|A panorama of the Edwenase Shrine.|
I woke unsurprisingly early after going to bed at 8:30 the previous night and went in search of my customary breakfast of omelet and coffee in a bustling Ejisu. It was market day and everyone an anyone was either dressed in their finery heading for church or perusing the hundreds of items on sale throughout the town. It seemed they were selling everything. Everything except omelets. I picked up a couple of Ghanaian doughnuts and some bananas before finding a shared taxi to Omwe. My destination was the small town of Edwenase which housed the Atia Kusia Kwame Shrine which I was keen to visit and possibly meet the Fetish Priest who lives there. It was a Sunday after all. The day of worship.
|The entrance to the shrine.|
"Welcome. I am the priest here. Eric"
"Ok. Hmm. Anthony... Welcome."
|The chair where I placed my offering.|
|Eric speaks to the spirit.|
|The drumming section.|
|The shrine section.|
"You cannot play the drums. Ok? As I have not taugh you how to ok?" Which he proceeded to repeat several times over to increasingly deaf and drumming ears. The School teacher grabbed the near empty plate of white powder and started throwing it in the air around Eric to ward off any bad spirits in the shrine. Eric was still reluctant but eventually relented and started to dance and move with the music as the school teacher threw more white powder after replenishing the plate with a bottle of 'Ladies Choice' talcum powder (which explains Eric's youthful complexion). The drummers drummed faster and Eric danced faster with a series of balletic spins and graceful shuffles that ebbed and flowed with the pace of the music.
|Eric starts to enter the trance.|
|The ever willing school teacher kneels at Eric's feet.|
|Eric breaks in to dance.|
|Eric stops to listen to the spirit.|
|"Sorry. What did you say?"|
"What do you desire?"
I was flummoxed.
"What?" I ejaculated
"What do you desire?" the teacher repeated before seeing my obviously dumbfounded expression and adding by way of explanation"of the spirit".
I hadn't expected this. My brain raced searching for anything in the corners of my subconscious that would answer his question. I stared blankly at him for a few seconds before blurting out the first thing that came in to my head. It's amazing how your brain works under pressure. How quickly it can drag the recesses of your mind and clearly come up with an answer. I had never even considered my answer before as a desire of mine, but the moment I said it it felt right.
After a while Eric stopped his dancing and came out of his trance and came to rest on the step next to me. I was told by the school teacher that I would now have some time alone with the priest followed by more repetition and reminders to give him money. In reality all of the drummers and the school teacher followed Eric and I back in to the living quarters where Eric argued with the school teacher about the advice he had given me before deciding he wasn't happy with one of the eggs and sending the teacher with his tail between his legs to buy another one.When he returned and the egg was deemed fit for purpose it was handed to me.
"Go in to that room there and speak all that you desire to the egg." Instructed the school teacher while Eric nodded.
|Eric wrapped in his white sheet consults the spirit as the school teacher watches on.|
I rose automatically and walked in to the the room, my hands clasped tightly around the egg which I raised to my mouth, facing the wall. I stood there dumbstruck. Unsure of what to do.
"SPEAK! SPEAK! Speak your desires to the egg." The school teacher shouted as if sensing my bafflement.
I spoke. I asked 4 things of the spirit/egg before returning to the main courtyards to present the unchanged egg to Eric, which he inspected before rising to his feet and announcing
"Come. We should now go to the river."
Before turning on his heel and marching out of the door and in to the town. We all followed as quick as we could in tow. We left the village and decended the hill to a fairly stagnant piece of water which forms part of the local river. The water was covered in algae. Weaver birds darted here and there diligently attending to their nests and calling to each other. After hours of drumming the serenity of the river was a welcome relief.
Eric turned on his heels to face me.
"Throw the egg in to the river."
I instinctively did as commanded and launched the egg as far as I could in to the river where it broke the algae covered surface and sank in to the deep, barely making a ripple. I watched Eric who stood resolutely still watching the water. Nothing happened. The birds sang. We waited. Nothing happened. I'm not sure what I was expecting to happen. I'd just thrown an egg in to a river. There was the inevitable splash but what was going to happen after that? Hundreds of chickens burst out of the water? But at that moment my rational brain had left long ago. I was completely captivated the rhythm and mystery of the ceremony.
Suddenly Eric turned away from the river and marched back in to the town leaving us all, again, in his dusty wake. We all sat in silence for a while back in the shrine waiting for Eric to speak about the ceremony when the school teacher, unable to stop himself doing his near perfect impression of a broken tape player went back to his repetitive cycle of advice and reminders to pay him. It didn't help his gravitas that his bald forehead was now emblazoned with one of Eric's talcy hand prints.
Finally Eric snapped and turned to the school teacher.
"When did I say that?" The teacher looked chastised and babbled incoherently before falling silent under Eric's manic gaze. When the silence had settled Eric turned his attention to me.
"You told the egg your desires didn't you?" He asked calmly. His eyes returning to their normal business of darting around the room.
"Yes sir." I replied
"Well then. It will be so. Ok? The spirit will help you...There is a river in London. Correct?"
"Yes sir." I couldn't help feeling like I was in the headmasters office.
"Good. Then the spirit will find a way to you. You threw the egg in the river here and it will find a way to help you. River here. River there. It's all connected. Ok?" As he finished Eric broke in to a wide and somehow comforting smile opening his hands wide to emphasise his point. As if what he said was the simplest and most strait forward thing in the world and I thanked him, genuinely. Spiritual or spurious the experience had been truly incredible. Eric acknowledged my thanks before turning away from me to begin remonstrating with the school teacher again in Twi, for some reason mentioning various London Bridges.
The ceremony had taken over 2 hours but was now finally at a close. I went and bought some Striker and Apateche for Eric and the drummers as thanks for their time and effort which went down extremely well with all, except of course the school teacher who wanted money to buy food as well. There's no pleasing some people.
As I left the shrine and re-entered the village Eric said goodbye and assured me he had kept the 10 cedi safe and would be sure to spend it on a libation of Schnapps for the spirit. I walked off down the deserted dirt road, a sachet of Striker in hand libating myself and my mind reeling from the insanity of the events that had just happened.
Maybe that's what life comes down to. I thought to myself.
What would you ask the egg?
And I chuckled to myself, as I walked alone in the dust, in to the African afternoon.