AFRICAN PROSE ASARE KONADU: A Woman In Her Prime
Comment on the superstitions beliefs and practices in the novel.
The novel abounds with religious beliefs and practices. The people of Brenhoma believe in and worship deities, the most popular being Tano, who they consider a great god. Fofie is the day set aside for the worship of this god. Fofie is a festive Friday which is observed every six weeks. The people go to the shrine, Tanofie, to worship and consult the ancestors for solutions to their problems. On Folk, it is held that the “gods and goddesses move among men to feast and grant people’s requests”.
Consequently, the plot begins when Pokuwaa is prepared frantically to go to Tanofie to present the items she has been asked to bring as a sacrifice to the gods so that her ancestors and the gods would bless her efforts to get a child. Koramoa, Pokuwaa’s playmate and childhood friend, is also there to thank the gods for blessing her with a child. The people of Brenhoma also consult the deities and ask them to intervene on behalf of anyone who may have wronged others or, where the sins of the parents or ancestors ar being avenged on an individual. The priest has told Pokuwaa at Tanofie to get a black hen so that the deities could be sought to spare her the pain of not having a child of her own in case “she herself had wronged anyone or if the sins of her parents or ancestors were being avenged on her?’. The people also believe in the power of evil spirits who inhabit treetops and wreak havoc on them.
There are stories of an evil spirit turning a child into a chicken and slaughtering her, and another of a man turning himself into a crocodile and devouring a girl who jilted him. Pokuwaa holds on to these superstitions. “When Pokuwaa’s jet black hen meant for sacrifice gets missing, she concludes that this is perhaps ‘the work of evil spirits “who, knowing Tano’s greatness, had spirited the hen away, to stop her from making her sacrifice”. The lightning that strikes the Wawa tree is considered a bad omen. It is a sign that the gods are angry. The women are expected to cook to pacify them, and prayers are offered to appease the seventy-seven (77) gods. Brenhoma women are also prayed for to bear children, so that when the gods pay a visit, “you will always find someone here to give you something to eat”. The people also believe that another world called Amanda exists where their ancestors reside, where there is no pain or suffering. All manner of food is prepared for them.
This is demonstrated during the burial of Yaw Boakye when different kinds of food are prepared and placed on his bed. His widows also give him cowries to pay for his passage to the world beyond. Another practice of the Brenhoma community also manifests during the burial when on his way to the cemetery his corpse seems to have been held by unseen forces. Libation must be poured to facilitate easy passage, and the bearers resume their movement.
Again at the cemetery, each of the three widows runs ahead and throws a pot. This is to sever their marital relationhip with the dead.
The hornbill episode is another incidence of the superstitious belief of the people. While Pokuwaa was at the river to fetch water, an eagle nearly slaps her. She kills the hornbill, wraps it with leaves and takes it home, as the women of the community stare at her. On showing the mother the dead hornbill, she becomes troubled because, in the first instance, nobody has, the right to go to the Ananse stream on Akwasidae to fetch water. Secondly, a hornbill is said to be the food of the gods, and as a result, it must be returned if the family does not want to incur the wrath of the gods. A purification rite has to be carried out.
The observance of the Odwira festival meant to mourn the dead is central to the people’s belief in the continuity of their existence. It is done with the loud beating of drums, and vigils are kept for the celebration. It also serves as an occasion for lovers to meet and settle family disputes.