Agnatic Customary Rites

Introduction

FFor centuries, the practice was that the people of Winneba did not cohabit after marriage; instead husband and wife resided in separate households. The female household is the “ase ye” where mothers, their sisters and daughters live. This setting constituted the “ebusua” or extended family (hence the family house is “ebusuafie” in Akan). To be a member (ebusuanyi) of this long line of descent you must be related consanguineously to the first woman to have established that household. On his part, the male lived in the male household, the “Prama” (also called “enyi ye”). As the occupants of the prama are agnatic in descent, the eldest among the fathers is by the norm recognized as the head of the family and presides over all matters of the house as well as religious observances, including maintenance of the family (paternal) deity. Like the female household, members of the male household comprising fathers, their brothers and sons, trace their links to a common paternal ancestor. They are referred to as “ise nyebi” (just as egyamba in Akan).

In every ancestral paternal house is a shrine (“buw”). All recognized ancestral prama in Winneba have a resident deity. It is, therefore, instructive to note that the prama is the sacred convergence building where all religious activities of the Effutus take place. When one is to be married, the prama is where the families meet to discuss and finalise the marriage rites. By the same token, when a couple has marital problems, the elders meet there to try and save the marriage or grant a divorce. Furthermore babies on the eighth day are christened by the elders of the prama before sunrise. To day as family lines are getting larger, it has become an accepted practice for an elder from the prama to be moved to the residence of the child’s father to perform the naming ceremony. He then carries the infants name and part of the liquor used in the ceremony back to the prama to convey the information to the other members of the prama. This central role of the father or the patrilineal relation in the life of the people constitutes the tenets of the patrilineal system of inheritance/succession by the Effutus.

“NDAÉ” CUSTOM OF THE EFFUTUS
“Ndae” is the Effutu word for confinement.

Every prama has its own unique form of rites for its members. It is the general practice by members of each patrilineal line to visit the ancestral shrine (“buw tɔ”) at certain set times of the year to offer sacrifices, make requests, and for the deity’s general propitiation. In practice, every Effutu belongs to his or her father’s religious order.

The ndae custom has been a time tested age long tradition practiced by the Effutus.

It is a ritual (‘kusum’) done for women/young girls in particular and men in a particular agnatic household. It is demanded of parents for their children by the deity of the prama compulsorily. It is believed that if such kusum is not done for the children calamities may befall them in their latter life; some of these include bareness, marital problems, failure in business, untold hardship and diseases often leading to deaths in bizarre and mysterious circumstances. It could be repeated on others in the family line particularly the incidence of lack of marriage suitors. The gods can also harass the parents and children if the kusum is overlooked or there is dereliction in its observance. Though male children can go through the ceremony, at times they are exempted or could be confined to the prama which is the venue for the ceremony.

Prama
    1. Buwnsi (Buwekyir in Akan)
  • Piatɔ
  • Adoko ano
  • Gyaaben ano
  • 2. Kwesi Edukoto ebi
  • Kuma ano
  • 3. Bosompreh
Ndae Custom
    Gyanae – (relieve me)
  • do
  • do
  • do
  • Nketekete
  • do
  • Akoo
General “NDAÉ” Rites

Most of these rites are started about six weeks to the celebration of the main festival of the Effutus; the Aboakyer festival. Usually the Ebusua approaches the prama elders of the child and seek permission stating that the maternal family is ready to take the girl through the rites. Permission is then granted, and the ceremony proceeds. Usually a group of girls in the family from the same agnatic family line (prama) go through the rituals at a time. Drinks and food are presented to the prama and time is fixed for the confinement of the participants which ranges between four to eight days depending on the particular prama concerned.

During the period of confinement, the participants are smeared heavily with red palm oil. They are made to come out to bathe in the sea in the evenings only. Counseling on marriage life among others is the main exercise of this period apart from undergoing fattening for beauty. On the final day as they leave for the beach to have the final bath they are pinched on the way with broom sticks and finger nails by onlookers all over the body. It is a must that one has to run to escape this ordeal or the barest minimum of it.

