Akan calendar year, sacred days, and natural phenomena


Akan calendar is lunar-based interspersed with sacred days. In some parts of Akan society, the moon is called Bosome, from the word bosom, a diety or, the lunar goddess. It is by the Bosome that the Akan reckon their calendar months. Bosome apae mu is half-moon, i.e., the middle of the month, and Bosome awu (“the moon is dead”) signifies the end of the month. Wilkinson argues that ancient Egypt originally reckoned lunar months (before they were changed into solar months), as evidenced in their hieroglyphic representation of the month by a moon.  And Massey points out that the ancient year comprised 13 moons of 28 days each. The change from the 12 lunar months to 12 solar months also brought about the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.   

In the Akan calendar, seven days make a week.  The Akan month is Adaduanan, a cycle that in actuality is 42 days or six weeks. Nine Adaduanan make up a year, called afirihyia or afe no ahyia, literally “the year has gone through a cycle and met.” At the end of a year, Akan people great each other or exchange greetings with the salutation Afirihyia pa, merry or good year.

Akwasidae and Awukudae are sacred days, and the major days used to calculate the length of the calendar year. Akwasidae, traditionally one of the most celebrated sacred days in the Akan calendar year falls on a Sunday, while Awukudae, falls on a Wednesday. Each of these two major days is celebrated about once every 40 days. There are nine Akwasidae or Awukudae in each calendar year. Other important celebrated sacred days such as Fodwuo, and Fofie are basically ceremonials.

Adae is a sacred day of rest, dedicated to propitiating and honoring the ancestors. Akwasidae is the big Adae celebrated on a Sunday, and Awukudae on Wednesday. The fifteenth day after Akwasidae is known as Dwoada Fodwuo, followed by Fiada Afidam, the following Friday. On the eighth day after Fodwuo is Benada-Dapaa (Dapaa = da-pa = good day), which is followed by Awukudae, the next day. Nine days after Awukudae is Fofie; and four days after Fofie is Benada-Kwabena. Memeneda Dapaa follows four days later, after which falls Akwasidae the next day.

Ancient Egypt on the other hand celebrated festivals on the first, the sixth, the seventh, and the fifteenth of the month.  Assuming Sunday as the first of the month, the Tenait festival was celebrated the next Saturday as a sabbath of the seventh day. Eight days after, the second festival of Ra was celebrated, which would fall on Sunday the 15th.

Each of the seven soul names of Akan people has its affiliated sacred names. For example, if an Akan is born on the Tuesday preceding Awukudae, sacred Wednesday, he or she could be called Kwabena or Abena Dapaa, respectively. Similarly, Kwaku or Akua could be added to Addae, for those preceding a sacred Thursday as Kwaku Addae or Akua Addae or born on a sacred Wednesday (Awukudae). Those born on a Saturday preceding a sacred Sunday Akwasidae are Amma and Kwame Dapaa; similarly, on a sacred Monday Adwoa and Kwadwo Fodwuo, and Afua and Kofi Fofie for those born on a sacred Friday.

Some sacred days are considered holy, while others are earmarked for festivities and celebrations. Below is a summary of what is expected to be done on sacred days:

Memeneda Dapaa (Saturday) – brisk household activities and preparations for the next day (Akwasidae); relaxed and festive mood in the evening in anticipation of the following day’s celebrations.

Akwasidae (Sacred Sunday) – time to remember and honor adikanfo, the ancestors. Rituals are performed at the Stool House by the kingship and in individual homes for healthy lives and protection. National celebrations climax with durbar later in the day. Everyone is well-attired for the occasion.

Fodwuo (Monday) – a day of soul-searching. Prayers and solemn meditation are encouraged.

Benada Kwabena (Tuesday) – a tempting and thus cautious day. One is expected to stand steadfast against all odds and provocations and pray to sail peacefully through the day.

Awukudae (Wednesday) – similar to Akwasidae. However, in the Akyem Abuakwa nation, Awukudae is, according to Danquah, “the most sacred day.”  The solemnity is probably reflected in honor of one of their warrior kings, Nana Atta Wusu Yiakosan, who died at Kwanyako (a town in the present-day Central Region of Ghana) fighting on a Wednesday; thus the Great Oath of Akyem Abuakwa, Wukuada ne Kwanyako, “Wednesday and Kwanyako.”

