Sacred Sites [Anlo (southwestern Ewe)]

{[o] & [e] are the vowels for which special signs are used in the International Phonetic Association alphabet; [w] = /v/; [d] = /d./ (retroflex); [x] = /h^/}

towns (mostly not Anlo) & bodies of water (Anlo) where deities are worshipped




type of place




inhabited town













freshwater pond


Duto Konyi









divine beings




"we saw a mermaid (fumeme’) ... . She had lots of hair covering her face. ... The mermaid were sometimes seen ... on the banks of the pond. Their feet were turned backwards."


"the Hula people of Great Popo ... believed in a deity called Hu (meaning "ocean" in the Fla language). This deity ... had the power ... to calm the usually rough surf ... . ... The offering of sacrifices to this god calmed the sea sufficiently to facilitate the conduct of trade."

An Anlo deity ... called Fumetro (from fu, meaning "ocean" in the Anlo dialect of Ewe) ... was associated with controlling the high surf and had the power to facilitate trade".

"The ocean was also occupied by ... the Fumelokloviwo, sea-persons who built houses, towns, and cities under the ocean."


"The smallpox deity, Sakpana, ... periodically made his appearance, usually after dark, by emerging from the earth and roaming through the narrow paths of the residential zone".


"Nyigbla ... procures ... rain for the earth ... . ... If the "shooting-star" appears, it is Nyigbla ... . ... If it is raining, they say ... "Nyigbla is walking about." ... If there is a continuous lack of rain, ... they have to regain Nyigbla’s goodwill."





"When spiritually knowledgeable men sought to harness the powerful forces of the bush, they most often entered the wilderness at night, naked, wearing not a shred of clothing, so as to limit the possibility of bringing back into the village unwanted and unseen forces that could wreak havoc on their families and friends." {cf. the Priscillianist custom of praying nude}


"in the case of the tree-stump that is beaten with a stone to compass the death of an enemy; for the name of that enemy is ... pronounced ... through a belief that, by pronouncing the name, the personality of the name who bears it is in some way brought to the stump." (quoted from E-SP, p. 98) {cf. Sioux tree-stump guise of deity?}


"Recognition of one’s luwo in ... Anlo also entailed performing rituals to acknowledge into entrance into the body on the weekday in which the person was born."


"The Ewe-speaking native offers worship and sacrifice to his in-dwelling spirit in much the same way as is done on the Gold Coast. In both cases the natal day of the man is the day kept sacred to the in-dwelling spirit, and is commenced by a sacrifice" (quoted from E-SP, p. 105).

E-SP = A. B. Ellis : The Ewe-Speaking Peoples ... . 1890.

p. 89 witchcraft

"Witches" : "believing oneself to be a dog ..., believing oneself to be a bat, ... are some of the signs".

"A witch ... taking the form of a flame and then lying on the chest of the victim while exerting great pressure. The victim can neither scream nor move".

death & metempsychosis

p. 64

"Spirits could enter one’s dreams and warn an individual of impending danger. They could manifest themselves at night as ghosts (noaliwo). ... They could also be ... returning from the spirit world through reincarnation (amedzodzo) and being reborn in newborn infants."

p. 65

"It was also in the gbogbo where one found a person’s conscience. ... It was the luwo, the personality soul, however, that ... came into the material world (Kodzogbe) ... from the spirit world (Tsiefe). ... In this particular world lived the spirits of deceased ancestors ... . When the luwo left Tsiefe to enter Kodzogbe, it was ... one that had lived in the material world before ... as the spirit of a person who had lived a ... life in Kodzogbe. Thus, when a child was born in the material world, it was part of the expected routine after childbirth among the Anlo for the new mother to consult a diviner shortly after the birth of her child to determine ... whether the spirit that had entered her newborn infant was that of a deceased relative."

p. 66

"A man who had married, built his own home, and died an "acceptable" or "good" death ... was interred in his own home. ... Firstborn children were also buried within their paternal family’s compound, usually in the floor of the bathhouse. ... A woman who had become a mother ... was similar honored by her patrilineal family by having her body returned and interred in her family home. ... Burying such relatives in the rooms of the house and continuing to live in ... the deceased’s home also served as a signal to the deceased that his spirit was welcome to return in reincarnated form to the family."

p. 67

"Among those barred from house interment were individuals ... who died as a result of war, snakebites, fatal accidents, and diseases ... . Adult women and men who had died before they were able to reproduce and hunchbacks ... were not buried in the home for fear such loving treatment would encourage them to return through reincarnation and die again in the same way. Instead, they were interred on the outskirts of town in an area of ... latrines, and shrines for the gods that protected ... the graves of those who had died "bad" deaths."

p. 69

"And when the Anlo buried their dead ... on the outskirts of town, they made sure that on their return they never glanced back in order to prevent their gaze from inviting" the ghost of the dead.

p. 156, n. 3:23

"In Aloga, such burials took place in an uninhabited transition zone to the west of the town known as Kpota."

"Those who killed using supernatural means were buried in yet another location outside of town at Avevoeme." "At the same time, the burials of priests and individuals associated with great spiritual power were kept secret altogether".

pp. 67-8

"the spirit of each child born into the family had a spirit mother (manifested in the umbilical cord and placenta) in the world of the dead (Tsiefe) who could call the child back to that world. By burying the child’s placenta and umbilical cord in the house’s female bathing area, the family ... provided a site from which the family would be able to communicate with the spirit mother if it proved necessary because the newborn child had begun to exhibit a desire (through sickness) to return to its spirit mother."

pp. 156-7, n. 3:23

"the Anlo government required that the placentas and umbilical cords of twins be buried in Anloga".

p. 68

"The walls of rooms within the house ... were similarly ... used to hide hair-clippings and nail-clippings there."

"If a family member died a "good" death, but far from home, it was this same form of luwo (hair-clippings and nail-clippings) which the deceased’s family would remove and inter in the family’s compound (or on the outskirts of town [in the case of a "bad" death]) if they were unable to return home with the entire body."

p. 157, n. 3:24

Debtors’ "corpses were placed on platforms on the outskirts of town and ... were smoked. They could be interred only if someone ... was prepared to pay the debt."

p. 68

"In Anloga’s Gbaakute (an execution ground) one could encounter the unhappy ghosts of those whose lives the government had deliberately ended.

In Avevoeme, ... where Anloga families buried those who committed suicide, ghosts were thought to emerge (most often at night) and throw sand at passersby."

Sandra E. Greene : Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter. IN U Pr, Bloomington, 2002.