Remains of Ritual, 5-6


5. (pp. 123-53) "Rhythm of the Crossroads".

p. 124 drum

"What is significant about a brekete drum is the fact that it has been consecrated, thus activated. The Drum I was playing had been given drink ..., and contained Kunde’s kaolin and kola."

pp. 127-8 finding of the Kpesu idol

p. 127

"He was standing in the surf ... when he felt something hit his foot. It was a sharp sting that tattooed three black marks on his insole ... . ... a few moments later he was stung on the other foot, with the same results. This time, however, he reached down into the surf and picked up a large stone carved with animals and other strange figures. ...

p. 128

There is no one Mami Wata, but she is always a multiplicity ... . For ... dealing with Kpesu, a name Afa divination finally revealed, has always been problematic."

pp. 129-30 Kpesu shrine at Aflao

p. 129

"Unlike the typical ... dark blue kpomewo of other shrines, [these] were painted a bright yellow. On each

p. 130

end of the cement rooms of the gods were carved lions, and in front of Wango’s home was a carved crocodile."

pp. 132, 136, 207 drumstick

p. 132

"make me a drumstick. ... It had to be heated and bent into a very particular shape ... . ... it also had to be activated, to put Kunde’s spirit inside ... . ... He placed in on top of Kunde, said prayers, gave drink, and ... then took the drumstick and, in a small hollow that had been made in the end of the handle, filled it with Kunde’s medicine. Gunpowder was also stuffed inside and set off, sparks shooting out at the end almost like a Roman candle. ... Activated, it was now ready to be put in Kunde’s kpome (literally, "Kunde’s oven") to be "cooked" for seven days."

p. 207, n. 5:3

"See Chernoff (1979:11-15) for a similar story of receiving a specially prepared drumstick."

p. 136

"The stick ... itself in the V of my palm between the lower part of my thumb and forefinger ... allowed my fingers to release on open strokes and close around the handle for stopped ones. The differentiation between these strokes is absolutely crucial to playing the melo-rhythmic figures correctly, for they are defined by the resulting timbral difference, the first having a low booming sound, and the latter a sharp crack that is focused. ... The free stroke is fairly straightforward to play, but the stopped stroke is technically more difficult. ... But when I started to feel the stick being controlled in the V of my palm, the free fingers grabbing the handle for stopped strokes, it had the secondary effect of turning the end of the stick automatically, producing the required sound without tensing. This breakthrough technique allowed me to ... ( ... rhythmically) relax ..., and all of a sudden I was able to play patterns I thought I never could."

Chernoff 1979 = John M. Chernoff : African Rhythm and African Sensibility. U of Chicago Pr.

pp. 137-8, 207 the bell’s timing [ ½, ¼, ½, ½, ½, ¼, ½ (p. 138, Ex. 5.1)]

p. 137

"For abey, as it is for agbadza, the bell’s timing is the hinge of a suspended musical world around which all else

p. 138

turns ... . ... It is something in between a meter and a rhythm ... . ... this seven-stroke asymmetrical line covering the span of twelve pulses has assumed the contours of a naturalized aesthetic".

p. 207, n. 5:6

"this bell pattern ... is also heard throughout West Africa and into parts of central and southern Africa (Jones 1959; King 1960), suggesting that it carries considerable historical depth. It survived ... intact in much of the ritual music of Candomble` ... and Vodou".

Jones 1959 = A. M. Jones : Studies in African Music. 2 voll. Oxford U Pr.

King 1960 = Anthony King : "Employments of the ‘Standard Pattern’ in Yoruba Music". AFRICAN MUSIC 2 (3):51-4.

pp. 140, 208-9 hemiola

p. 140

"The African hemiola ... is ... as xtructurally important to musical thought as the authentic cadence is to functional tonality in Western art music. Evidence is everywhere :

in the drums of affliction fround throughout southern and eastern Africa, where spirits are heated through specific drum rhythms grounded in polymetric principles of the hemiola (Friedson 1996);

in the melodic threads that weave the zar spirits as well as the bori into a divine ride (Besmer 1983);

in the dances of the !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari ...;

in the many shrines of West Africa and the diaspora".

p. 208, n. 5:12

"The term hemiola comes from the Greek hemiolia, meaning a half (hemi) and a whole (holos) (1/2 + 2/2 = 3/2). ... during the fifteenth century if shifted its reference to rhythmic phenomena (Rushton 2001:361-62)."

p. 209, n. 5:14

"If the V-1 harmonic progression is taken as expressing the underlying principle of the P5, which is based on a ratio of 3:2 ..., then, perhaps, we are dealing with some kind of fundamental musical insight that in one system is realized through an intervallic relationship, and in the other through rhythm."

