My Visit to a Traditional African Priest

by Agomo Atambire (member of the Humanist Association of Ghana)

I am a Ghanaian, born and bred within this area of the earth we call Ghana and I have not lived outside of it (note). Taking you even further, I am from an ethnic group known as Frafras. Like the other ethnic groups that make up this country, the Frafras are very superstitious! One of my names is in honour of one of the gods of my people. Christianity and Islam may be what my people portray but they are neck deep in the traditional practices and I have had my family to as a primary source to view this charade.

I am an atheist and have been for a long time now. My friends and family think it is a position I have taken out of rebellion or something I do for attention. Well the truth is I do not like being seen and to draw attention to myself is worthless to me.

The problem arises when someone walks up to me and says, “You mean to tell me you do not believe in ghosts, dwarfs and demons?” and as always they get the same answer, a resounding NO! They are always the ones who often tell me they know a place they can take me, a place where I will witness the real power of spirits and dwarfs at work, and I have always taken the challenge. It amazes me that none of them have seen or heard these dwarfs before yet they believe they exist.

At last a friend whom I have always argued with on issues of superstition finally arranged for me to see a traditional priest who he believes will finally provide the needed evidence that will push me ‘back into the light’ of faith.

We went to the traditional (fetish) priest in the afternoon that same day at Tolon, a small town in the Northern Region of Ghana. This was good news and I couldn’t leave it for another day. The priest (Kanbungnaa) claimed he had dwarfs that he could call anytime for me to communicate with but first I needed to buy alcohol, which I did. I thought the gods were going to gulp it right in front of me but it did not not happen that way. Instead my drink went down the throat of the priest. The next requirement was to make an offering so I put some money where Kanbungnaa asked me to. The money did not move from where I put it. He asked me to say what I want to see. Finally my favourite part! I asked for him to show me something (anything) supernatural but as expected he failed woefully.

He tried several tricks but none yielded anything positive, including the frequent incoherent words he murmured to the empty gourds, skeletons of sheep and goats covered in powder, feathers and red cloths. In an attempt to intimidate me, this priest started speaking in an angry tone. He threatened that he would call the dwarfs in, but when they appear, they are going to beat me heavily so that I’ll have to be hospitalised if I am to survive. I told him it’s “game on” and he should do his worse! He was trapped!

Sensing that I was determined to see before believing, he turned to my friends and told them to be careful with me because I might land them in trouble. He said I am going to get killed by a god one day for challenging authority and they (my friends who brought me here) are going to be held responsible.

The guys who took me there were so scared they started begging for him to do something harmless but I insisted on the most powerful trick in his arsenal. He failed to deliver.

Finally the priest asked me to chose any currency of my choice and he would charm it. I smiled. I asked him to charm the Yuan. He didn’t know what currency that was and when I told him it was Chinese, he said that he didn’t possess the perfume that could produce it. Insisting that he could make money out of thin air, he said he could charm the Cedi, Naira, CFA and the dollar. I chose $1 and  he asked if that was the one with the bald man (Benjamin Franklin). I said no. He said to me that if I want money I should be aiming higher not lower so I should just let him bring out a $100 note, which I refused because I know that trick too well.

He could not show me anything so he asked me to come back another day and this time he will show me Maame Water (mermaid).

When I returned again, he still had nothing. Anytime I go to him there is something new that he needs to prepare – a concoction that he doesn’t have. I have grown tired of his scheme.

My last encounter with him went terribly wrong for him when he tried divination. He attempted to tell how my sex life has been. I am a “desert” (hot and dry) yet he talked about a rain forest. He heard me say to my friend that all he’d said about me was wrong, and he got furious that I had called him a liar.

Needless to say, my friends who took me there still believe in the supernatural and the powers of the priest even though nothing was demonstrated or seen. This shows how fear and a lack of critical thinking still have hold over many people.

The are no dwarfs, no demons and no spirits that I have seen. I am willing to go any length to see any of these spirits people claim exist, so if you have one in your room please do not hide him/her from me. You owe the world that evidence so you can win “souls” for whatever congregation you belong, and if you don’t have that, please stop giving people the hearsay stories that have been passed on from several generations to you without verification.

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About Graham Knight

I was a music teacher in a college in London. I became allergic to my culture and disillusioned with the decline of the education system. I came to Ghana and thought I had arrived in paradise. Then I noticed the cracks, learnt to value things about my own culture again and also form a more balanced view of that life. Unexpected events have led me back to the UK again.

One response to “My Visit to a Traditional African Priest”

  1. Chris Highland says :

    This story and your method make me think of Narendra Dabholkar and his anti superstition work in India http://antisuperstition.org). Sad to say he was murdered. I consider him a martyr of Freethought.

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