Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo, 6-7

p. 159 Ka Meji (of the Fon in Dahomey) = "in Ewe, Ka Medzi"

"Ka created filial love and commands the thoracic cage ... of all vertebrates. ... This sign may indicate that the consultee will have twins (linked to monkeys). Taboos include garbanzo beans, smoked fish, elephant, snakes, snails, sweet potatoes, monkeys".

pp. 158-160 Afa divination


"The Afa geomantic system consists of 256 signs (kpoliwo); this include sixteen major signs (... medzi) ... and 240 minor signs, combinations of the sixteen major medzis."


"Every person has a kpoli, according to Afa principles ... . ... Examples of the sorts of texts that compose a kpoli are found in the work of Bernard Maupoil, ... La ge’omancie d` l’ancienne Co^te des Esclaves (1961)."


"The kpoli ... person ... cannot eat the foods associated with it ... . Afa taboos are lifelong.

And it is forbidden to eat the plants and animals belonging to the kpoli that appears as the sign of a particular problem or situation about which Afa is being consulted (this taboo often lasts for sixteen days after consultation)."

pp. 162-163 Afa (unfinished destiny, and as deity) = in Fon, Fa

p. 162

"Afa is greater than the vodus. ... Afa is the one who can tell whether we have made a vodu correctly. Vodus are made from plants. ... Afa is not whole. There is always something missing or left out. It is half. We never do blibo [whole]; we only do afa, or half. We never finish anything. If we say we have finished, it is not true. ... There are no Afa spirits except those of dead bokonos that are always called when people find their kpoli. ... The one-finger ceremony {cf. "one-finger Zen"} – less expensive, temporary ... – is male; the two-finger ceremony is female. Ataku [guinea pepper] ... and evi [small kola nuts with four compartments] are Afa’s food. ... Afa’s guardian, Legba is a male vodu; ... Dzisa Afa is female. You must give Afa drinks with the two fingers [third and fourth fingers, a female configuration]".

p. 163

[Fon --] "In the beginning Fa was a man without members or bones. ... Fa raised his voice and said, "... I shall reside in the Fa-de nut, and in the avin~i tree, in the crocodile, and in the freshwater turtle." ... Since that time no one sees Fa himself".

pp. 175-177, 190 souls; dzogbe

p. 175

"individuals ... are composed of ... ancestor souls (dzoto) ..., death souls (luvo) and the breath that continues to live on with personality after death (gbogbo)".

p. 176

"The kpoli, or life sign, attaches itself to the "beginning-beginning" of a person in dzogbe {[Bod.] bar-do, [Skt.] antara-bhava}, before birth. Although dzogbe is a place or dimension of existence, it also refers to the time of one’s own beginnings (such as my dzogbe). Dzogbese is the god of destiny, or the god in one’s own self (or one’s self as divinity). It may be called ese si domeda (the god {Mara} who brought me here, or the law {karman} that transported me here).

This Dzobgese ... may also be "constructed" (wowo) in material representation in this life. Thus dzogbe is a place as well as a moment in time (the beginning of a person). Dzogbese is a divinity and a fetish, but it is also like a bud of "desire" (nudzidzi) ... that wishes itself into human life. ...

Everything we have said or done in dzogbe come to pass in this life. ... We ourselves say in advance all that happens to us in this life. ... If you are in dzogbe and you don’t want to live in the world, you say that, and the day your mother gives birth you die. We ourselves say in advance all that happens to us in this life. ... But we don’t remember what we said in dzogbe. We don’t know what it was we wanted in the beginning. So when it starts to happen in this life, we don’t even realize that was what we wanted back there. It is possible to have wanted some very strange things. ...

p. 177

The kpoli ... reports on our very own beginnings, the piece of us that came from dzogbe. Then we can find out the possibilities of what we might have said in dzogbe ... . We will always keep our tendencies ... about what we must have said in dzogbe, ... doing what we said a long time ago. ... So I wanted to go to an amegasi ["a seer, usually a woman who calls ancestors to find out which one has come back in the person of the child"] to call my Dzogbese to see whether the story would be the same. But each time that people double-check this, the story is the same. [p. 259, n. 6:9 : "To find out about their beginnings, Ewe may have recourse nor only to Afa divination but also to various kinds of seers, and many people do double-check by going to all the diviners and seers available."] Sometimes the amegasi can help she can call up your Dzogbese itself and not just the kpoli ... which you share with all the other bokovis [initiates ... of Afa] that have the same sign as you."

p. 190

"the origin of the person, when she or he is not yet born, that part of personhood that is the kernel of desire in the realm of before birth (dzogbe). There this bit of latent life is "talking, talking," with other protohumans, ... all inside a room like a lot of clay Legbas, saying things a person will not remember after birth, things that will come true in life." {cf. the scene in the Republic (6i7.e) by Platon, wherein humans create their own future metempsychosis-destinies by uttering them : as decreed by Ananke’s daughter Lakhesis, "the life which he chooses shall be his destiny." (R10)}

R10 = The Republic, lib. X http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/0-03_plato/03_myth_er.htm#04_EACH_SOUL_MUST_CHOOSE

pp. 177-178 deity causing unusual births; twins; deity causing congenital bodily defects

p. 177

"If a newborn is not delivered head first, the vodu Ago has acted and is part of the child. (Girls who come out feet first are called Agosi, and boys are called Agosu.)