Friedson 1996 = Steven M. Friedson : Dancing Prophets. U of Chicago Pr.

Rushton 2001 = Julian Rushton : "Hemiola". In :- The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd edn, vol. 11. London.

pp. 144-6 kagan & kidi drumming

p. 144

"the drumming parts of the kagan and the kidi;

the former is based on a metrical pattern of three;

the latter on a metrical pattern of four".

p. 145

"these drums form a kind of macrocross-rhythmic riff from which the lead drumming takes its cue."

p. 146

"Cutting across ... the 8-pulse structure of the kidi is

the dry, loud crack of the kagan, playing a simple 2-pulse figure ... repeated three times in one cycle of the timing".

pp. 135, 150 musical dreaming by the author (S.M.F.)

p. 135

"the spirit of the gods was in the stick so that the drumming would go inside me, and I would start dreaming the rhythms of brekete."

p. 150

"I was hearing brekete everywhere in all kinds of things, including my dreams."

pp. 151-2 abey dancing

p. 151

"Unlike the ... style of agbadza ..., abey dancing involves more foot and hand movements, many of which are iconic ... . ... bringing one’s crossed arms close to the chest is indicative of an embrace by the sofo of his members ... . ...

p. 152

Some of these movements were ... influenced by Ashanti dancing, especially the funeral dance of adowa".


6. (pp. 155-79) "Burials".

p. 157 interpretation of visions by Afa divination

"glimpses, fleeting images, of old people dressed in white cloth who were calling out his name. Whenever he greeted them, they would disappear ... . ... .

{This may be an elaborated development of the commoner hearing of one’s being praeternaturally called while one is in the process of awaking from sleep.}

... the intensity of the sightings ... increased to the point that he thought he was going to lose his mind. He eventually consulted an Afa diviner ..., and it was revealed through the casts what to everyone else was obvious : the stool house wanted him as its father, and he must either respond to the call or go crazy and die."

pp. 162-3 Afa & destiny

p. 162

[myth in Herskovits 1938, vol. 2; and also in Herskovits 1958] "Whereas Legba is ... male with an insatiable sexual appetite ..., Afa ... is both male and female.


Afa (here taken in her female form) lives on top of a palm tree in the sky {"the Watchi ... male original creator appearing as a palm tree (hunde) is said to have descended from the sky" (L&B, p. 57)} and with her sixteen eyes

{<ayna ‘Eye’ and Sindirka ‘Palm-tree’ are "the Female and Male principle respectively." (PA, n. 3:7)}


watches over the three realms of Mawu’s creation : the earth, the sky, and the sea. When Afa sleeps at night, she closes her eyes, but when she awakes, she is unable to open them by herself. Therefore, every morning Legba climbs the palm tree in the sky and

p. 163

asks which eyes she wants opened. Since Afa does not want anyone to overhear what is said,


she puts one palm nut in his hand if she wants two eyes opened, and two palm nuts if she wants one eye.

{That no more than twain eyen may be opened on any occasion may indicate that her face is an octagon (in <arabian architectural style), each side whereof containing just twain eyen.}


Each eye that is opened looks into one of the sixteen doors of the house of the future that Mawu built when the universe was created."

{More likely, if one eye be opened, the past only is viewed; whereas if twain eyen be opened, both past and future are viewed.}

Herskovits 1958 = Melville J. Herskovits & Frances S. Herskovits : Dahomean Narrative. Evanston : Northwestern U Pr.

PA = Lady E. S. Drower : Peacock Angel. London : John Murry, 1941.

pp. 164-5 uncanny co-incidences disclosed by Afa

p. 164

"On numerous occasions when I have consulted Afa, the results have been uncannily resonant with the circumstances surrounding the reason why I had sent adza, the token payment given to a boko to call him to perform afakaka (Afa divination). ... I am not the only ethnographer who has commented on these kinds of "coincidences" (Rosenthal 1998:169-73). ...