This bath is at the “ɔsenyee” beach at the eastern end of the town (at the time considered outskirts). After the bath, they are paraded on the way home but on reaching the vicinity of the Akramano groove, they are stripped of their clothes, an action that is to signify that they are leaving behind the ills (sins, curses, calamities, etc) of the past. In their semi nudity, they run back home to the delight and shouts from onlookers. In the case of the females, what partly cover their nudeness is the several strings of beads they wear on the waist down to the buttocks. The stripped and shredded clothes are left at the Akramano groove area.

In the case of the “gyanae”, these rites must be performed for virgins only and before they are given out to marriage.

There is an outdooring for the girls. Before then they are all given tribal marks on the cheeks. There is no wake keeping prior to the outdooring. The preparation towards the outdooring takes all night. A lot of cooking is done, all the local dishes are prepared; kenkey (banku), fufu, kokonte and all types of soups and stews. In the morning everyone is allowed to come and buy some of the food for a paltry sum of money but in most cases it is for free. There is generally plenty to give out and to be eaten. The ceremony is accompanied by merry making with the mind set on the fact that the gods have indeed relieved the girls of their religious bondage and can now go into marriage. If the custom is not performed it is believed that the children will still live under religious bondage.

Typically for an outdooring ceremony after all rituals, while merry making is on-gong, the girls are dressed up with different multi-coloured clothes, from waist down to the knees, (necklaces, earrings, rings, bungles and whatever would make them look gorgeous). The upper part of the body is left bare exposing the breast. On the head is the special hairdo called “Tekuwa”. The body is decorated with special greenish ornamental, perfumed clay mixed with gold dust called krobo. A piece of chewing sponge is put between the lips so that she does not engage in conversation with any one. They are then taken out through the neighborhood to greet all and sundry; possible suitors, friends etc. The main song for this parade goes like this:

Kruma o o kruma
Egya enyi e egya ase yie
Puupro o o kruma
Egya enyi e egya ase yie….
meaning “this is a ceremony for both boys and girls; husbands come and make your choices of marriageable partners.”

In the case of their male counterparts, they are made to wear a new male cloth and also go out to greet friends, particularly those who perform the ‘nketekete’ rites. This is open to boys and men only. This greeting continue for a period of a week

“BRεDE”

This is a ceremony performed for a lady who has had an issue before and could not therefore be passed through the normal ndae process. The ceremony does not require confinement; it is assumed that the girl has hastened into marriage (cases of teenage pregnancy). In all other respects, this is similar to the general ceremonies of ndae with the only difference being the quantum of meals prepared and served. It is an expensive customary rite.

“Akoo Customary Rites”

Those who go through this custom are those who hail from the Bosompreh lineage. It is believed that the Parrot from which this custom derives its name (akoo) is outspoken, brave (or bold) and speak with authority. The family members are thought to possess spiritual links with the Pra and Tano Rivers and Lake Bosomtwe (hence the family name Bosompreh) and hence the rites are performed for children of men from these agnatic househlds. The celebrations are done to pacify the deity in the house and to pray for long life and prosperity, successful business and marriage, protection from illness and evil spells. There is no fixed time for this ceremony. The timing goes with the availability of funds from the child’s parents. It is for virgins only and serves as a taboo for a non virgin to attempt to go through this ceremony.

Usually the man for whose children the ceremony is performed pays some money that is used to purchase items to pacify the deity of the prama. Some of the items are: corn dough, plantain, yam, eggs, palm oil, fish and drinks. These items are presented to the prama elders and then shared between the men there to signify their acceptance by the gods; then the ceremony can proceed. Whiles the ceremony is on-going at the prama, the female house of the child is kept busy with the preparation of a number of meals (local dishes already mentioned). A number of people come around to feast with them including community members, friends from far and near.

The celebration lasts for two weeks. The first week starts from a Wednesday and the second week, the ‘Esubo’ week starts from the next Thursday to the next Wednesday. On the first Wednesday, when the ceremony commences, the girls wear beads around their waist, in such numbers as to cover the groin to the buttocks and covering their genitals. They are bare on the chest hence exposing the breasts. Their wrist is decorated with woven raffia fronds (odon) and the hair, decorated with ‘Tekuwa’. A red sea shell is put on their lips to prevent them from talking to any person. They walk bare footed.

