A new poem by Ghanaian poet, Adjei Agyei-Baah, narrating the initiation rituals followed by traditional priests among the Akan and Guan peoples in Ghana.
The Ghanaian animist traditions attribute supernatural entities residing deep in the forests as having kidnapped humans and taught them the secrets of herbal medicines. The initiation into priesthood aims to recreate this experience as the priest learns the language of the dwarfs, to converse with them and gain their knowledge. (1)
I was told they would come
When the old priest had joined the sleepers;
They would surely come for me
Once my umbilical cord remained buried in their grove.
For the gods always find their earthly voice
And patiently, I waited for the call.
I was told about the messengers’ visit
With a voice
Only the chosen could hear;
These powerful midgets and their miraculous manifestations
Feet back-to-front and sweeping beards.
I honored their call with reverence
Lest I chose madness over greatness.
And so they came
Crossed my path where the rival streams paired up
And ferried me across in their boat of whirlwinds
They fed me on sisal leaves and made me sleep on grating boughs
Till my tongue found a new song in the bitterness of their potion
And I returned in dotted spots of clay with a cow tail in my hand
Ready to lead my people down the uncrooked path of the gods.
by Adjei Agyei-Baah
- See the article “Ancestors and the traditional priesthood (Akom) of the Akan and Guan peoples” for more information.
- Kofi Awoonor (13 March 1935 – 21 September 2013) was a Ghanaian poet, professor of comparative literature and served as an ambassador for Ghana. Awoonor’s grandmother was an Ewe dirge singer and his early poetry was rooted in the Ewe oral traditions. Awoonor also published translations of the work of three Ewe dirge singers (Guardians of the Sacred Word: Ewe Poetry, 1973).
Adjei Agyei-Baah is the author of Afriku (Red Moon Press, 2016), Ghana, 21 Haiku (Mamba Africa Press, 2017), Piece of My Fart (2018), Finding the Other Door (Mamba Africa Press, 2021) Mamelon a Mamelon (Edition Unicite, 2021) and Scaring Crow (Buttonhook Press, 2022. Adjei is the primary author of the four Haikupedia articles about African haiku. He is the co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network and The Mamba (Africa’s premiere haiku journal). He teaches English and Literature at the University of Ghana’s School of Continuing and Distance Education and is currently pursuing his PhD studies at the University of Waikato.