NAMING CEREMONY IN GHANA

Naming Ceremony in Ghana

Naming ceremony in Ghana is hold in highest esteem, mostly every child born in Ghana or born to a Ghanaian parents need to have a name according to days of the week or the day in which the child was born. In Ghana and in most African countries, people normally don’t regard those who don’t have any of such names, mostly, one will be asked, what is your name? the answer suppose to be, Kofi Mensah or Esi Mansa not John Collins or Peter Brooks, one only mention his or her English name (as it is fervently called in Ghana) in school not at home or in the community. This example shows the power and potency of naming ceremony in Ghana.

Naming ceremony in Ghana is very unique in different ways, all the days of the week has it’s meaning and this can be a physical or an abstract meaning, it could be a name of an animal, nature, reason and many more, also, as soon as a child is born on a certain day of the week, automatically that new born-child get it’s name underway, with the exception of the family name or the surname, the rest are naturally and automatically given to the child. A typical example is, if the child is born on Friday, all those in the community who knows or have heard about the day in which the child was born will obviously call the child by that name thus Kofi, Fiifi ,Afi, Effia, Fii ,Efua, all this names shows that the child was born of Friday,  even before the outdooring or naming ceremony takes place, the baby takes the name automatically whether it is coming to stay or not.

Before a child will be giving a name in Ghana, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered, one such factor is to make sure that the child will be given a name according to the day the child was born, this day is normally the name that the child is affectionately going to be called till the necessary outdooring and naming ceremony takes place. One vital thing that comes before the naming ceremony is the  Outdooring ceremony.

OUTDOORING CEREMONY IN GHANA

Outdooring is a traditional religious ceremony practiced among all the ethnic groups or tribes in Ghana and it is part of the naming ceremony in Ghana. This is the day the new born-child is actually presented to the gods, the society or the community and the ancestors. Mostly, the new born-child takes a name of an ancestor or a dead relative whom they believed to had lead a decent and a good moral life. The Akan naming ceremony takes place exactly on the 8th day after birth called Nndawotwe in Akan. The significance of the 8th day is to give the baby and the mother time to recover, the child is also brought from threshold of it’s home during this time to prove his fitness or if the new born-child is ready to continue living. It is said that when a child is born, there are other elemental like ghost, witchcraft and other evil spirits that could worry or affect the health of the new born-child after birth or before the naming ceremony, so this outdooring is to prove that the child has come to stay on earth (Asaase yaa) and will not return to the ancestors or (Asamando), this corresponds to the notion that every new born child is regarded as a stranger (ɔhɔho) until the outdooring and naming ceremony is conducted.

Naming ceremony in Ghana is believed to be a day of socialization and this day brings the two parties together. Family members, heads of both clans, friends and sympathizers are all invited to witness and grace the occasion during the 8th day or the outdooring ceremony, a respectable or a clan leader obviously from the fathers side will be called to lead the prayers or the pouring of libation, the libations entails thanking the most high God or Twediampong Nyankopong for his protection, the gods and the ancestors are also thanked for their blessings and ask for long life, prosperity and good health for the new born-child and the mother as well, amid the prayers, the baby is also carried out for the first time to be introduced to the elements : earth, fire, wind and other unseen forces at present.

NOTE: Mostly the naming ceremony is added to the outdooring or it can be done separately.

 NAMING CEREMONY IN GHANA

Naming ceremony in Ghana is called Adinto or Abadinto in Akan, Kpɔdziemɔ in the Ga language, Vihehedego in the Ewe language and Suuna among the Dagomba’s.

HOW NAMING CEREMONY IS PERFORMED IN GHANA

It is the father who is responsible in naming the child so the naming ceremony takes places at the paternal house. Traditionally, the naming ceremony begins and ends before sunrise, the child is given to an Elder from the father’s side of the family who announces the kra din (soul name) to the family for the first time. Before the day of the ceremony, items such as alcohol (nsa), a bottle of water (nsuo/nsu), a mat (kɛtɛ/mpa), a calabash(kora), and a broom (prae) for girls and a cutlass (nkrante/ afona) for boys. Early in the morning, two elders (mpanyimfoɔ) of good character and reputation from the father’s family are sent to fetch the child and mother from the mother’s house. One elder or a clan head (ɛbusua panyin) is chosen to perform the ceremony, if it is a male child, that person chosen to perform the ceremony will be a male and vice-versa. The mother and the infant both dress in white cloth which signifies victory or purity, they also stay indoors until the ceremony begins. Certain sacred white beads are put on the child’s wrist and waist, the baby is then smeared with white clay called ɛshirow. As early as 5 or 6 a.m. in the morning, close relatives and friends of the mother help in the preparation. The ceremony initially starts with a pouring of libation to declare the purpose of the occasion. during the libation, the mothers side provide the first drink and the fathers side also provide the second one, during this time the child will be stripped naked and put on a bare floor, nowadays the child is put on a mat or a cushion.

