There are many things that I would like to express about the Akan Protocols. But I feel that I need to discuss the protocols around possession, and the rationale that I have come to through my experience as a priestess. Additionally, I must mention that I am a mental health professional. This makes me even more keen about the protocol and its importance as it relates to Okom.
I believe there is a term in the Twi language, that says, ” I have been overtaken.” It is reference to the overtaking that happens when the Abosom take us, and I believe from this is derived the word “Okom” and the word “Okomfo” one who is overtaken.
Let me be clear, I am not a master of the Twi language, so in terms of the language, I am minimally adept, and anyone who is more trained and studied can correct me on this one.
I am also of the impression, that the Akwasidae festival becomes Okom, when possession happens. Therefore, anytime, there is a possession that can be equated as Okom. Additionally, the pre-requisite for becoming a priestess in the Akan tradition is one’s ability to be”taken or overwhelmed by the Abosom.
In that vein, I say give this metaphor. If anyone is familiar with the GPS systems that get us from one place to another, then we know they are guided by Satellites. We place them in our cars and are able to get from point “a” to point “b”. I will use this scenario to explain why protocols in relation to possessions are extremely important.
Let’s picture the Satellite as the all seeing Almighty, the GPS as the Abosom and the driver as the initiate and the co-pilot as the one who attends to the initiate and/or person who has been “overtaken” by the Abosom. From here it should be easy to see the angle that I am taking.
Almighty God, OnyaneKrupon, Twaideampong is the seer and knower of all things (like a GPS sees the road/world). It gives the Abosom messages to convey to us. The Abosom give us messages to follow, or directions, as it were. The initiate is the person who must read these messages; follow the directions and deliver the vehicle to its appropriate destination. Additionally, the co-pilot must assist the initiate in receiving and conveying the messages. While the co-pilot, must be willing to be very flexible it is important that the co-pilot is completely aware of what is being conveyed from the Obosom.
The Okomfo must be trained on how to hear and express the directions from Almighty God. If the Okomfo is not trained properly, then the message may be incorrect or askew and may result in the directions leading to the “so-called wrong place.” This training is quite extensive. Anyone learning to drive must know all the instructions needed to pass the driving test. Additionally, the Okomfo must know the urgency and importance of being able to drive properly so as to bring no one, including themselves into any danger.
The assistant and/or co-pilot must be able to do all that is needed so that the Okomfo (driver) is able to navigate through to the appropriate destination. This takes training as well. For to have someone to sit there offering no interaction with the Okomfo will not facilitate the appropriate arrival, and or message being given.
I say all this because, too many times, we are faced with resistance to following the appropriate protocols for the carrying of the Abosom. We must do this in the right fashion as to not cause damage to the Okomfo, the assistant to the Okomfo or to the vehicle in which they are both driving. The vehicle can be perceived in this instance as the Okomfo’s physical body, while the driver can be perceived as the Okomfo’s inner body…..
With this in mind, it is important that the inner body-mind does not separate from or lose control of the physical body. Again, the many protocols attached to possession, keep this from happening. I cannot stress the need for anyone who possesses to make sure they follow the appropriate protocols, so that they do not injure themselves, mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually, or anyone else for that matter. Again, I cannot stress the importance of this.
Too often, when we witness Okom, we see it as a show, people are doing various things that may appear to be entertaining. I do not need to describe those things as I am sure we are all aware of what they are. However, possession is not a game, nor is it a show. So the protocols provide the seriousness we need to navigate through the possession so that no one is harmed.
Also, if anyone feels they are about to possess and they have not been initiated, it is strongly urged that you get to a priest/ess that you trust, who can help you take care of the spirit. It has been my experience that without these safeguards/protocols, people are seriously injured and it may take years to correct the damage. In fact, if you observe some people whom we commonly call “insane” you may find that they simply have not had the assistance they needed in navigating through the possession, and are caught in it. And when you add psychotropic drugs to the mix we find a person who is mentally incapable of taking care of their spiritual entity in the appropriate way.
