Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Philosophical Discourse by the Asante of Ghana: Mythological Symbolic Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Philosophical Discourse by the Asante of Ghana: Mythological Symbolic Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

To all those who are not informed about the indigenous African customs, culture and traditional practices very often refer to them as signs of backwardness, primitivity, barbaric and outmoded because they consider such practices from a restricted view of their life world (Quan-Baffour, 2008). Every ethnic group worldwide has their own mythological stories. These mythological stories are the basis for their very existence and make them unique--what they are, where they are now and what they have been before and where they are going (Boaduo, 2010).

Among the Asante ethnic group of Ghana myths are advanced forms of stories that carry spiritual instructions which includes symbols that stand supreme in all their deliberations--from birth to adulthood and death; as well as during major cultural celebrations like giving a new born baby a name, during female initiation to adulthood and during marriage (Larunga, 1992; Ngangar & Prime, 1997). There are many symbols that are depicted in traditional kente and adinkra clothes that tell the initiated in Asante mythology and symbolism, philosophical and psychological narratives of life's practices among the Asante ' (Wiredu, 2005). Generally, Asante civilization is grounded in myths and there are four distinctive functions that are always interchanged when teaching the youth.

The four functions assigned to myths are mystical, cosmological, sociological and pedagogical (Campbell, 1988; Courlander, 1996; Gatti, 1994). Mystically, myths help individuals to realize the mystery of the universe in relation to creation and the Creator. Cosmologically, myth is the aspects of life that cannot be explained, for instance death is a cosmological mystery which the Asante take as mysterious and only the Creator knows why it happens. Sociologically, the Asante take myths to support and validate the rules of society so that certain principles values and moral principles are specifically related to ethnic sociological inclinations. Pedagogically, which is one of the major functions of myth among the Asante, helps to teach the youth how to live their lives from the time they are born to the day of death. In sum, among Asante myths are the highest form of ideals and beliefs of cultural practices. Specifically, myths are holier and revered and are meant for the youth to begin to be initiated into the cultural and traditional beliefs of the Asante cultural heritage Quan-Baffour, 2008).

Ethnic Mark: Origin and Significance

Among the Asante everyday spirituality is engrained in the cultural and customary traditional practices. Culturally the Asante do not bear ethnic marks of any sort on any part of the body. The cultural understanding of the Asante about marks on the body is that, if any member of the community bears a mark on the cheek, forehead or nay part of the body, it is frown upon. Hence, the Asante believe that a person should keep every part of the body intact in order to be able to give account when called by the Creator on their return after completing their earthly mission. Any mark of any sort, on the body, according to the Asante is a mutation and one would be held accountable (oral tradition from my grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).

Despite what has been indicated, which must not be taken to be a contradiction, the Asante have marks on their body anyway. The first one is what is generally termed as birth mark. Every Asante has such mark since the mark is naturally placed on the body before birth and for that reason everyone is born with it. This apart, the Asante have marks at specific points on their body. The commonest one is either on the cheeks, the joints, and the centre of the forehead or at the corners of the lips. These marks have special significance. They are either medical or related to special events and occasions.

The medical marks are as a result of treatment of some ailments. Among the Asante certain diseases and illnesses such as convulsion, headache and joint pains are treated with ashes prepared from medicinal herbs, barks of trees, roots, seeds and flowers. …

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