Shrines are part of daily life in Ghana – you can see them in every town or village. They play an important role in the lives of the people and are also connected to a sad part of history.
Little stone figures standing at the entrance doors and a cloth that serves as a door show you that this is a traditional shrine. Some shrines also have a rope or wooden structure that one has to step over when entering. What is also associated with shrines are bones, bottles of Schnapps (for pouring of libation), drums and figures of deities that are sometimes embraced as a sign of respect. There are also certain taboos connected to the shrine and rituals that have to be performed by the priest or elders.
The two major shrines in Big Ada, Dada shrine and Dasuma shrine. The Dada shrine is a place for whole Ada to worship. Warriors used to come there in former times to prepare for war and seek protection from the shrine. You can go for a tour around the shrine where the priest will introduce you to traditional religion or offer a goat for a ritual to be performed to see the gods.
The two shrines in Big Ada were closely connected to Trokosi, or girl child slavery. In this traditional perception, a crime is atoned for when a girl of the offender’s family is sent to a shrine to serve the gods. This can be for months, but also for many years. Although this practice was legally abolished in 1998, there are still some groups who want to hold on to this tradition. Other opposing groups on the other hand have put much effort into the liberation of the girls and their education and reintegration into society.
Apart from the two shrines in Big Ada, you can visit another big one in Goi, one on the island of Alorkpem and one on the other side of the Volta in Anyanui.
For more information on the shrines please contact the Tourist Information Center. They dispose of a complete list of all the shrines that can be visited and information on how to get there and what to keep in mind for this visit.
Every shrine has its priest who takes care of it and worships the gods in it. There is a shrine in just about every town so naturally there is also a great number of priests.
One priest that can be visited is Madame Mamishie Rasta. She heals by asking the gods about the sickness and what treatment she shall impose. Visitors are welcome to visit “Mami Rasta” at her shrine, offer a live chicken to her crocodiles or take part in the spiritual drumming sessions that are open to everyone and take place every Friday at around 3pm. For visiting her shrine in Anyanui, get in touch with the Tourist Information Office or call ahead to arrange for someone to pick you up at the harbour in Anyanui. From Ada, take the ferry on Wednesdays, one of the passenger boats any day of the week or use the land connection by Tro-Tro via Sogakope. For direct contact to Mamishie Rasta and a guide to pick you up at the ferry call Vegas (0546957425 or 0207555803) or Mamishie’s son (0249115879).
Another important priest can be visited on his island of Alorkpem and one near Goi. Ask the Tourist Information Office for a recommendation, the prices that are expected to be paid and what to keep in mind for visiting a priest.
There are about 20 sacred forests near Big Ada which are believed to house deities that are worshipped by people with traditional beliefs.
Officially, these forests are only allowed to be entered by people of traditional beliefs and are mostly feared by all others.
One of the sacred woods is located in Big Ada behind the High Class Academy. Here, dwarfs used to live but are said to have left when the school was built because it became too loud.
Another sacred forest, Aplanayame in Luhuese, Big Ada, tells the story of the victory of the Ada people over their enemies. It is said that the Ada people were chased into the river by their enemies, the Ashantis. Since the Adas lived near the water they were able to swim and escaped whereas their enemies, people of the mountains, drowned. This site is the last battlefield of the people of Ada and plays a very important role during the annual festival.
The Okor forest, or Okorwem, has a great traditional importance since it was the first settlement of the people of Ada. It is said that the Ashanti people, typically enemies of the Ada people, once came in peace to settle at that area. But a hindrance for the peaceful meeting was the fact that the Ashantis were not circumcised. The people of Ada traditionally circumcise every boy immediately after his birth and believed those who are not circumcised as unholy. So in order to settle at the place of the Okorwem, the Adas circumcised every Ashanti man at the very spot. The blood that was shed ran into a river which still today has a red colour.