Fofie (Friday) – a prayerful and meditative day against potential negative tendencies.

When Europeans introduced the Gregorian calendar, the Akan modified their traditional calendar from the 9-Adaduanan afirihyia to the 12-month year based on the seasons to reflect prevalent environmental and weather conditions of the period. Thus:

Opepon (January) – the highest and final phase of dry season.

Ogyefuo (February) – a time to prepare to farm, i.e., clear and burn farmlands in preparation for planting; a time for clearing farms to await rainy season.

Obenem (March) – planting season.

Oforisuo (April) – windy and occasional rain for planting, especially yam.

Kotonima (May) – a time where earth crabs suddenly appear “from nowhere”; rain falls with stronger winds.

Ayewohommumo (June) – periodic rainfalls, bringing on damp and cold climate; wet season, minimal farming.

Kitawonsa (July) – a month of having to wait, and having to fight the temptation to steal, for the season of plenty is around the corner.

Osanaa (August) – abundance of food; food is gathered and stored at sanna so.

Ebo (September) – severe cloudiness, yet food is in abundance.

Ahinime (October) – time of rain and sunshine, periodic rainbows.

Obubuo (November) – fall season, leaves and branches start to fall.

Openimaa (December) – mild dryness; beginning of farm clearing.

It could be deduced that the Akans were part of the earlier cult that observed Saturday as the rest day of its god, Onyankopon Twereduampong Kwame (Almighty Dependable God of Saturday). The Akan observed that Europeans worshiped their god on Sunday and therefore referred to him as Kwasi (Sunday-born boy) Broni (European or white). Most Akans believe that the earth’s rest day is Thursday, hence Mother Earth (Asaase Yaa). Consequently, in past times Thursdays was a day of rest in honor of Mother Earth with no activities whatsoever in the community, including travels. As noted earlier, the sacred day for twins is Friday, on which special rites are performed for them.

Tellers of Time

After observing and understanding the precession and precision movement of the sun, moon, and stars, ancient people utilized them in their migratory patterns. They also used these celestial bodies to tell time. The Akans of yesteryear, with careful and long observations at a particular location or spot, were able to tell time (or its approximation) by the length of the human shadow that they had imaged, marked, and mapped. Shadows of mighty trees (or for that matter conspicuous mounds or objects) cast at different times of day and positions were also mapped as natural time tellers.

In addition, the Akans learned to tell times and seasons by observing the movements and actions of animals, domesticated or wild. For example, the start of the series of rooster crows marked the approach of dawn. Migratory birds or herds of particular species were indicators of a season change. In fact use of the rising of the sun and its “movement” relative to the human shadow as a function of time is extant in some African countryside and farmlands.

Early Akans (it must be remembered that Ghana, the homeland of the Akan people, is in the tropics and closer to the equator) figured out that the sun always rises in the east and set in the west. In clear weather, facing the eastern sun at sunrise, they could tell time by the position and length of their shadows. At such a time in the morning, the shadow is longest and directly behind. The shadow diminishes in length and slightly angles to the left-hand side. By noon, the shadow is virtually perpendicular and unseen. The absence of a visible shadow at this time of day is known as “standing on your own shadow,” because the shadow is basically vertical and between one’s legs, indicative of 12 noon. After noon, as the sun heads west, one sees it slightly to the right when facing east, and the shadow slightly to the left. Slight shift of the shadow to the west (left side) shows that it is past noon, while a bigger shift, with a comparably shorter shadow, is an indication of approaching evening. In times past this would be the time to end all farm activities and head home.

As one faces the setting sun, the shadow is once again behind and slightly to the right-hand side. It is at its longest just before sunset. The shadow of a person cast by the eastern rising sun, on the right-hand side, is relatively higher than that of a setting sun. Akans also understood that the sun would set early when the weather was cold, and late in warm months. Events such as birth dates were reckoned by major events, natural or otherwise. For example, a person’s birth date could be remembered as one week after an eclipse of the sun, or three days before the coronation of a particular king.

Source: The Akan of Ghana. Aspects of Past & Present Practices by Kofi Ayim.

Available at Kofiayim.com

The writer/author is also the editor of Amandla

Posted by on Aug 12 2023. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply