Typology of the Moon & concepts of Akan Motherhood


In ancient Egyptian symbolism, both the dove and hawk represented the Holy Spirit.  The dove was the lunar (moon) Goddess, while the hawk was the aggressive solar (sun) God. The dove represented motherhood and was typified by Breath. The sun became the male aspect of the moon Goddess and surpassed the moon as the supreme ruler of the heavens.

The transformation that occurred about 16,000 years ago from Stellar–which up through then had lasted for over 300,000 years–to lunar and then into Solar mythos transformed the dove into a hawk and, consequently, motherhood into fatherhood.

In Akan cosmology, this transformation typifies the lunar God Nyame to the solar God Onyankopon. The sun was therefore the Onyankopon God manifested on earth as a king. In times past, Akan kings were believed to be representatives of God.

Manetho tells us in his History of Egypt that in the belief of ancient Egyptians, the Sun and Moon were Gods; the former being Osiris (the Greek referred to the ancient Egyptian Asar as Osiris) and the latter Isis.

Mythologically, the Sun God fashioned as Nyankopon had no father and became a consort to his mother, the Moon, who was self-begotten. Through this supernatural process, the mother (Goddess of the moon), her son (sun God), and the unknown or unseen quantity spirit (that “impregnated” the moon) formed the premier mythical trinity!

Later, the Sun God, as the son of the mother Goddess Moon, was vested with the powers of his mother and eventually assumed a leadership role. Thus, the patrilineal system of inheritance developed when the Sun “overtook” the Moon as the most dominant force of nature among the heavenly bodies.

In Akan rendering, the moon Goddess Nyame gave “birth” to a son/spouse who fashioned as the Sun. Mother and son/spouse reigned together before the mother was back-benched as an adviser to her son/husband. The Akan Goddess Nyame is believed to have given birth to the universe without mating with man, as was the Carthaginian Goddess Tanit. According to John G. Jackson, “the first type of family was matriarchal, since the role of the father in procreation was unknown.” It is Nyame, incarnated as the moon, that shoots her rays to animate a woman into pregnancy during intercourse. She therefore assumes the title Atoapoma. Consequently, one of Nyame’s appellations is Amen.

The concept is understood from Akan cosmology, where the moon Goddess typifies the queen while the sun God typifies the king on earth; the sun, typified by the king, has no father. In the royalty of the Akan matrilineal system, the role of a king’s father is minimal with respect to the kingship.

Sir Wilkinson, highlighting the concept of matrilineal succession, tells us, “Precedence was given to them over men, and the wives and daughters of kings succeeded to the throne like the male branches of the royal family.” And Maspero points out that the “original status of the mother almost always determined that of her children, and the sons of princesses were born princes, even if their father were of obscure or unknown origin.”  In times past, husbands of Akan queens were mostly inconsequential.

The Akan system of matrilineal inheritance could be arguably predicated on the Akan belief that the moon Goddess Nyame was the mother of all heavenly bodies. In Ghana in Retrospect, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Akwasi Sarpong asserts that Akan states were founded and ruled by women, based on the fact that “the top of the Akan stool which is the symbol of the soul of the nation is in the shape of the crescent moon.”  In the Akan matriarchal system, when the eight superfamilies (Aduana, Agona, Asakyire, Asene, Asona, , Bretuo, Ekuona, Oyoko) are combined into one, it would represent the One and Highest omnipotence: the Moon Goddess, mother of all, and represented by Isis in ancient Egypt.

In Akan numerology, the figure eight is a religious symbol of life, death, and rebirth, which perpetually repeats itself. The eight superfamilies are therefore symbolic of unending life that revolves around the female.

Ancient Egyptian priests, among others, wore leopard skin as distinguished symbols of their profession. In the Akan kingdom in Ghana, the totemic symbol of the Bretuo superfamily is the leopard. The traditional head of the larger Bretuo family irrespective of place of birth or abode is the ruler of Asante Mampong. He reigns and rules on a silver throne; silver being the symbol of the moon Goddess. The ancestral Goddess of the Bretuo family is therefore the Moon. According to D.D. Houston, the seat of the moon Goddess was in the Sudan. 

In times past, the first appearance of the moon would bring people out of their homes to “welcome” it and to entreat longevity for their kra (soul). Conversely, one did not look at a waning moon for fear of it taking one’s kra (soul) with it.

