Akan Cosmology & History
Dance of the Akomfo
Kofi Tyus Studios
Akan Concept of the Supreme Being
By tradition, Africans on the continent have a belief in a true Supreme and Almighty God. And, so it is with those of us in the Diaspora who follow the traditional form of worship of the Akan- Guan people. This combined ethnic group lives throughout Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Togo and the Diaspora. Large groups of Akan-Guan people came to the West during slavery times. Many ended up in New York, New Jersey, and the Southern U.S. Akan-Guan culture, language, names, rites and rituals have been present in North, Central, South America and the West Indies since the 1600s. The three most common names for God amongst the Akan-Guan people are Onyankompon, Odomonkoma and Nyame.
Onyankompon represents the male aspect of God and that aspect upon whom humans can ‘lean upon and never fall.’ Onyankompon is that spark of divinity that resides within everyone. Odomonkoma is the creative aspect of God which directs the ever-unfolding process of creation and evolution. Nyame is the female aspect of God - that which is most directly involved with human beings and their affairs on the planet.
The direct worship of the Supreme Being as Nyame was very present well into the 20th century. There was at least one large Temple and an organized priesthood documented up until the 1920’s in Kumasi, Ghana.
The Okra, Sunsum, Mogya and Ntoro, Personality Soul and Life Soul
The Okra is the spark of divine life force - the eternal aspect of a person that is a replication of Onyankompon. It reincarnates, that is “has been here before and will be here again.” According to the book, The Asante Elders Say, we come back as many times as is necessary to perfect ourselves and become one with Onyonkompon. The sunsum is, generally speaking, the soul or personality that an individual acquires at each incarnation. Mogya is the blood and is believed to be what the mother supplies biologically to the individual to be born. The mother’s mogya, or bloodline, is also the basis for the Akan matrilineal social order in terms of inherence and transfer of rulership. Ntoro is the spiritual, energetic, male element that is derived from the father at the time of conception and is interpreted by some as being synonymous with semen.
The Guans who inhabit Larteh and other cities and towns in the Akuapem mountains, do not necessarily adhere to or support matrilineal descent and transfer of status and power.
The Akan have a concept of a personality soul and a life soul. It is believed that if someone has a strong personality soul but a weak life soul they will be charismatic and cerebral, but not be necessarily physically robust. It is also believed that if a person has a weak personality soul and a strong life soul that they are likely to be physically robust, but not necessarily cerebral, mentally acute or charismatic.
The Nsamanfo (Ancestors)
The Nsamanfo, also known as the ancestors who take up residence in that part of the spiritual world known as Asamando, maintain their life there and have vitality as long as they are remembered, cared for, and interacted with by human beings. This is even the case when the soul (Kra) that they were associated with reincarnates to take on a new personality. The Nsamanfo are the elders whose mortal lives were geared toward selflessness, forgiveness, love and charity within the family and community. The ancestors are the first line of defense and guidance through life.
The Asante elders say that God talks to the Nsamanfo and they talk to the Abosom and the Abosom talk directly through dreams and mediums to individuals.
The Abosom (Deities)
Onyonkompon, Almighty God, created the Abosom to assist with the management of life and affairs on the planet earth. They were created to assist and serve God and humans; and likewise we humans are to serve them. The Guan Abosom - Nana Akonnedi, Nana Esi, are also Nsamanfo (ancestors). They have direct and living relatives in the Akuapem and Fante areas of Ghana. Below is a description of a few of the Akan-Guan Abosom.
The Origin of the Akan People
Akan culture has been linked to the Kush civilization of Upper (southern) Egypt. The people who later became known as Akan interacted and intermarried with many people as they migrated from East to West – eventually settling in the region between Djenne and Timbuktu as well as near Agadez in Niger. During the course of their migration they were one of many people who shared the ancient Hebrew language and culture. The Oyoko, or Falcon Clan of Kamit, is well known in Ghana as the matrilineal clan of the founding king of the Asante, Nana Osei Tutu. Other scholars have pointed out the similarity of (N)yame and Yawe, the m and w often being interchangeable in Hebraic and Ghanaian culture. Many of their customs are very Hebraic and their symbol for life and beauty- the akuaba doll- bares a remarkable resemblance to the Kemetian ankh. They are believed by some scholars (Myerowitz, Williams, Yankson and others) to have linguistics, customs and clan names which trace them back to these very ancient areas and civilizations.