Twins (venaviwo) are also a vodu affair; a big ceremony must be performed periodically for them, with red beans and red oil (hot ingredients), and other parents of twins must be invited, for they form a special society that worships the divinity productive of twins."

p. 178

"The vodu Toxosu is responsible for the birth of mentally or physically disabled babies. These children are invariably considered to be incarnations of the vodu itself."

pp. 178-180, 184 dzoto

p. 178

"The dzoto is perhaps the strongest part of the child’s person right after birth. ... A person literally is the grandmother or grandfather (great uncle, and so on) who has bequeathed the dzoto to his or her descendant ... . {cf. Siberian et al. shamanic bequeathals of captive spirits to relatives} In this arrangement of the self, an individual who has his or her grandparent’s dzoto most probably does not have the same kpoli as the grandparent."

p. 179

"But sometimes the continuation of the ancestor’s desire, as manifest in the dzoto, is highly egotistical, ... impossible to live with. ... But it is possible to get rid of a child’s dzoto forever by carrying out a gbesixexe ceremony for three days. ... An adult can also get rid of her dzoto this way, but only very old bokonos know how to do it."

p. 179

"It is possible to have a dzoto that is not ancestral, ... for a person may inherit (or may come into this world accompanied by) the dzoto of a vodu. ...

p. 180

The person with a Dzakpadzoto cannot eat crocodile, for she or he is a crocodile."


"a person cannot be possessed by the god whose dzoto she or he has."

p. 184

"The kpoli is never the same for the child as for the person she received the dzoto from. So you can receive vodus ... from your dzoto ancestor, but not the kpoli."

pp. 180-181, 186 kpoli

p. 180

"An Ewe ... may spend much time and money rearranging the components of the kpoli, sometimes pacifying it ..., guarding against certain kinds of behavior, avoiding typically dangerous circumstances (for that sign), eating the right foods and refusing the wrong ones, surrounding him- or herself with plants that belong to the sign and keeping away those that conflict with it ... . ...

p. 181

When a person decides to "take" (xo) Afa or "find out" (nya) [her or] his kpoli, she or he can also have a material Afase made. This is an object (an assemblage of ingredients) that represents or extends the person’s invisible Afase (personal god or self of destiny), the kernel of the self in its multiplicity as inventoried in the categories of the person’s kpoli, and recounted in its stories."


"It is significant that when Afavis know their kpoli, they must break it, just as they must break their dzoto ... . ... An Afavi does not want to be tyrannized by the kpoli, and Afa itself does not want one of its signs to tyrannize one of its children. ... the kpoli must be broken during a special ceremony (kpoligbagba)."

p. 186

"A breaker of Afa interdictions who knows his or her kpoli must perform a vossa ritual."

p. 183 counteracting antiprocreative sorcery

"My wife had ... her first husband. ... She left that man and came to me. ... The bokono said that her former husband had taken out a grisgris against her and tied the cord so that she would no longer conceive. When we first came together, my penis would not rise up. ... One day I succeeded in making love to her, but the next morning my penis was hugely swollen. ... The grandfather tro, Kadzanka himself, told us when she could not conceive that we should go to Togbui Nyigbla in the Sacred Forest and bathe in the water there."

pp. 187-188 souls after death

p. 187

"one’s souls that survive after death live on, either in the Sacred Bush or afeme (house) portions of his afterdeath. And if a person is a [spirit-host], upon death the individual must be clothed in the trappings of this divine belonging, so that this part of his or her identity can continue into the spirit world. For those who belong to the Yewe cult, ... instructions for preparing the body are strict. ... The day a woman dies, all her Yewe clothes and jewelry and bells will be put on her after she has been bathed. She will be propped up in a chair or on the bed as though she were alive. Another Yewe ceremony is performed two or three months after burial. Otherwise the deceased cannot enter into the spirit world of the other vodusis. ...

p. 188

When a person dies, the gbogbo [breath spirit] continues to live. If I want to, when I die, I can give my dzoto to a child about to be born or recently born. ... I don’t have the kpoli after death, or the luvo [death soul], or any vodus that might have accompanied me into this life, or any vovoli [shadow]. Only the gbogbo ... can appear as though it had my body and do work the way I worked when I was living."

pp. 190-191 mouth-opening caerimonies

p. 190

"in Gorovodu ... heretofore unknown things will come out – words that the individual whose mouth is literally being opened is not even aware of, for the person is in trance, and the mouth being opened is said to be that of the gorovodu (enuhuhenetro).