According to Massey, the people of Congo on seeing the new moon would pray “May my wish be fulfilled like the light in thy orb, oh moon! May my life be renewed like thy light!” He contends that the entrance of Osiris into the moon was celebrated on Friday night.

Until as recently as the late 1960s the very first sighting of the monthly moon was considered the most opportune time to invoke help and offer prayers. Children would run out into the street, look up to the moon, and entreat longevity for their kra (soul). Conversely, one avoided looking at a waning moon, for fear of its disappearing with one’s kra.

The belief was that the soul had shot out from the lunar Goddess, and a disappearing moon would take with it the kra of a person watching it. Thus, the retiring moon, like a woman in her retiring period, “must not be looked upon.”

Romer, exhibiting ignorance in his works A Reliable Account of the Coast of Guinea, tells us that the natives (coastal Accra people) “perform very laughable gestures for the new moon. They talk to it and shake their limbs as if they wanted to throw off their arms and legs. They finally take a firebrand and hurl it, as if they wanted to throw it up to the moon, and with that the ceremony is over.”

Motherhood and humankind

Among the several things that motherhood has given to humankind are time, wisdom, and justice. The moon Goddess was considered one of the symbols of nature’s motherhood because it was a teller of time. Consequently, periodicity and production became symbols of a woman.


To the ancients, anything that produced after a period of time or cycle was identified as a symbolic representation of the female. The tree that produces food at a particular time, the river that inundates the land seasonally, the moon that wanes and waxes, and the serpent that sloughs periodically were all represented as feminine because they were tellers of time. As such woman came to typify a prophetess of time based on knowledge. By virtue of her periodicity, she related the signs and cycles inherent in her natural cycle to other timely occurrences.

With the Akan, puberty is the time when the child’s own sunsum (spirit) attains operational status. Paradoxically, the average five-day feminine period came to symbolize negativity or dark days because, as with the moon, it is a period of waning that translates into Akan customs as oko emaa mu, a time of absolute seclusion. During this period, females are forbidden to cook for men or to touch any sacred objects.

The U.S. Statue of Liberty demonstrates a symbolic representation of a mythical woman, trampled upon but “free to go” after emerging from her “dark days.” In antiquity, Friday (counting from Sunday) came to symbolize a sixth-day ritual of sexual intercourse that was celebrated with pride and passion.


The most ancient wisdom was first incarnated in Woman, as a female fish with a divine mouthpiece of the Word.  Consequently, in ancient theology, the Word was the Goddess, and not the God. Woman was wise because she knew the most. The Egyptian Goddess Isis was the Goddess of wisdom, with a variation of the nyansapo (knot of wisdom) as her symbol.

The woman as custodian of wisdom is inherent in the Akan axiom “let’s consult the old woman,” when arbitrators are in logjam situations and request consultation with a mythical woman—which translates into sidebars in courts of law. Old age was initially associated with wisdom, but in later years when woman was recognized to outlive man, the status quo was shifted, and old age became associated with sorcery and witchcraft. It is not uncommon in traditional communities of Africa to refer to an old woman as a witch. Woman is also the repository of a people’s culture because folklore, fairytales, bedtime stories, and traditional songs are embodied in her.


The universal symbolic representation of justice is incarnated in a woman as a statue of a blindfolded person that is unbiased in weighing and balancing justice on a scale. Thus, from time immemorial, justice has been incarnated in women.

The biblical name Moses, according to Massey, was derived from the Egyptian dual character Ma and Shu (light and shade). Ma-Shu in Egyptian translates to Musu in Hebrew, a woman credited by the 10th-century Greek philologist Suidas as the Hebrew lawgiver and author of Jewish laws. 

Among the Akan, when one flouts a law, tradition, or custom, Musu’s name is invoked with the phrase wabo musu, meaning that one has gone against the laws of Musu. This same old lady is invoked in many Akan incantations and libations as Aberewa Musu.

In ancient typology, the mother was the first “father,” the primal parent. She was also symbolized as the fish that brought salvation to mankind through inundation (the swelling of the river meant that the river was pregnant) and fertilization of the land.  It is also interesting to note that, in ancient Egyptian concepts, the original primal egg was feminine.

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 28 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

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