Remains of Ritual, 2-4


2. (pp. 43-68) "Salah! Salah!"

p. 200, n. 2:9 kola

"Bisi, also spelled bese, is the Akan word for kola nut".

p. 51 praeponderance of women

"The only men who were actively participating were three who sat in the front : two were there to play the atoke` (boat-shaped iron bell) that accompanies the singing, the third was ... son of one of the older sofowo who, while living in Accra, learning the Islamic way of praying and was one of the people who introduced it ... . ... Salah was, and always is, overwhelmingly an affair of the women. ... It is the women who have appropriated salah ... as an expression of solidarity, a sisterhood of the adehawo."

pp. 53-4 Muslim religious uses for music

p. 53

"In S[.]ufism, the correct kind of music can bring you closer to Allah, even into an ecstatic trance of communion ... (Becker 2004:78-79 ...)."

p. 54

"For those who partake in salah at a fetatrotro, however, ... music is the prayer."

Becker 2004 = Judith Becker : Deep Listeners. Bloomington : IN U Pr.

pp. 61, 64-5 spirit-possession and communal dancing at salah

p. 61

"with the introduction of the atoke` bells ..., ... things started to take off. Once again its lyrical content is based on ... the invocation of northern gods. ... the two bell players sounded abey, the most popular style of Brekete music, with ... a joyous song that captures the musical imagination of the women, who during performance begin to shout ... along with ululations heightening the musical excitement ... .

p. 64

... it was at this point of the salah that trosiwo in the crowd started to become possessed. ... a woman here and there would suddenly spring up possessed, emitting the high-pitched "he, he, he" that Rouget cites as a near universal sound of possession (1985:111). The trosiwo that were seized started spinning ... . As the song continued, more and more women became entranced ... . Once the initial possessions settled down, some of the trosiwo, while bending over in the classic frozen pose of the possessed, began rubbing their hands together, signaling that they wanted ... (... handlers of the possessed) to bring them a buta (the Hausa word for the striped ... kettle used ... in Brekete shrines as a container for the amatsi, the herb water of the gods). As ... poured water over their hands, the gods performed ... ablution to purify the bodies of those whom they had entered ... then escorted them inside the shrine by using buta to lay a trail of water, which the trosiwo followed. Once inside, each trosi was dressed and adorned. ... All came out dancing, their elaborate and colorful dress highlighted ... . When the song was finished, ... a short "sermon" was given exhorting the members ... to trust in the gods ... . ... Given the predominance of women, it was Ablewa’s music (Ablewaza) [p. 201, n. 2:14 : "The suffix za indicates festival music."] that dominated as they formed a tight dance circle and jubilation set in. Her timeline ... employs ... the Hausa word gobe (tomorrow) ... for the purpose of the dance. On this word the dancers turned toward each other and bumped

p. 65

hips on the final syllable be, a most un-Islamic thing to do, to say the least ... . {But likewise done by African-style dancers even in the U.S.A.} These were women not worshipping Allah but celebrating ... in the most overt way. ... The singing and dancing continued for some time, with each song seeming to increase the level of excitement."

Rouget 1985 = Gilbert Rouget (transl. by Brunhilde Biebuyck) : Music and Trance. U of Chicago Pr.


3. (pp. 69-96) "The Poured Gift".

p. 75 cowrie-divination

"Cowries, which have an open and closed side, were thrown ... . usually eight or sixteen are used, and if an even number land facing up or down, then the answer is yes; if an odd number, then no."

p. 75 goddess Ablewa, the wife of god Kunde

"Ablewa, Kunde’s wife, ... may intercede on your behalf with Kunde ... . She tries to cook him down, pleading for understanding and forgiveness. ...

Tseriya, as she is also called, looks almost identical to her husband. Both are dark brown egg-shaped ovals each about a foot in length. What distinguishes them from each other is

a knife blade protruding from Kunde’s lower right side, and

{cf. vodun god Flimani Koku "heated knife" ("VR&I")}

a hole on Tseriya’s lower left side.

... this may relate to respective genital regions".

"VR&I" = "Voodoo – reality and imagination"

pp. 74-5 prayers

p. 74

"Just as you cannot talk directly to chiefs, you cannot talk directly to the gods but must go through an intermediary, here the sofo, who ...

p. 75

repeats what you have said."


Following the standard practice ..., I did not repeat my prayers in full to Ablewa. After knocking on her door, but this time calling four times instead of three, I used the formulaic line "You already heard all and know what to do." This abbreviated prayer, however, did not relieve [the sofo (priest of trowo)] of the responsibility of conveying to Tseriya all that previously had been said to Kunde."

pp. 75-6 Sanya Kompo

p. 75

"We then moved on to the kpome of Sanya Kompo, god of stone,

p. 76

Tseriya’s firstborn. Unlike the mother and father, she has the classic squared shape of a northern talisman, complete with attached cord so that it can be worn, and is covered with the reddish leather used by northerners when making these tsilas ... . Sanya is the messenger and ... He records all that you have done in your life. When Kunde and Ablewa are resting, it is Sanya Kompo who will carry an important message to them. ... Sanya is a mercurial figure. Some sofowo say she is a woman, others a man, and still others both man and woman."

pp. 77-9 Banle & Wano

p. 77

"Bangle, the second son, ... is considered ... even stronger than his father. ... Ketetsi, his Twi name, meaning "strong man," is the ... protector ... . His domain is dzogbe (the desert), where ... congregate ... other hot voduwo.