Somewhere around 1200 they began to move south and westward from the Niger Valley first settling in the Brong Ahafo region of modern Ghana and eventually migrating further south to the coast and westward into what is now the Ivory Coast. It is important to note, however, that the Guans are the original inhabitants of Larteh and other areas in the Akuapem region. The Guans are related to the Dagoma people who reside in northern Ghana, and it is from that area that the Guans are believed to have migrated.
Akan-Guan Religious Practices in America
The late Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu I dedicated his life to propagating the ancient beliefs and traditional customs of our Ancestors. In 1947, Nana Dinizulu, at the age of 17, began an organization called The African Cultural Group which conducted classes in African singing, dancing, history and culture. In 1955, Nana Dinizulu, in collaboration with Baba Oserjamin Adefumi (King of the Yoruba Village) and six others, helped to establish the formal worshiping of Dambalahwedo, a very powerful deity from Benin (formerly Dahomey)
In the 1960's Nana Dinizulu I began to travel to Ghana. In 1965, during a solo trip, Nana Dinizulu was introduced to Nana Akua Oparabea, Okomfohemma (chief priestess) of the Akonnedi Shrine in Larteh-Kubease. This introduction was made possible by the late Mr. G.W. Amartefio, then Mayor of Accra. Nana
Dinizulu was acquainted with Mr. Amartifio through, a close friend and colleague, Afutu Arist Neequay who Nana later initiated as a priest. Mr. Amartefio and Mr. Neequay were relatives.
While in Larteh, the Abosom revealed by speaking in possession and by divination that Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu was the person who had been prophesied to come and reunite the descendants of those who had been lost in slavery along with their culture. He was enstooled as Omanhene and Okomfohene (paramount chief and chief priest) of the Akans in America. He returned to America with the following Abosom: Nana Asuo-Gyebi, Nana Esi and Adade Kofi. In 1967, Nana Dinizulu founded the Bosum-Dzemawodzi, a religious organization which perpetuated Akan culture and honored that of the Orisa, and Ga .
In 1971, Nana Oparebea accepted Nana Dinizulu’s invitation to travel to America. It was the first time that a Guan priest of such stature had traveled to this country voluntarily. During the visit Nana Oparebea lived with the family of Nana Dinizulu and helped him with the work of the shrines of Nana Asuo Gyebi and Nana Esi that he brought to American in 1965. In addition, she established the Tegare shrines in New York under the care of Nana Dinizulu and taught him how to train Akomfo to serve the deities according to the Larteh system.
In 1971, Nana Dinizulu also received the Guan Obosom, Nana Akonnedi. Nana Dinizulu was the first to be given the sacred shrines of the Akan-Guan pantheon and brought them to America to be worshipped and revered by African-Americans. He is unquestionably the founder of the Akan-Guan Akom religious practice in America. There are now dozens of houses and hundreds of adherents to this wonderful cultural-religious practice.
In 1972, Nana Okomfohemma Oparabea accepted an invitation from Okomfohene Bukor Nana Kwabena Aboagye Brown and his family and made her second historic visit to America arriving in Washington DC. On this trip she established the second official shrine to Nana Akonnedi, Nana Asuo-Gyebi, Nana Esi, Adade Kofi, the Mmoetia, and Tegare in America. Nana Kwabena’s mother, Iyalode Ida Mae Isaac was enstooled as Ohema, (Queen Mother) and Nana Kwabena was enstooled as Okomfohene of the Asuo-Gyebi shrine of Washington, D.C. and representative of the Akonnedi shrine of Larteh, Kubease. The third official Larteh Shrine in America was established in Philadelphia under Nana Kwabena Afo (aka) Arthur Hall in 1975. Two of the strong and pioneering elders of this shrine were Nana Akosua Takyiampong and her husband. This shrine has passed on to Nana Korantema Ayeboafo, Okomfohene of the Asona Aberede Shrine of Philadelphia. Nana Okomfohemma Oparebea established other shrines throughout America and Canada.