Northern Gods

in Remains of Ritual

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780226265049
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226265063 | DOI:
Northern Gods

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This ethnography traces Ewe ritual life across the praxis of a northern medicine shrine that came to the Volta Region in the 1920s. These strangers in a southern land were part of a larger movement of “occult economies” that flowed from the savanna regions literally in the bags of ritual entrepreneurs. Although these northern gods were strangers (their otherness a source of their power), their ways were not unfamiliar to the Ewe people. While virtually all the other northern shrines that came to Ewe country during this period eventually withered away, the Brekete shrine not only survived but flourished, becoming one of the dominant ritual scapes along the Guinea Coast. The complex movement of these northern shrines has engaged the ethnographic and historical imagination of Africanists for generations, from virtually the beginnings of anthropology in Ghana. Dance in Africa celebrates lives, commemorates death, consummates alliances, is part of the everyday lifeworld. Much else happens—sacrifice and libation, divination and prayer, sometimes even possession—when music is largely absent.

Keywords: ethnography; Ewe people; ritual life; gods; Brekete shrine; Guinea Coast; dance; Africa; music

Chapter.  2308 words. 

Subjects: Ethnomusicology

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