Although he has the same oval shape as his parents, ... . Coming out of one end of the oval is a metal bell, and on the same end, underneath the bell, is Bangle’s beard,


a black cow tail,

{Skt. /camara/}


marking him as a wise and powerful man of the north. ...

p. 78

Inside Bangle, not visible to the naked eye, is embedded a knife ... .

When you pray to Bangle, unlike Ablewa and Sanya, it is like praying to Kunde; you have to say the prayer in full measure before the sofo repeats it. You are, however, not just praying to Bangle, but addressing a whole host of other gods that are clustered around him. ...

Once again kneeling down and holding the bowl of kola ..., I knocked on Bangle’s door and repeated my stylized prayer. [The sofo] heard my words and ... As he said the prayer, he knocked on Bangle’s door by using a knife to hit the bell that is part of Bangle’s body. ... After pouring libations, he placed both his hands on Bangle, as is customary, and ... instead of blowing across my hands ..., he took my hands in his, right to right and left to left, causing them to cross, then left to left and right to right, thus crossing them again, and, finally, reversing the procedure once more, finished by turning my hands palms up and then palms down. This was the traditional handshake of Bangle, the way members receive his blessing. He was not through, however, and ... he took my hands and proceeded to press them firmly on Bangle. The power of touching Bangle sent shock waves of energy through my body, giving somewhat of a start."

p. 79

"one of the major taboos for shrine members ... "You can never chop [chomp, eat] pork again.""


"Still reeling ..., I have no recollection of what happened next. No doubt we prayed to Wango, god of the waters and roads (the anthropomorphic fetish ...) ...,


but I have no memory of these events, even though I am sure they happened, for happen they must."

{Praesumably, the author (S.M.F.) at this juncture underwent spirit-possession by the deity Wano.}

p. 93 "the male part of Wango ... never leaves his kpome. It is his female part, called Adzino, who is covered in cowries and sits in front of him ... who is put into the pan and brought outside."

p. 80 left-handed god

"Al the gods use the right hand except for Kunde, the father, who does everything with the left, an unusual practice to say the least".

{cf. left-handed Hopi god Masauwu; and left-handed Aztec Huitzilopochtli.}

p. 82 sacrificial animals are food for deities

"A dog was brought in for Kunde ... and

a cat for Bangle.

... a goat must be given to ... Wango."

p. 84 "if not a sacrifice for one of the trowo, then one for Afa, the god of divination".

p. 86 uselessness of Freudism and of Marxism for understanding the divine realms in the divine worlds

"And while Freudian analysis may have something to tell us about disavowals and desires (a shoe fetish works from the bottom up in hopes of filling an absence), and

when applied to other realms in other worlds such analyses lose their ability to speak."

Marxist theory about the obfuscating nature of capital (money is a powerful illusion),

p. 88 self-concealment as the nature of the deities

"Stare at the gods, and you will never see them. ...

They are the sheltering and concealing ... . This concealment is part of their destiny ... that no amount of analysis will ever open up."


4. (pp. 97-121) "Deadland".

pp. 97, 104, 203 the world for souls of the dead

p. 97

The soul of a dead man now drinks with the ancestors. Having crossed the river to Tsiefe, he dwells with the dead ... . Ancestral souls, the dzotowo, may return to be reborn in succeeding generations ... . ... .

... Tsiefe ... is a dark, mirrored image of existence on earth, a village where life carries on in a shadowed form devoid of material substance."

p. 203, n. 4:3

"Tsiefe is understood as timeless, thus thought of ... as a traditional way of life. This understanding of a mirrored world of the dead is widespread in West Africa (Herskovits 1938, vol. 2:240)."

p. 104

As for the souls of those who die, "everyone ... must cross the river to Tsiefe. That is why a few coins are put inside the grave, so that the dead can pay the boatman to ferry them across."