Afterwards, a male or a female from the paternal side put the child on his or her laps while the important ritual of the ceremony takes place. During this time, the two cups are brought forth, which is the cup containing the alcohol and water, then an elder from the fathers family will dip his or her forefinger in the alcohol and says sɛ yɛka se nsa a ka se nsa this means” when we say that it is alcohol, say that it is alcohol” this ritual symbolizes untruth or lies so if you see lies say it is a lie, then the elder does the same with the water sɛ yɛka se nsuo a ka se nsuo this means” when we say that it is water, say that it is water” and this also symbolizes truth, so if you know the truth just say the truth. This follows the Bada (the day the child was born) or the kradin (the soul name) to be giving to the child, after this rituals, a fetish priest or an elder from the father’s clan is consulted again for the second name. It could be a name of a relative, ancestor or anything, hence the name can be “Kofi Okyin/Akyin”, this means a Friday male born Adventurer.

naming ceremony
Typical African dressing/costumes for naming ceremony

Furthermore, the child will be laid on the floor and lifted three times and placed on the mat naked, the broom is put in her hand if the child is a girl and If the child is a boy, a cutlass is placed in his hand, this ritual also symbolizes the ethic of hard work. After this ceremony gifts are presented to the newborn, after which the remainder of the alcohol (nsa) is shared with members of the two parties. The full name of the newborn child is then spoken to each member of the family, and each member sips some of the alcohol to show respect for the child and as a gesture towards the newborn’s health. A sumptuous and palatable food is served to the people who have come to grace the occasion, this is usually accompanied by music, dance and merry making.

This is how an Akan naming ceremony in Ghana takes place and usually all the tribes with the exception of the Dagombas has a slightly different naming ceremony.

naming in church
Naming ceremony in church

THE DAGOMBA’S NAMING CEREMONY

On the contrary, naming ceremony in Ghana takes different dimension especially in the northern part of Ghana, one of them is The Dagombas, they are the largest in the Northern Ghana and the second largest ethnic group in Ghana, their state is called Dagbon, and the language is called Dagbani or Dagbanli. Culture wise the Dagomba’s are heavily influenced by Islam traditions, which is brought to the region by traders between the 12th and the 15th centuries. Dagomba’s and the Wala people give a new born baby an Arabic name but the Gonja’s, the Kasena, the Bulsa, the Gurensi and the Kusasi generally do not, the language of the Dagbaani is related to the Talni, while on the other hand the Gonja people speak a Kwa language hence the variations in their naming system. Dagomba’s birth and naming ceremony preparations starts when the baby is born, it is known as Zugupenibu or “shaving of hair”. The name given to the new born-baby may alternatively be the name of a deity or a shrine (buguli/buyuh), basically, the child is believed to have been born with that spirit, when it is certain that the baby is healthy and it has come to stay, the birth and naming ceremony get started.

dDagomba naming ceremony
A baby is been shaved during Dagomba naming ceremony

During this day a goat is slaughtered as an appreciation to the ancestors, the families from both lineage are invited to grace the occasion, during this eve, men and women are separated, normally men sit under a big baobab, kola or a Shea-butter tree somewhere out of the compound, while women and children are kept in the house to help with chores such as cooking, cleaning, serving food to the men, etc. A newly born baby in Dagomba is referred to as sana or saando meaning “a male stranger”, or saanpaga meaning“a female stranger”, only the family members are entitled to visit the new-born child, this is to protect him from exposure to illness and other elemental. Sometimes names are given with the aid of a Soothsayer or Baga or baya. During the ceremony, the baby’s hair is shaved, in Islam the ceremony is called Suuna, this is the day the baby is officially presented to the public, the mother and the baby will put on white clothes. Well wishers are allowed to come forth to pay homage to the baby and the mother, some lends moral and financial support, others bring gifts to the mother and the baby. The ceremony follows with a feast, while the mother is also invited to take part in the dancing and feasting.

IMPORTANCE OF NAMING CEREMONY IN GHANA

  1. It gives the child an identity.
  2. The new born is welcomed and accepted to the community.
  3. The mother and the baby are given gifts and presents.
  4. The name differentiate the child from others and therefore the child will be called by that name.
  5. The child receives blessing from the families and also blessings are asked from the gods and the ancestors.
  6. It is a day to socialize and feast.

