The Akwamu people initiated many of the traditional festivals celebrated by the Akan peoples of Ghana. As a result of the prominent role they played in the political and economic developments in the early European contact with the peoples of West Africa, many ethnic groups in the coastal and forest regions adopted some of the essential elements of Akwamu cultural festivals and adapted them to suit their own political and spiritual needs. In his book Festivals of Ghana, Professor A.A. Opoku presents a detailed account of many festivals celebrated by the Akan people and other ethnic groups. Two of such festivals relevant to Akwamu history and culture are extracted from Professor Opoku’s book for the purpose of deepening knowledge about the pivotal role played by the Akwamu people in the history of Ghana. He emphasizes the importance of celebration of festivals as thus:
“At a time when the need for money is forcing Ghanaians
to leave their towns and villages to look for work elsewhere,
the festivals offer the best opportunity to go back to our heritage,
renew old ties and draw inspiration for the future”
Opoku A.A.’ Festivals of Ghana, Ghana Publishing Corporation, Accra,1970 The following are excerpts from Prof. Opoku’s book.
The Akan calendar year is divided into nine cycles of forty days called Adae. The adae, however, does not merely mark a period in time, but it is also observed as a special day of worship. It is the day on which the chief and his elders go to the place where the sacred stools are kept. The spirits of the departed chiefs, it is believed, rest in the stools kept for them after their death. These stools are blackened with soot and the yolk of eggs to make them last longer. They are sometimes wrapped in camel-hair blankets and laid on their sides in the dark room called nkonguafieso or stool-house. Only chiefs who do well in office are honoured in this way because the Akan say "it is the good spirit that deserves the feast of sheep".
The sacred stool has two uses. It is the shrine into which the spirit, or soul, of good chiefs, may again be called upon to enter on special occasions such as the Adae. It is also a means by which we can tell the number of chiefs that have ruled over the tribe. Perhaps you know someone called Adae. The word means a resting-place. It is the name of the special day on which we are allowed to go into the room where the spirits of our forefathers rest. We shall soon see what the chief and his elders go to do at the nkonguafieso. In the meantime let us find out how the Adae is reckoned.
There are two types of Adae observed in every one of the nine cycles mentioned earlier on. These are the Sunday Adae, known as Akwasidae and the Wednesday Adae called Awukudae.
The period between one Sunday adae and the next is 40 days. The Awukudae or Wednesday adaes are also separated by the same period. The Wednesday cidcies come between the Sunday ones. There are 23 days between a Sunday adae and the Wednesday adae that comes after it, but the gap between a Wednesday adae and the Sunday one following it is 17 days.
We have already mentioned that adae means a resting or sleeping place. The main rites in the adae festival are observed in the stool-house or room.
The Akan live with the spirits of their dead. They believe that the souls of their dead relatives are still near to them and they call upon them in times of trouble. They ask for their guidance and make them offers of drinks and eggs, chicken and sheep.
On adae days, water, food, meat, and rum are taken to the shrines. The dead are then invited to continue to help those over whom they ruled when they were alive. Not all people are allowed into the stool-house. Only those who perform the rites and a few who are related to the chief go there. Of those who go in, only the chief and the royal princes wear their sandals. We shall return to the rites that are performed in the stool house, but let us go back to the preparations for the Adae.
The day immediately before the adae is called Dapaa. There is the Saturday that comes before the Sunday adae, called Memeneda Dapaa. The Tuesdaypreceding the Wednesday adae is also called Benada Dapaa. Children born on the dapaa days are called Dapaa just as those born on adae days are called Adae. The Dapaa is the day of preparation for the Adae.
Foodstuffs, firewood, water, drinks, chicken, sheep, eggs and all the articles required for the celebration of the Adae are brought home on the Dapaa. On Adae days, no work or travel may be done except duties connected with the celebration.
The Dapaa is also the time for tidying up the house and its surroundings. Villages and towns and wells and footpaths leading to them are also cleaned.
There is much activity at the chief's house. Attendants and stool-carriers scrub the white stools and calabashes needed for the Adae celebration. The hornblowers and state drummers also busy themselves tuning the instruments which they will use to usher in the Adae in the evening of the Dapac. At sundown, when all the preparations are complete, the drummers assemble at the chief's house and drum till late in the night,
Only a few people are allowed to enter the stool house with their sandals on.
On the adae day, the "Divine Drummer", that is the chief's principal drummer, rises early in the morning and drums the following piece, (the words vary from place to place):
Cheng, cheng, cheng, heng, heng, heng,
Ofuruntum tree, tweneboa tree,
Tall drummer Amponua the Gunpowder.
