The Ewe people are found in three different countries in West Africa: Ghana, Togo, and Benin. This distribution over these three national territories resulted from the fragmentation of the African continent that took place during the Berlin Conference in 1884–1885. The Ewe people are patrilineal. They are composed of several clans, defined in relation to a common male ancestor. Furthermore, branches of the clans or lineages also trace their ancestry back to a shared male ancestor. Each lineage is characterized by its own symbols and ancestral shrine, and it assumes collective ownership of property. Stools are particularly important because they are often carved with great care and provide a rich
narrative about the clan in question. Furthermore, during rituals, the clan stool serves as the place to which ancestral spirits may be called. This entry looks at their historical background, deities, and rituals related to life passages(Historical Narratives Of The Ewe People In Ghana)
According to Ewe oral tradition, their present-day location was not the original home of the Ewe. It is widely accepted that the Ewe migrated from a place called Kotu or Amedzowe, east of the Niger River, and settled around 1500 in Notsie, a region of what is now Togoland. From Notsie, however, they had to escape in a quite dramatic fashion. Indeed, whereas King Adela Atogble of Notsie extended his hospitality to the Ewe newcomers and treated them with kindness, his successor, King Ago Akoli, was not so generous and welcoming.
- Culture is the DNA of societies. The wrong one produces handicapped societies. The right one produces responsive societies.
In fact, he was quite hostile toward them and treated them with much ruthlessness. One of the most terrible things that he is said to have done was to put to death all Ewe elderly men and women. This he allegedly did to deprive the Ewe people of the knowledge of their history. The Ewe nonetheless managed to save oneelderly man, Tegli, by hiding him in a secret place. It is eventually Tegli who conceived a clever plan that would allow his people to escape the tyranny of King Ago Akoli. From Notsie, the Ewe found their way to a town called Tsevi, in Togoland. There, they split into different groups and traveled separate paths. One of the subgroups became the Anlo Ewe of Ghana. Today, the Ewe commemorate and celebrate their heroic escape from Notsie every year during a festival known as Hogbetstoto Za.
The Ewe believe in an androgynous (i.e., both female and male) supreme God, whom they call Mawuga Kitikana, or simply Mawu. God created
the world and everything in it. Mawu Kitikana’s power is absolute, and its presence permeates all that is. Mawu is venerated through intermediary secondary divinities called Trowo. The Trowo are similar to the Vodun venerated by the Fon, to whom they are culturally related. Mawu is held to be the mother and father of all the Trowo. There are many Trowo, but some are obviously more important and, hence, more popular than others. Among the main Trowo, one must certainly mention Afa, the divinity of divination. The Ewe Afa is the same as the Yoruba Ifa deity of divination and originated in Ilé-Ifè. Afa devotees must undergo a special initiation. Divination being the preferred epistemological mode among Ewe religious followers, Afa naturally plays a central role in Ewe life. Afa is consulted with the assistance of a diviner, who relies on a special chain with four concaves on each side.
This divining chain is referred to as Agumaga. Agumaga is thrown on a mat to establish communication with Afa. The manner in which the
concaves turn as the chain falls will provide a preliminary answer to the question asked. The first sign that reveals itself as answer to the question is known as kpoli. Afa divination has 256 kpoliwo. Each sign is associated with particular plants, animals, stories, songs, food taboos, and so on. Follow-up questions may be asked for further details and clarification. At the end of the divination session, the diviner will share with the client what he or she might need to do to achieve his or her aim. This could mean making an offering or sacrifice to one of the deities.
Another quite important deity is Yewe, the older brother of Afa. Yewe is the god of thunder and lightning. The Yoruba serve him as Shango.
Initiates to Yewe receive a new name at the end of the initiation process, their old name never to be spoken again. Any proven offender will be judged by Yewe priests and elders and sentenced to pay a heavy fine because uttering the old name of a Yewe initiate is considered highly offensive to Yewe and its devotees. Other important divinities include Legba, the guardian of the spiritual world; Gu (or Egu), the god of iron, war, and hunting; and Nyigbla, the deity of the Sacred Forest. The Trowo are protective, healing forces acting on behalf of the living. During a ceremony organized to honor them, which will necessarily involve drumming and dancing, Trowo will mount their human spouse and use them to pass on certain messages to the community. They may render a verdict in the case of a conflict between humans or they may also
heal the sick.
The Ewe carve special spiritual figures related to the divinities. For example, earthen Legba statues are quite common, as are ritual objects covered with cowrie shells, among other things. Drums are also made for ceremonies, as well as costumes associated with particular divinities.
According to Ewe religious beliefs regarding death, a person’s spirit (or djoto) will come back in the next child born into the lineage. Newborn
males are circumcised and named on the seventh day after being born, whereas newborn girls have their ears pierced and are also named on the seventh day after their birth. The Ewe believe that the spiritual and physical worlds mirror each other and are, therefore, very similar.
Funerals are extremely important because, according to Ewe religion, death is the most significant moment in a person’s life. Funerals are
commonly reported to be extravagant affairs involving more expenses and lavishness than any other ceremony. Drummers will drum and mourners will dance all night long, several nights in a row. Attending funerals; making a financial contribution toward the purchase of a coffin, burial clothes, and the hiring of dancers and drummers; as well as bringing food and drinks are nonnegotiable social obligations. Funerals will typicallyinvolve many events over the course of 1 month.