I was invited to watch a couple of the days of their funeral processions here. It was the 2nd and 3rd day of it I believe…I don’t have my notes with me, but the name was something like Kobwaat. I came to the family’s compound in the morning, with a bottle of Apatechi (the local fire water…tastes like moonshine). My friend helped me present the offering to the elders and we all had a shot, or two. It was nice to sit with the elders in my community, not understand each other, but still enjoy each other’s company…maybe the Apatechi had something to do with it. Anyway, after drinking that and some pito (another locally made beverage, lower alcohol, made from millet), we were prepared some local food. The woman who made it were the daughters of the house who have married. They had to come back to cook the food…which they were then beat for cooking outside, where the men were about to consult the soothsayer. They wern’t beat, in a violent fashion, it is just part of tradition. They laughed and giggled while it went on…maybe the Apatechi again. So when they all got their things back inside the compound, we, the men, gathered around the shrines to the ancestores and waited for the soothsayers to consult the spririts. The one sooth sayer emptied out is bag, which was an assortment of bones, monkey hands, thimbles, and I think I even saw a car lighter. He then blew his horn to summon the spirits, while the other soothsayer prepared the area for his cane to strike. The one held the top of the cane, the other the bottom. The one holding the top would ask questions, and if the cane came down on the iron slate set down, it was true, if it came down on the ground, false. The cane also would point to people, and far off villages every once in a while. I thought it pointed to me at one point, but my friend explained it was acknowledging the village behind me. The process is to figure the cause of death. At the end, it was found that the man died because he traveled far from home, and didn’t make many trips back, so his body wore down. The elders slit a chicken’s throat…if it landed breast up, what the soothsayers said was true, if on its side, they would need to consult the spirits again because they misread the signs.
After that, the family (sons, daughters, wife, sisters, brothers, mother, and if the father was alive, him too) came out to have their heads shaved and the woman had ropes tied around their necks (to be taken off on the last day of the funeral). This is when it became more real to me. Before, it had seemed as just process, not much emotion involved…just going through the motions. But as soon as the women’s heads were shaved, they broke down…the man was just 28 or so. It was sounds that made even the elders solumn. We sat in silence for a while. Then the elders had a meeting, about current matters, so I was dismissed.
That night, I came back for the killing of the fowl. My friend, David, told me to give him some money for a chicken, so I did. When I arrived, he presented me with my chicken to sacrifice. Poor thing was no bigger than my hand, beak to anus. I asked if he/she was too young, but everyone said it was fine. As I approached the shrine to present the bird to the elder who was chopping them, I felt ashamed and embarrased…poor little guy. He was the smallest sacrificed that night. My indifference wore hard on me that night…I felt guilty for not speaking up more and saying that the fowl was too young to be killed…but I was the outsider, and didn’t want to trample on their traditions. After the sacrifices, I was told to come back in the morning for more pito and food.
My friend Kat joined me (she is the fellow PCV in a village not far from my site) for the food and drink the next morning. We were given a large fowl to eat, and much pito. It was a great breakfast. I have already eaten the head of a chicken here (it is not bad…actually most Ghanaian’s favorite part, usually saved for the children because the brain is so sweet)…but this morning I was shown the propper way to eat the feet (not as good in my opinion). After we were nice and full, we thanked them, took a shot or two of Apatechi and were on our way, I had a meeting to go to and Kat had to be back in her village. So I went to my meeting all liquored up and full on hot greasy fowl…needless to say it was a good morning.
So that was my funeral experience. I have experienced other traditional things…usually viewing them from afar. But Golob Festival will show me much more, and I will be an insider. There will also be a huge funeral in April to celebrate the life of the last chief who died 2 years ago. I’m sure I will have some interesting stories from that one…including things like people eating “power” and taking macheties to their bodies without bleeding (yet to see it, but friends have told me they do it, so we will see). Ok, well my time and story have seem to run out together at the perfect moment. So I am off. Send words and love. Much love…