THE ABOAKYER FESTIVAL
All chiefdoms propitiate their stools with sacrifices of some sort in Ghana. This in no different with the people of winneba.
In the case of the Otuano royal house, custodians of the paramount stool of the Effutu state, this is done once a year. It is believed that during times of difficulty the sons and daughters of Gyarteh Gyan penyin and their successors were greatly supported by the deity Otu. Along their route to their long trajectory movement through forests and across rivers down to their present location. A sacrifice that meant not only to say thank you but also to consecrate the deity to renew its powers. At that time of the calendar, they propitiated and consecrated the deity and its sons (the lesser gods) with human sacrifices but this had to be changed with the dawning of civilization for the “WANSAN” (The Deer).
As against the use of human blood, the capture of a live deer needed many more hands and hence the involvement of the militia. It was from this time on that the annual consecration and appeasement became a public affair. This then became the birth of the “ABOAKYER” festival
literally meaning the deer-hunt festival.
The “Asafo” in Winneba was developed from the local militia initially established by king Bondze Abe. This latter became the Tuafo “Asafo” No.1 company. Latter his successor and son created the Dense “Safe” No.2 company. It is recognized that the creation of the second asafo company created the competition and rivalry between the asafo companies. The competitive spirit made each group eager to bring home the first catch which the needed for the annual sacrifice.
Active preparation towards the festival starts soon after the Easter holidays. From 1965 the date hade been permanently been fixed for the first Saturday in the month of may. The asafo companies consult their shrines for clearance, protection and early catch during the week proceeding the festival day. Tuafo invoke their gods on Wednesday and Thursday whiles the Dentsefo invoke theirs during the week apart from these two days. The gods are invoked indoors between noon and sunset.
On Friday, the day proceeding the hunting day both asafo companies parade through the town on some selected streets the gods Gyamasi for the Tuafo and Asakamba for the Dentsefo. This is the last rituals the
The object of the festival
The main idea of the festival is to bring home a live deer without the use of any weapon
asafo go through to ensure success the next day. They sing asafo war songs and are led by a man ringing a special hand made bell. These ends at 6:00pm to allow them make arrangement for the security of the hunting grounds and organization.
By 4:00am on Saturday, the asafo members are awakened by the sound of drums bugle, rattles and bells and are to start trooping to their bases. When their organization is complete, Tuafo is expected to leave their base for the hunting grounds by 6:00pm whilst the Dentsefo leave about an hour latter. Soon after their departure the king and his divisional chiefs leave the palace in a long procession to the durbar grounds to await the arrival of the first catch.
The entire town is thrown into jubilation on the announcement of a catch. The animal is carried shoulder high and presented to the king who then performs the acceptance rite by pouring libation and making impression with the right foot on the animal thrice and then returns it to the victorious side for onward presentation to the shrine. The deer is then parade through town and then deposited at the “ABOSOMBA” (children of the gods).
Where it is prepared and sent to the “TSETSE GUASO” (Ancestral Market). From there it is taken to the shrine for the next day’s sacrifice.
In the afternoon at about 2:00pm the asafo now well dressed with their leaders in their regalia arrange themselves in groups amidst singing and dancing to various asafo songs. The procession is not restricted to men only. Following the asafo are the chiefs and the king in a palanquin. He dances to good fontomfrom drumming to the delight of the people. The procession ends at the king’s palace at about 6:00pm.
On Sunday afternoon at the Otu shrine the animal is sacrificed and some of the meat cooked. The gods are then served with some of the cooked and the uncooked meat. They also prepare “mpotroba” (A corn Meal). The gods are served again from that point through some shrines.
Finally, the lot is cast in a dartboard manner with five lines drawn with clay, charcoal, salt, millet, and whit ash/white clay. As the priest continues to beat the gong-gong amidst incantations, the Tubu or the Ebisatsir (soothsaying object) rolls over and falls on one of these marks signifying what was to
be expected during the year. The lot is cats three more times making three and the festival after this time is said to be over for the general public. If the tubu falls on the red clay it signifies a period of bloody conflict and disaster, on the charcoal it signifies abundant rain, on ash or white clay it signifies peace and prosperity, on millet there will be a bumper food harvest and good fishing season if it falls on salt.
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