This is not a matter – or Ewes or ethnographers – of "belief," that catchall term used ...

p. 165

to explain away the uncanny when it is encountered ... . One does not have to "believe" in Afa ... for it to work in the way it was intended. ... Afa divination is but one way to take off the blinders and earplugs, to borrow a metaphor from Charles Keil (1979:199)".

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

Keil 1979 = Charles Keil : Tiv Song. U of Chicago Pr.

p. 165 two forms of divination

"When the guamaga chain is used ... to determine the cast,

it is usually referred to as a du;

when especially consecrated palm nuts are used,

the cast is called a kpoli".

p. 168 ghosts

"Ewes say ... that ghosts speak with a soft high voice through their nose. ...

It is said that ... if you hear your name called out in the middle of the night, it is usually a ghost and, if you answer, you will surely die."

{When S^mu^>el heard the divine voice calling his name a night, he answered, "Here am I" (1st S^mu^>el 3:4); when acting on the advice of <eli^, he "cautiously answered only "Speak" (I Sam. iii. 10) and not, as Eli commanded him, "Speak, O God" (Shab. 113b)." ("S")} {I have perhaps hundreds of times responded to my name’s being called out by a praeternatural voice while I was awaking from sleep. (This is during a hypnopompic state, intermediate between the dreaming and waking worlds.)}

"S" = "Samuel"

pp. 168, 213 tukpui at Nogo-kpo

p. 168

"the one that is used in the thunder god shrine at Nogokpo called tukpui, which makes only a small sound when it goes off". [p. 214, n. 6:26 : "Ewe farm laborers’ use of ... tukpui."]

p. 213, n. 6:17

"Nogokpo (... Nogo-kpo) is considered one of the most powerful Yeve shrines (thunder god shrines) ... (Abotchie 1997:81). The motto at this shrine is "The truth shall set you free," that is, Xebieso ... with a thunderbolt. Any person in the general area who has been killed by lightning is usually taken to the shrine, along with all their possessions, and put in the sacred grove. I was once allowed to walk through this grove, as long as I did not speak ... . ... I saw human skulls ... and various other sundry items, a very strange experience".

Abotchie 1997 = Chris Abotchie : Social Control in Traditional Southern Eweland ... . Accra.

pp. 169-71, 213 "fortunes of the world" (past or future ); vosa; 17 casts; 3 jumps

p. 169

"Once the cast was established, the next piece of obligatory business was to find out whether what Afa was telling me "already had passed" or was "yet to come," and here is where the age of the various casts comes into play. I was given two items ..., a hu~saka seed representing the past and an adziku seed for the future ... . [p. 213, n. 6:18 : "The word hu~saka ... refers to a Vodu priest (hu~no). Adziku literally means "to bear, to die," and ... refers to [when] ... children die shortly after they are born".] He [the boko] then threw the gumaga chain twice to determine Afa’s answer. If the first cast is older than the second ..., he points to his right side, which means that Afa has chosen your left hand (the client always sits facing the boko) and vice versa." [p. 213, n. 6:19 : "If both casts come up with the same du on the right side, then, regardless of the left side of the casts, the right side is considered older ...; thus the left hand of the client is chosen. If, however, one of the sixteen origin casts appears, it trumps any combinatorial du."]

"Since it was something that was in the future, it was now time to find out which of the six fortunes of the world were on this path. Each of these fortunes was represented by an item from the vodzi ["bag of divination objects" (p. 165)] :

long life by a stone,

market affairs (meaning having to do with women) by a bead,

children by the adziku seed,

money by a cowrie shell (which was a traditional form of currency),

vodu by the seed of a silkwood tree, and

enemy[’s] death by an animal bone."


"To open this path, however, ... we needed to do a vosa ... . The radical vo is ... translated as "evil," and sa as "to tie" or "to bind" (Gaba 1997:90), that is, to tie or bind evil. ... A vosasa (the act of doing vosa) ... is meant both to appease who[m]ever or whatever is blocking a path, ... and simultaneously a gift to all those deities, spirits,

p. 170

ghosts, and ancestors that come to partake in the offering. For those ghosts and others who are intending evil, the offering is supposed to be accepted in place of the person making the vosa. For all the rest it is ... for them to ... pray for that individual. The nature of the vosa is something that is prescribed by the cast. ...