Another mouth-opening ceremony is called agodzedzenetro, that is, talking over the wrongdoing with the tro. Words that come out during this confession come from the person’s deep self or dome (inside the hole). ... Confession is not always about wrongs ...; it is about one’s entire history, ... and the persons that make up one’s unique multiple individuality. When a troduvi is telling a sofo about a problem, the narration may last for

p. 191

several hours. The person tells what everyone said about the matter at hand, often taking on the tone and personality of each individual being quoted or personified."


"In the mouth opening carried out in the Sacred Bush for a new trosi, a name is forthcoming – that of the gorovodu that began to possess the person. This ceremony is costly and usually requires ... head shaving".

p. 192 prayer

"In Gorovodu the only way to see one’s desires come to fruition is to talk to the vodus about them, the "speak desire" (enudzidzi fonufo). One also has to listen to the vodus talking back."

pp. 115, 202 restrictions from sacerdotal activities during menstruation

p. 202

"If during menstruation, a woman observes the making of the Gorovodu god-objects, special precautions must be taken : a thick chalk line must be drawn to separate the woman from the vodus."

"A man with a bleeding sore or wound must also wait until the flow has ceased in order to enter the Gorovodu sanctuary."

p. 115

"Women who do become sofos seldom do so until after menopause. If a woman opts to become a sofo at a younger age, her kinsmen, affines, or female relatives who are not menstruating must feed and otherwise take care of the god-objects while the priest[ess] is menstruating."

p. 260, n. 7:4 dietary restrictions

"No Gorovodu adept can eat pork in any form {cf. Kemetian restriction from eating pork (mentioned by Herodotos)} or goat roasted with the skin on. {because goat-skin is used for dreamheads} Worshipers of the gorovodus Kadzanka and Allah must eat food the same day that it is prepared; all of "yesterday’s food" must be turned down."

pp. 204, 206 sexual misdemeanours

p. 204

"If a woman wears her sister’s pagne [cloth] to go and have sexual intercourse with a man, she has committed afodegbe."

p. 206

A woman is taken by another man through Garbara ... . A man who uses this sort of grisgris will give it the woman’s name, and wherever she is she will leave what she is doing and go to the man. She herself will enter into his house and offer herself to him."

p. 211 cause-of-death categories


time of burial

place of burial

afemeku –"house death or good death, also called kunyuie"


marked grave in cemetery

kuvoe – "hot or violent death, bad death, or bush death"

late morning

unmarked grave in cemetery

eyinuha – "fearful aspects" (madness, snake-bites)

late at night

unmarked grave

p. 212 kuvoe

"When there is a kuvoe, the body is not placed upon the bead and dressed in jewels and pagne [African cloth] as for a house death. ... the body of a hot-death victim was put into an old kente cloth." "When a person dies a violent death, all her belongings are buried with the corpse. ... If the objects of a person dying a violent death are kept and used by others in the family, they too may die untimely, violent deaths."

"Years ago there was only agbadza [funeral dance] for the Banguele vodus, not brekete, because their place is in the Sacred Bush with all the people who died bad deaths.

To die a kuvoe death is not all bad. you might find yourself afterward ... in the company of Banguele, along with the spirits of people who died from accidents ... . Then you can protect human beings from accidents and violent death if they ask you to help them."

p. 13, 193-194, 214 secrecy




"I did not even write down the names of the plants he used ... . The priest did not have a mind to talk about those secrets, for I would not have the right to pass them on." [treatment of "sickle-cell crises with great efficacy than modern medicine is capable of achieving. ... His treatment involved the use of an enormous leaf with a conspicuously large vein, probably Bryophyllum pinnatum (adi in Ewe)." (p. 248, n. Introd:12)]


"If a person has not been to the vodu in the same way that you have, you must not speak of deep things in their presence. They can read what you have written, but it is not the same as hearing it from your mouth. ... If someone who knows more than you do wishes to speak to you about the vodus, he must first pray ..., asking permission to engage in conversation about strong things, begging the vodus to preserve the two of you from illness. ... If you write the same things and someone reads what your have written, there is not danger."


"Gorovodu is like the Sacred Forest. Once you leave it, you cannot speak about what you have seen, but you can write. Certain things must not even be written -- ... certain things that you do in the Sacred Forest. ...

Even when you see the Yewe yard, there is another yard inside that you do not see. ...

There are strong things you cannot know. ...

He cannot explain the deep word (literally, the word underneath)".


The Gorovodu priest "warns against writing the Ewe words that designate

the Sacred Bush;

those who die a violent death and are therefore buried in the Sacred Bush part of the cemetery; or

those who are not buried at all" because their corpses were never found.


"These Ewe words are used by Surgy, Rivie`re and other writers ... . They are the terms that most evoke the ... awesomely sacred sides of Gorovodu worship".

Judy Rosenthal : Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo. U Pr of Va, Charlottesville, 1998.