A Ga chant from Ghana. On the eighth day after a child is born, the relatives and friends gather for the ‘out-dooring’ ceremony. Very early in the morning, the baby is brought outside for the first time. An old person takes the baby in his or her arms and raises it to the dew three times. He then chants this prayer, to which everyone present responds Yao, meaning ‘Amen’.

Hail, hail, hail, let happiness come: Yao.
Are our voices one? Yao.
Hail, let happiness come: Yao.
The stranger who has come, his back is towards the darkness: Yao.
His face is towards the light: Yao.
May he work for his father: Yao.
May he work for his mother: Yao:
May he not steal: Yao.
May he not be wicked: Yao.
The children of this family forgive everything that can be forgiven: Yao.
May he eat by the work of his five fingers: Yao.
May he come to respect the world: Yao.
Upon his mother’s head, Life: Yao.
Upon his father’s head, Life: Yao.
If we should join to make up a circle, may our chain be complete: Yao.
If we dig a well may we come upon water: Yao.
If we draw water to bathe our limbs may they be refreshed: Yao.
If we see white may it be white clay: Yao. (1)
If we see black may it be our servant: Yao.
Circumspect Gã, like the blowing wind, be better than your word: Yao.
You see, but you have not seen: Yao. (2)
You hear, but you have not heard: Yao.
A circumspect Gã does not lie: Yao.
If you rest, think about your work: Yao.
Today if any witch or sorcerer is passing
and asks what we are doing and they tell him,
and he says any evil word or wishes that the child lying here shall die,
shall this blessing be to bless him? Oho!
May Wednesday and Sunday kill him: Let him die!
Let us hoot upon his head: Ho-o-o!.
Hail, let happiness come: Yao.
Are our voices one? Yao.
Hail, let happiness come: Yao.

from Religion & Medicine of the Ga People (1937),
by M.J. Field


Footnotes

  1. White clay: Clay of this colour is smeared on the victor of any dispute in the courts as a symbol of innocence and congratulation.
  2. This and the next two lines express the wish that the child may learn to be discreet and not overly-talkative.