Recently, I was invited to a naming ceremony (outdooring). Since both parents were affiliated to the Akan ethnic group(Ghana), the naming ceremony was conducted according to the tenets of their culture. Two hours after I arrived, the ceremony finally began…whew ! Perched on my seat at the front row, I focused intently on the elder as my mind pondered on the pearls of wisdom he was about to divulge. I fervently hoped that he would offer historic insights regarding the origin of naming ceremonies among Akans. I was not disappointed. He did. I hope your life will be enriched with new insights just as mine was.
According to Akan mythology, children appear on earth from the spiritual realm. Prior to their arrival on earth, a child is given his destiny by God (Onyankopon). No one is privy to the destiny of an individual. Since Akans affirm the uniqueness of souls, no two souls are the same.
Also, the first few days of a child’s arrival to mother earth are critical . This is due to the fact that in the spiritual world, the child had a mother and a father. With the child’s foray onto earth, his spiritual mother is now deprived of her child and is inconsolable. She cries and searches for her child with hopes of finding him/her. Thus, within the first eight days of the child’s arrival, if she finds him/her, she will return to the spiritual world with him/her. Thus, a child who dies within 8 days of birth serves as an indication that he/she was not meant to stay on earth for a long duration. A child that remains alive by the 8th day signifies that he/she will be staying for a meaningful duration. This is why the 8th day is opted for as the day for organizing the naming ceremony.
In addition, the name opted for a child is significant. Read my post on Traditional Naming Ceremony for more details on this. A child may be named after an ancestor or after a relative who has led an exemplary life. According to Akan mythology, ancestors serve as role models and a yardstick by which to gauge one’s salvific efficacy. This perception stems from their belief that the human soul is unique. As a result, they don’t ascribe to the Western theological concept of salvation. In their view, due to the uniqueness and diversity of the human soul, it is difficult to fathom the human race being condemned as a result of the sin of another soul (Adam) and being saved by a savior (Jesus). This is why they look to ancestors as role models during their sojourn on earth.
One phenomenon that seems to puzzle me is the fact that about 71.2% (2010 census) of Ghanaians profess to be Christians. Yet, they faithfully perform naming ceremonies according to the dictates of their cultural affiliations. Is it possible to have it both ways ? Can one believe in plurality and unanimity at the same time ? I guess we are entitled to our choices at the end of the day. 🙂
Written By Sherita Brace
Sherita Brace is an entrepreneur, an international development professional and a blogger . She writes regularly on topics spanning fashion, African culture, natural health and international development.