They are carried shoulder high by friends who are supposed to be their suitors. When they are paraded out the first shrine-of-call is the Otuano house. They hence recognize the lead role of the Otu deity in Winneba and to seek permission for the ceremony they are about to be taken through. There, they are given a mat to sit on whiles drumming and dancing goes on. People who follow them pinch them, often getting out of control and resulting in weeping. From the Otuano house, all other homes where Akoo is celebrated are visited returning home in the evening. Though a lot of food is served all through the ceremony, the only food served on the fist day is banana.

After the first day, the celebrants change their dressing; they appear in white calico as underwear but leaving the beads in place. They have a twice daily bath in the sea at the ɔsenyee beach, after which they are smeared with white chalk (ifey). They are kept indoors but friends are permitted to come and chat with them.

A day before the end of the first week rites, the celebrants visit home of all males who had come there to offer gifts, collect their dirty clothes for washing, starching and return them in the evening well folded and packed. On the final day, libation is poured at dawn and the celebrants are allowed to come out. They are each led to their mother’s home, called egyaase, where food is served to all who come along.

On the second week beginning the next Thursday, they are taken to a special woman who prepares the Tekuwa for them. Generally, they are dawned with expensive clothing including silk and velvet, with jewelry. They visit and shake hands with all friends and well-wishers in town, including strangers. People shower praises on them for having been able to go through the period of self denial. This hand-shaking goes on for three days. The final component is the esubo.

The esubo is the completion of the ceremony to pacify the prama deity/god. During this second week, each celebrant is made to dress in an all-white attire on the day of her birth heavily decorated with ornamental beads and silver jewelry as well as with the tekuwa hair-do. Special libation is poured for them invoking the gods for good husbands and successful marriage with children, successful businesses and others for a better life. This is performed for all celebrants on each other’s day of birth and the ceremony is deemed to have been completed. On the last day, the ornaments and decorations are removed from them and are now free to go. Those who do not go through this are expected to be visited by the wrath of the gods which their ancestors worshiped.

The Twin Birth Rites

This is not an agnatic rite; it is an exception as its observance cuts across the spectrum of families of the Effutu people. It is similar to the festival of Akomase. It is believed that twins are sacred; their birth is associated with some spiritual connotations that affect them, their parents and clan as a whole. It is the norm that with the birth of twins this ceremony must be performed to provide a special protection for them. Others believe that twins possess spiritual powers and that the rites when performed enable them fit into society. There is also the general belief that these rites bring goodwill and financial gains to twins while protecting them against evil spirits.

The special twin rites are performed before the Akomase festival. This festival is celebrated between the first and second weeks of August. The celebrations are seen to be organized from one suburb to another suburb. There is no age limit for the commencement of these rites for twins. Some start as early as six months. The rituals come in stages. At whatever age parents decide to commence these rites, the father provides a ram which is slaughtered before the two families (paternal and maternal) and used for a meal for the twins to enjoy.

The head and the hide of the animal are reserved and dried. A piece of white calico is provided which forms the background for a fetish to be prepared and hanged at the paternal house of the twins. Some special herbs including raffia are woven and hanged with it. Hanging on it are two pouches made out of raffia in which money (only coins) and cowries are placed. Usually older twins in the household can participate. In general the ceremonies are directed by an elder of the house or in a situation where there is a priest or priestess, he or she directs affairs. From then on libation is poured to this fetish annually.

Thereafter, an annual feast is held for the twin fetish in the prama. A ram and two fowls are slaughtered to propitiate the twin fetish. Sumptuous meals are prepared with them and given to family and friends. The meal for the twin rites consist of yam and eggs. The yam is cooked and divided into two parts. Half is mixed with red oil and the other left white. Eggs are cooked and the shells removed and placed on the meal (etɔ). Portions of both are picked and placed on the fetish prepared for the twins and some sprinkled around. It is after this ceremony that the twins then eat that meal. At the end of the celebration, the leftovers of the meals are carried and sent to the ɔsenyee beach to be thrown into the sea. They sing the song for twin rites and the twins are clad in white calico at the waist and the garbage in a white tray.

Twin rites can be discontinued, in most cases following Christian indoctrination. The priest/priestess is called in after the last of the rites to invoke the spirits and to provide the meal and drinks. After this the entire twin fetish hanging on the wall is brought down. In a few cases, it is learnt that this is burnt and rings are made for the twins. They then attend church and that ends the annual ritual of making sacrifices and taking of the special meal that goes with it.