Great Dwora and Nnummire Akurampn String,
Obua Kwaku, the drummer's wedge and prop,
Divine Drummer says: I have bestirred myself.
Mighty and Valiant Akoto,
When the Creator created things What did he create?
He created the Ohene,
He created the court-crier,
He created the drummer,
He created Kwafo Akoto,
the Mighty One
That feeds on human heads.
He found two, three little birds; Which part of me would you have for meat?
Akoto will have my middle part. Odeneho Kwafo Akoto the fearful one,
Mighty King of Akwamu, the
I salute you sir,
I bid you "Good adae dawn." Great Nyankomago will return the Divine Drummer;
Great Nyankomago came in company of the Divine Drummer:
Okotommirifa Gyanadu the fair coloured one,
Ampasakyi that swallows the phant,
Elephant that breaks the axe,
Elephant, the Divine Drummer says
He has bestirred himself at dawn,
This early, early, early morn
The hooked stick that bends and pulls
The thicket and thorny climbers;
Won't you come and join with me in play?
King that captures kings,
Go fetch me drink,
Fetch me rum that I may drink.
An hour or so after this awakening call, the drummer again calls the chief in the following message:
Great and Valiant Akoto,
I am off to Nsuo Forao,
I am going to the stool house Where room encloses the room.
King of hosts
Who is ever sought for an ally in the battle
Benevolent great killer
Vanguard amongst equals
Dread of the old and the young
Grandson of Agyen Kobobo of the Aduana Clan
He that balances the keg of gunpowder upon his head
And somersaults over the flames, He that bends the sword with ease Out, and come with me!
Out, and come with me!
This soon brings the chief and those of his people who are to enter the stool house. The ritual in this "Holy of Holies" begins with the pouring of a calabash full of water at the entrance to the room by the chief stool attendant. By this, he invites the spirits to come out and wash their hands to prepare for the feast to which they will presently be invited.
Ritual food of mashed yam or plantain is then brought into the room. The chief stool attendant or steward takes ladlefuls of this and hands it to the chief. The chief, in turn, moves from one sacred stool to the other and places portions of the food upon them. He begins with the first stool of the dynasty and ends with the one immediately preceding him in office. While performing this rite, the chief slips off his sandals and tucks his cloth around his waist as a sign of respect for his lords. For the same reason, he dresses in an old cloth, usually adinkra or kuntunkuni.
While placing the food upon the stools, the chief says:
Spirits of my grandsires,
Today is Adae;
Come and receive this food
And visit Us with prosperity;
Permit the bearers of children to bear children;
Grant health to your servant;
Grant health to the Queen Mother; Grant health to the Nation.
Let no evil come upon the town; To him who wishes evil
Let evil fall upon himself.
At the end of each line of the prayer,
the hornblower blows his horn in praise of the ancestors. He recalls their great deeds to remind the ruling chief of what is expected of him.
When the spirits of the departed chiefs have had their meal, the remainder of the ritual food is taken outside the stool room and sprinkled in the courtyard for the spirits of the dead courtiers and attendants.
At this stage, one attendant carries in a sheep upon his shoulders. On certain special occasions, say on the Adae K€se or Big Adae, the sheep is carried before the stools by the chief himself as a sign of high respect. This is the most impressive part of the ceremony.
The sheep is slaughtered, that is to say, the throat is cut and the blood collected into a wooden bowl. This is smeared on the Seats of the stools. Meanwhile, the chief and his elders retire to the courtyard of the stool house. The attendants follow them later with what remains of the sheep's blood and use it to mark the chest and forehead of the chief and all present.
The sheep is then flayed and choice parts are cut up, skewered and roasted on a fire made in the courtyard. Pieces of the fat from the entrails are pasted on the centre props of the sacred stools and the head and parts of the intestines are placed before the stools. The skewered meat is placed Upon the stools. This, however, does not complete the courses of this ritual feast. The Queen Mother prepares fufu with the rest of the meat and places it before the stools. No salt is put into the food. I suppose you know why. The belief is that spirits do not eat salt. They prefer their food to be saltless.
When the final course of the meal is set before the stools, an attendant rings a bell to signify that the spirits are eating. Rum is now poured upon all the stools by the chief stool attendant and the rest is passed round to all present. The offerings remain upon the stools till late in the evening when all but the pieces of fat are removed.
The ritual in the stool house over, the chief retires finally to the main courtyard. By now all the lesser chiefs and those of his subjects who have come to wish him "adae morn" have assembled. The drums beat and the horns flourish till dusk when the celebration comes to an end.
In most Akan states the ninth or final Adae, usually referred to as Adae Kese, is observed as the state festival or Odwira. This festival, which covers an entire week marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.