Herskovits 1938 = Melville H. Herskovits & Frances Shapiro Herskovits : Dahomey. 2 vols. NY : J. J. Augustin Publ.

pp. 98, 204 ghost & shadow-soul

p. 98

"One of the last things done at a burial is to take the casket around the old haunts of the deceased to say one last good-bye and, in the final ritual, yofofo (literally, beating the grave"), when part of the fingernails, toenails, and hair ... are interred some days later, the dead are told in explicit terms that this is their final farewell and it is now time for them to move on to Tsiefe. But if this final ritual is not done, or for some reason the dead reuse to accept their fate, they are caught in between this world and the next, becoming troublesome specters."

p. 203, n. 4:4

"This burying of hair and nails is tantamount to burying the luvo, a kind of shadow soul. Yofofo takes place anywhere from four to seven or eight days after burial, depending on which clan you belong to."

p. 99 awakening the trowo

At Kpando, "I would regularly get up ... at four o’clock to wake the trowa. .. the senior drummer ... was also usually there, playing the praise names of the gods on the brekete drum as [the sofo] poured them water ... and threw cowries to see how they awoke."

p. 204, n. 4:5 : "The lead drummer in a Brekete shrine, one who is also responsible for taking care of the drums, including giving them sacrifices, is called awuku".

p. 100 consecration of medicinal herbs

"Leaves are just leaves until you take them and transform them into amawo (herbs) ... . You often have to know their secret names ... to be able to activate and gain control over their power, or other esoteric knowledge that renders the medicine efficacious. Some of this knowledge has been handed down from sofo to sofo, some from father to son, in other cases it has originated in dreams, and in still others it has been taught to priests directly by the trosiwo. In addition to this ..., priests must know how to administer the ... kola that have been transformed into medicinal substances through their ... contact with the gorovoduwo and, most important, how to make the black powder of Kunde, a mixture of parts of dogs that have been sacrificed to him, along with gunpowder, herbs, and other compounds."

pp. 100-1 authorized manufacture of fetishes; their authorized confiscation

p. 100

"Along with his duty as a healer, [the sofo at Kpando] was also in charge of ... waking the gods, putting them to sleep, making sure that they were fed and given drink on a regular basis, that the ancestors were called and similarly taken care of ... .

Significantly, seeing that this was Kpando, he was also responsible for making the gods for new shrines and occasionally renewing old ones. In that respect, ... Kpando was a virtual god factory. Although Kpando was the spiritual headquarters of Lahare Kunde, ... serious cases of infractions by ... sofowo in particular, were invariably brought to the attention of Kpando ... .

p. 101

If a priest were found guilty, and the charge was serious enough, the fetishes could be and sometimes were collected and deposited at Titibigu, Kodzokuma’s compound at Kpando where the shrine was located."

p. 101 split-bearded saint

"on all thes ealtars, was a photograph of Kodzokuma ... with his unique white double beard. ... I have often wondered how future generations will understand this image of its founding father. Will they start reading ... his unusual double beard as some kind of double existence, with one foot in this world and one in the next, as is the case literally with the picture of Amadou Bamba, the S[.]ufi saint of Senegal, that is plastered all over Dakar (Roberts and Roberts 2002)?"

Roberts & Roberts 2002 = Allen F. Roberts & Mary Nooter Roberts "Roberts & Robert : "Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal". AFRICAN ARTS 35 (4):52-73.

p. 104 free choice of one’s future life prior to each stint of metempsychosis

"Every Ewe tells the bomeno, the old woman who is the caretaker of souls, what kind of "wares" they will bring into the world to sell –

[p. 204, n. 4:8 : "McCall (2000:130, 146) cites a similar idea of bringing wares into the world as part of the negotiation of one’s destiny among the Ohafia Igbo people of Nigeria {Biafra}."]

in other words, what kind of work they will do, who[m] they will marry and how many children they will have ..., and so on.

{cf. Platon : The Republic, lib. X.}

Some say that it is said to a room full of clay Legbas, and still others directly to Mawu, the supreme deity, or Se, the god of destiny. Last but not least, all Ewes will speak of when and how they will die ... . When you are born, however, and cross the threshold from bome into kodzogbe (this world), all is forgotten, nothing remembered." [p. 204, n. 4:9 : "Westermann ([1928] ...:6 defines "bome" ... as "the underworld." The place where souls wait to be reborn is also referred to as amedzofe (literally, "person-birth-place") (Fiagbedzi 1977:98)."]

{In southeast Togo, "the Watchi ... locate their origin in a landscape called bome, a place likened to a wide field of red clay,

{cf. >adamah "red clay" ("CA&E") is place of origin of first man >adam}

where humans return upon death to be remodelled and recycled back to human existence by bomeno, the mother of clay, who subsequently returns them to the world of the living." (L&B, p. 58)} {The word /BoMe/ may be cognate with Samskr.ta /BHuMi/ ‘earth’.}

McCall 2000 = John McCall : Dancing Histories. Ann Arbor : U of MI Pr.

Westermann 1928 = Diedrich Westermann : Evefiala or Ewe-English Dictionary.

Fiagbedzi 1977 = Nisso Fiagbedzi : "The Music of the Anlo". PhD diss, U of CA at Los Angeles.

"CA&E" = "Creation of Adam and Eve"

L&B = Nadia Lovell : Locality and Belonging. Routledge, London, 1998.


Steven M. Friedson : Remains of Ritual. U of Chicago Pr, 2009.