You can’t perform a vosa just anywhere. Location is ... something you need to ask Afa about. ... The vosasa was to be done at a gorovodu shrine ... . ... When a vosa is offered, not only does Afa eat, but ... many ... medicines [were] taken ... along

p. 171

with freshly cut leaves specific to Afa.


This cast also called for a pig’s head ... . ...

{similarly to the Yuletide swine’s head?}


Then one of the bokowo got out of his Afa divining board and, after pouring termite dust on it, proceeded to mark the ... seventeenth cast unique to Ewe diviners and finished with TseTula, which closed the door."

p. 213, n. 6:22

"Ewe bokowo, however, ... invariably end with a seventeenth kpoli, TseTula ... . TseTula is said to be the last and youngest of all the casts and thus closes the door to Afa".

p. 171

"Two lines were drawn in the sand ..., and I and my wife were told to jump over the lines back-and-forth three times ... . In this crossing of thresholds, we were moving away from the "house of death" (kutome) [p. 213, n. 6:23 : "Richard Burton refers to "Ku-to-men, or Deadland, [as] the place which received the ‘midon,’ or ghostly part of man proceeding from him after death" (cited in Herskovits 1938, vol. 2:239 n. 1)."] toward the "house of life (agbetome)."

Gaba 1997 = Christian B. Gaba : "The Religious Life of the People". In :- A Handbook of Eweland, vol. 1, The Ewes of Southeastern Ghana, pp. 85-104. Accra : Woeli Publ Serv.

p. 175 a dead chameleon is placed on the prospective victim’s path as maleficent juju

"Ewes have a reputation among themselves ... for knowing and using ... juju". [p. 214, n. 6:26 : "In Ishii’s (2005) discussion of northern shrines in the Eastern Region ..., she cites the reputation the Ewes have as "potential users of frightening magic" (283)."]

On the right side of the path was a chameleon ... desiccated and inverted : its head and stomach pointed skyward and its legs had been bent back. ... I told him about it. It sounded suspicious, so he advised that I collect it – "Pick it up with something else and make sure you don’t touch it" – and bring it to the shrine." But when I came back in the afternoon it was gone."

Ishii 2005 = Miho Ishii : "The Transformation of Suman Shrines ...". J OF RELIGION IN AFRICA 35 (3):266-95.

p. 177 Sakra Bode induceth the bulging of an eye

"the man who on special occasions "outdoors" Bangle ... holds the Bangle fetish upright in his two hands. With extremely slow ... steps, one foot in front of the other ..., he circumambulates the courtyard in front of the shrine ..., and every time his right eye freezes and bulges out of its socket, giving him a very strange and disconcerting visage."

p. 214, n. 6:27 Anyigbato

"Anyigbato (literally, "owner of the land")". [anyigba ‘land’.]

"Anyigbato ... is a giant who is said to roam the night. You can always hear him coming because of the numerous shells of land snails hanging from his body, which clang and rattle as he walks, and you can always tell an Anyigbato fetish because it invariably has these snail shells attached to it."


[7.] Coda. (pp. 181-6) "Opening the Door".

p. 181 apparition of the goddess

"I saw a bright light from inside the shrine. I turned toward the light, and standing in the doorway of the shrine was a woman ... dressed all in white; it was Tseriya. She looked at me and began to dance, twirling as she came toward me. I felt tremendous joy and stood up to greet her, and that was the last thing I remembered ... . ... I wouldn’t know because I am not there. It is not me who does such things, but Tseriya."

pp. 2, 185 god Da

p. 185

"the snake god, Da, ... unlike a gorovodu, cannot be made by hand but is always found by digging in a termite mound."

p. 2

An old priest "was carrying a duck in his mouth as he slithered along the ground in the guise of Da, the ancient snake vodu."

p. 186 author (S.M.F.)’s becoming a sofo

The praesiding sofo "placed his hands on my left shoulder while the bosomfo did the same on the other. They said a prayer while tapping my back seven times, and then both sat me down on the stool. As they did this, [the praesiding sofo] declared that I was now a sofo and could pray directly to Sakra."


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