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Two Women Seated as Ghanaian Priestesses

Thu, Sep 25, 2008

Culture, News, Traditional Afrikan

Two Women Seated as Ghanaian Priestesses

BY CYNTHIA A. ROBY

Monday, 17 March 2008
Two Jamaican-born, South Florida women recently were seated on wooden stools during Akom Yie, a ceremony recognizing each one of them as a graduate Okomfo (priest) in the African religion of Akom. The stools are specific to the Akan people of Ghana.

As Akomfo (the plural of Okomfo), Akua Bakofoa, also known as Nyoka Samuels, and Afua Fofie, also known as Carol L. Miller, can take their training back to the Akan communities and perform services, rituals and other rites of passage.

Afua means a “female born on Friday’’; Akua means a “female born on Wednesday.’’

The two women have also adopted Akan last names.

The stools have different symbols.

Okomfo Fofie’s stool has the Sankofa symbol.

The Sankofa symbol, a bird with its head turned backwards, taking an egg off its back, represents the idea that one must take from the past what is good, and bring it into the present to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge.

Okomfo Bakofoa’s stool has the Dwennimmen symbol, which is patterned after ram’s horns.

Ram’s horns symbolize humility together with strength. According to west African beliefs, rams fight fiercely against their adversaries, but they also submit humbly to slaughter, emphasizing that even the strong need to be humble.

The placement of the priests in training on the wooden stools during the Oct. 28 ceremony at Markham Park in Sunrise honored them as graduates.

The event followed three years of intense study and sacrifice – including celibacy, isolation from friends and going without foods that contain sugar.

“It’s like a certification noting the completion of their studies,” explained Nana Mena Yaa of Pembroke Pines, chief priest for the Nana Adade Shrine in South Florida and supervisor of the event. “Their years of study, both here and in Ghana, equal that of a university.”

Different shrines in Ghana are attended during the last stages of an Okomfo’s studies in order to focus on a specialty, Nana Yaa said.

After the ceremony, Bakofoa and Fofie, following one of many Akom rituals, took a seven-day vow of silence, and were unavailable for comment.

The Akom Yie could not begin until the senior graduate priests were present and seated on their nyansa (wisdom) stools.

Nyansa is an Akan word comprising nya and nsa, meaning that which is obtained and is never exhausted.

The nyansa stools, often draped in sheepskin for transporting, are used by many seniors, as they represent wise, older people, Nana Yaa said.

Sample Image“It does not say that we are wise now, but that we are constantly students of life; working toward wisdom,” she said.

The oldest person present, who is also a parent of one of the priests, must give permission for the ceremony to officially begin.

“This is a significant part of the culture,” said Nana Yaa.

The ceremony rituals began with Nana Yaa pouring libations (drinks) onto the ground as a sacrifice to honor the ancestors.

“I was feeding my own spirit as well,” Nana Yaa said about pouring libations on her own back.

Participants pay homage to the ancestors by giving them the first taste of libation before the living consume it, Nana Yaa added.

The aspect of divine messaging was clear when the spirits were called into the bodies of Bakofoa and Fofie. They moved with a sweeping force to clean the sacred space symbolically delineated with powder.

Their necks and wrists adorned with glass beads represented that they are Akomfo, and no longer training priests.

Some spirits and deities are believed to mount some of their priests during special rituals, Nana Yaa explained about the vigorous movements and trans-like state of the Akomfo while in the sacred circle.

The Akomfo are moved deeply by such spirits, similar to the way a person is involuntarily moved to action during the most intense part of a church service. Such enchantment in the Akom Yie is usually induced by drumming and dancing.

Bakofoa embodied the deity Nana Asuo Gyebi.

“The powder on her face helps to create the sacredness of that merger that has taken place,” said Nana Yaa. “She [Nana Asuo Gyebi] came out to greet the people; Bakofoa’s body was the vessel, a port for that divine energy.”

The knife held by Bakofoa during this ritual was a designed manifestation of that spirit, Nana Asuo Gyebi.
Fofie embodied the deity Nana Sankofa.

“We all carry the spirit,” Nana Yaa said. “That’s how we move, think; know what we like and don’t like.

“Wind, for example, is always as we see it outside, blowing and moving trees. That same wind can merge with our spirit and create a certain kind of energy even within a human being. We will move and look different at that time. It’s important to recognize that that fusion of energy has a healing effect on our community.”

When the spirits left their bodies during the ceremony, the Akomfo walked and moved normally.

Abenaa Mensah of Port St. Lucie attended the Akom Yie in support of the Akomfo, even though she does not know them personally.

“My family is very religious; my grandfather was an Okomfo in Jamaica,’’ Mensah said. “As a family, we still follow many of the Akan traditions. I support all ceremonies and respect the sacrifice and training required for this to happen.”

Photos by Sasha Metellus

(Source: Florida Times)

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. derek offei Says:

    hi am derek from ghana and want studens who are akomofo and want to help the people and the tradional religion thus akom to stand and have respect for all mankind, to under a project which will help win more souls for the africa traditon in Ghana.thank you and hpoe to hear from you soon.

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