He is a male Obosom who is a protector and a great healer. It is said that he came to the United States to help the lost children of Africa reclaim their spiritual past.
Nana Esi Ketewaa is a deified elderly female ancestor who died in childbirth. She is originally from the Central Region of Ghana. She is a protector of children and women seek her protection during and after childbirth. Nana Esi declares that we "are all her children".
Nana Adade Kofi is a male Bosom of strength and perseverance and is from the Guan area of Ghana. Nana Adade Kofi's sword is used to swear oaths of allegiance. He is the Obosom of iron, metals and is a warrior.
Tegare is the general name for a system of Deities from the Northern section of Ghana and is a very popular deity throughout Ghana. Nana Tegare is a hunter who seeks truth, exposes witches, liars, thieves and evil doers. He is a healer who is very skilled in the identification and use of herbs.
Tano is the general name for several gods which have their origin in the Tano River. These unusual and special river gods are very ancient and powerful. Their purpose is to maintain family, social and national order. They are great healers of psychic-spiritual, emotional-mental, physical and social illnesses.
Nana Obo Kwesi is a war Obosom from the Fante region of Ghana. He is a healer, assists with the need for money and abhors evil doers.
Mmoetia is a system of dwarfs who have traveled and settled throughout Ghana. They live in the forest and are quite proficient in the use of herbs. They specialize in working with nature spirits for healing body, mind and spirit and to address personal, family, social, financial and environmental issues. They can be playful, mischievous generally, or very cruel to evil doers and those who try to ignore them. They are considered the spiritual gatekeepers.
PART III: The Nsamanfo (Ancestors)
The ancestors form an important part of the Traditional Akan religion. The Ancestors are also known as the Nsamanfo or Old People or Ancient People. They have a prominent place in the thinking and religious practices of our people. Akans believe in life after death therefore when a person's body dies their spirit lives on. The ancestors are feared. At the same time, they are loved and respected; they are believed to be everywhere. They are not approached as gods. The Nsamanfo (Ancestors) are honored and appeased because they are forever watching and protecting us. We believe that they are in close contact with the Supreme Being thus we can call on them for assistance.
One of the most important ways in which our ancestors are honored is through the many festivals that we celebrate to remember them. Akwasidae is a major festival that is held in a cycle of every 40-42 days. It is always on a Sunday. The traditional Akan community often have special events to commemorate Akwasidae such as Akoms which is a traditional worship service with drumming, singing and dancing the ancient songs and rhythms of our ancestors. Every Akan family also sets aside this day to celebrate their family ancestors in other special ways.
Copyright ©2001 Akua Kyerewaa Opokuwaa