At the risk of sounding “preachy” I again urge everyone to take special heed to the protocols surrounding possession and to seek out assistance if those protocols are unclear.
The appropriate protocols cannot be listed here, as there are too many Abosom, and too many protocols that must be utilized in each case. But as people who are spiritually guided by the Akan Abosom, it is important to find out from a reputable source what these are. We cannot quibble about the do’s and don’ts because we do not have an Akan Manual. Nor do I feel that such a manual is appropriate outside of each individual Shrine house. More importantly, we need to be respectful of the protocols that are presented as well as be forgiven when we make a mistake in ignorance. At this point in our development, we cannot expect one person from one Shrine house to know the exact protocols from another. Thus it is extremely important to train our shrine house members and have them available to do the proper things for the Shrines. We must train them openly and freely. We must have in mind that things are subject to change and be flexible if the Shrine requests something else. We must be willing to ebb and flow with the knowledge we have and put forth the effort to do our very best in every circumstance. We must be aware that the psychological impact on anyone carrying the Abosom is extensive and carry ourselves in a serious manner. We must be willing to get help when we need it. This may require that we swallow our pride, or even become an on the job teacher as we may have to train someone in the moment.
Too often, possession has been viewed as primitive. So called scholars come to the village and quip about the “silly things” (mumbo jumbo) that they view. But our African Ancestors knew what was needed to make sure that no silly game is being played. I must say that from my experience, the protocols governing how we interact with the Abosom is the most comprehensive process I have ever witnessed. It shows the wisdom and the highly evolved intelligence of our Akan Ancestors.
I hope this post has given everyone some food for thought and that others will contribute.
Adade Kofi Bosomfie Sankofa, Philadelphia
Source: Akans of America
Follow Up Question -
So how does a priest/ priestess know for sure that the message they are conveying are correct and not skewed.
This is a very important question. In the Akan Spiritual Tradition our Priest/Priestess are trained for three years on how to possess the Abosom correctly. This is most important, especially in terms of the mental health of the person carrying the Abosom.
There are several key signs that the elder priest/ess look for to determine the genuineness, and authenticity of the Obosom who is speaking through or coming through an individual. Our Ancient ancestors in their wisdom set up a series of protocols that must be followed in order to maintain the health of the community that is witnessing the possession as well as the health of the person carrying the Obosom.
If these protocols are followed consistently, the individual Okomfowa, trainee, will learn how to remove themselves from the possession and allow the Deity to give it’s message unskewed. Again, this takes several years of training which our priest/ess are subjected to before they are graduated.
In the Akan Spiritual Tradition, the Okomfo has a great job to do. No one can be a priest/ess or be called Okomfo until they have possessed and which indicates that they have been called by the Abosom to do their great work. While an individual may long to possess, if this does not happen, then they will not be trained to be priest/ess. Therefore the training around possession is essential to priesthood and places one in the position of carrying on this great work.
In the state of possession the individual is a conduit and representative of the Obosom they are carrying. In that vein, they must, with all seriousness be aware of the importance of being the best representative they can be or bare the consequences. Again, while it may appear entertaining to those who witness possessions, and it may give the feeling of euphoria to the person who is possessed, we cannot step away from the seriousness of this responsibility. We must put forward and follow the appropriate protocols that are indicated for each possession
I must say that this training may vary from shrine house to shrine house, however, I must also say that there is no doubt in the seriousness of doing this properly and I do believe that every elder Akan priest/ess applies this protocol to each person they are responsible for training. In the tradition, if the elder does not train their godchildren properly, then they are responsible to Almighty God, the Abosom, the Ancestors, the trainee as well as to themselves. In fact, it has been a tradition that the graduated priest/ess give their first three trainees to their Godmother/father before they are allowed to initiate anyone into the priesthood. This allows the graduate priest to observe and participate in how priesthood trainings are done and clarifies the appropriate process for training an individual to be a priest/ess.
I hope this has given you some clarity.