Amokye is the name that the Akan people give to the guardian of the threshold of death. In fact, among the Asantes, it’s believed that Amokye can be compassionate and kind or difficult and cruel. An old woman named Amokye welcomed souls of dead women at the river that souls crossed to reach Asamando (the land of the dead). In payment, Amokye receives from them Amoansie (a small piece of silk cotton cloth) and beads. Asante women prepared for burial were dressed in amoansie and beads so they could give these to Amokye at the river crossing. In a well known Asante tale is a young man named Kwasi Benefo who a made a journey to Asamando in search of the spirits of his dead wives. The story below shows the role of Amokye at the world of departed souls.
Kwasi Benefo was a farmer and a cattle raiser. He had had many cattle and farmed on good land, his fields bringing him good harvest each year. He didn’t have a wife, however, to give him children or care for his house. He was saddened by this because he wanted a wife to mourn him when he is dead. One day he went looking for a woman to marry and in a village he discovered a beautiful woman who pleased him a lot. They got married and soon the woman became ill and died. Kwasi Benefo grieved about this loss. He bought her an amoansie to cover her genitals and beads to go round his waist. He later travelled to a different village to find a woman again and marry and luckily he found one who had a good character.
They married and the woman became pregnant but later, his pregnant wife became ill and died. This second wife was also buried with amoansie and beads as well. The grieving Kwasi Benefo sat in his house for days and refused to come out. People said to him that others had died and that people die all the time. They told him he had to get up and go about his work. His friends pleaded with him to come out and mingle with them. In time, the family of the dead woman heard about Kwasi’s grief and believed that he was grieving much too long. They said, “Lets us give him another wife”. They gave him their daughter to marry and they gave birth to a son and it was celebrated throughout the land. He was happy, his life was good, and he shared his joy with his friends.
There was a day, however while Kwasi Benefo was in his fields that some village women ran to him with news that that a tree had fallen. They were in tears as they told him the news. They told him that his wife was returning from the river where she had gone for water. Then she sat beneath a tree to rest and a spirit of the woods weakened the roots and the tree fell on her. Kwasi ran as fast as he could to the village, where he found his wife on the mat without life. He cried out, threw himself on the ground, and lay there as if life left him also. He heard, saw, and felt nothing. Some people came by and said Kwasi Benefo is dead.
The spiritual men and women came said,” no he lingering between life and death.” They performed all kinds of rituals over him and he was brought back to life. Kwasi made an arrangements and he bought amoansie and bead to bury his wife. He took his son to his wife’s home and left him there with his relatives. Kwasi Benefo then went into the forest and walked for many days aimlessly. After a long while, he arrived at a distant village, he left immediately and went farther into the forest, feeling that he had to get farther away from the place of sadness. When he became hungry, he gathered roots and herbs for food. Soon his clothes were tattered and turned to rags. He killed animals and used their skins for clothes. Kwasi left the forest to an unknown village where he began to farm and got married to his fourth wife. However his wife took ill and died and he decided to journeyed back to his native village.
Many people were surprised when he came back because they thought he was dead. When his family and friends tried to celebrate his return, he told them to stopped because he told them that he came back to die in his own village and be buried near his ancestors.One night he could not sleep and thought of going to Asamando, the land of the dead to see the four (4) young women whom he married. So he left his village and went to the forest a place called Asamando where the dead are buried. So he left his village and went to the forest place called Asamando where the dead are buried. When he got there, he found no paths, no lights and all was nothing but darkness. He kept walking until he found a village with dim lights.
The place was strange. There were no sounds, no voices, no birds, and no animals. He finally came to a river and when he tried to cross the river, he couldn’t because the water was too high. He was sure that this was the end of the journey. Just as he was about to give up for good, he felt a splash of water on his face and looked across the river. Sitting on the opposite bank of the river, he saw an old woman with a brass pan at her side. In the pan were beads and many amoansie for women. Kwasi Benefo knew that the old woman was Amokye, the guardian who welcomed the souls of dead women to Asamando. Old Amokye asked Kwasi Benefo, “Why are you here”? He answered; I have come here to see my wives. I cannot live here any longer because every woman who says in my house dies. Amokye said to him, “you must be Kwasi Benefo.
Yes I have heard your troubles and sadness. However you are not a soul, but a living person, you cannot cross over. Kwasi said to Amokye, and then I will stay here until I die and become a soul. At last Amokye had compassion on Kwasi Benefo and said to him because of your tremendous pain, grief and suffering, I will let you cross to find your wives but you cannot see them since they are like air but they will feel your presence and they will know you have come and you will also feel their presence.
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