NOTED PEOPLE OF GHANAIAN DECENT AND NAMES

 

SOME AKAN NAMES OF PRAISE

  1. Bodua – protector, leader
  2. Okoto – calm, humble
  3. Ogyam – good, humane
  4. Ntonni – advocate, hero
  5. Pereko – fearless, firm
  6. Okyin/Akyin – adventurer, itinerant 
  7. Atoapem -ancient, heroic

NAMES BASED ON ORDER OF BIRTH

ORDER               MALE/FEMALE

First born               Píèsíe

Second born          Mǎnu/Máanu

Third born              Meńsã́/Mánsã

Fourth born            Anan/Anané

Fifth born               Núm/Anúm/Enu

Sixth born              Nsĩã́

Seventh born         Asón/Nsṍwaa /Esoun

Eight born              Bótwe/ Awortwe

Ninth born             Ákron/Nkróma/Akon

Tenth born             Badú/Badúwaa

Eleventh born         Dúkũ

Twelfth born           Dúnu

Last born                Kaakyire

NAMES GIVEN UNDER SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

CIRCUMSTANCE               MALE/FEMALE            TRANSLATION/MEANING         

on the field                           Afúom/Afum             “on the farm”

on the road                          Ɔkwán/Kwan              “the road”

in war                                   Bekṍe, Bedíàkṍ          “war time”

happy circumstances          Afiríyie                      “good year”

after death of father           Antó/Antobam         “it didn’t meet him”

after long childlessness      Nyamékyε                  “gift from God”

premature or sickly            Nyaméama                 “what God has given (no man can take away)”

father refuses                     Obím̀pέ                     “nobody wants”

responsibility                     Yεmpέw                    “we don’t want you”

came to meet wealth        Abayie                         at a good place

Christmas eve                   Bronya                        born on Christmas

Most of the tribes or ethnic groups in Ghana has a variation in pronouncing their names, all the “nndansoun” or the seven (7) days of the week has it’s feminine and masculine way of pronouncing them, Ghanaians or Akans naming  is based on the Kwa (Niger-Congo) language system, hence, it is an ancient way of naming borrowed when migrating to their present locations.

If a child is born in Ghana he or she is given a family name, a surname and his“ba da” the day in which the child came-forth (born) or “Kra da” which means soul name, also the days of the week are believed to influence the life and character of the person, for example the name Kofi is a Friday born and it means “fertility” and Friday day born is known in Ghana to be fertile, intelligent, wild, witty, trickster, strong and mysterious. The name of the week can also determine the tribe in which a person is from, example Kwashie/Quarshie is of Ewe/Ga origin, Kwesi is of Fanti origin, Akwasi/Kwasi is of Ashanti origin etc. Not only in Ghana that such names are popular and widely used, it is widely used by those in the diaspora and those who are from Ghanaian decent. Other African countries such us Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo all name their child according to the days of the week.

DAYS OF THE WEEK AND NAMING IN GHANA

DAY BORNMALEFEMALEVARIANTSROOTMEANING
SUNDAY
Kwasiada
KWASI
Kwesi,Siisi,Kwashie
Esi/Akosua
Kosi,Esi,Awusi,Awushie
Kwesi,Siisi,Kwashie
Kosi,Esi,Awusi,Awushie
AsiUniverse
MONDAY
Ɛdwóada
Kwadwo
Kodjó, Kojo,joo
Adwoa/Ajoa
Ajo,Ajoba
Kodjó, Kojo,joo
Joojo, Cudjoe,
DwoPeace
TUESDAY
Ɛbénada
Kwabena
Kobina,Komla,Ebo,Kobi
Abena
brema,Araba,Abena
Kobina,Komla,Ebo,Kobi
brema,Araba,Abena
BenaOcean/War
WEDNESDAY
Wukúada
Kwaku
Kweku,Kaku,Koku,Kuuku
Akua/Akuba
Aku,Ekua,Kuukuwa
Kweku,Kaku,Koku,Kuuku
Aku,Ekua,Kuukuwa,
Wukuo Spider
THURSDAY
Yáwóada
Yaw/Ekow
Kwaw,Ekow,Yaw,Yao
Yaa/Aba
Aba,Baaba,Yaba,Yaaba
Kwaw,Ekow,Yaw,Yao
Aba,Baaba,Yaba,Yaaba
YaaEarth
FRIDAY
Efíada
Kofi
Kofi,Fiifi,Fii,Yoofi
Efua/Afia
Afi,Afia,Efua,Afua,
Kofi,Fiifi,Fii,Yoofi
Afi,Afia,Efua,Afua,
AfiFertility
SATURDAY
Méméneda
Kwame
Kwame,Kwamina,Kwami
Ama/Amba
Ama,Ami,Amba,Ameyo
Kwame,Kwamina,Kwami
Ama,Ami,Amba,Ameyo
AmenGod
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