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Onyankopon


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Africa

Literal meaning: ‘the great one’. According to the Ashanti, the universe is ‘full of spirits’, but as Bore-Bore, ‘the creator of all things’, Onyankopon was the god who made them all. Below the pantheon of gods, abosom, and minor deities, asuman, are the lesser spirits which animate trees, animals, or charms; and then there are the ever-present nsamanfo, the spirits of the ancestors. Onyankopon is Otumfoo, ‘the powerful one’; Otomankoma, ‘the eternal one’; Ananse Kokroko, ‘the great wise spider’; and Onyankopon Kwame, ‘the great one who appeared on Saturday.’

At first the sky god Onyankopon lived very near to men. He was obliged to remove his abode to the top of the sky because a certain old woman used to knock her long pestle against him when she pounded yams. As soon as the crone realized what had happened, she instructed her many children to collect all the mortars they could find, and pile them one on top of the other. They did so, till they required but one mortar to reach Onyankopon. She told them to take one from the bottom of the pile and put it on the top. They did so, the pile wobbled and fell, and the tumbling mortars killed many people. After this incident ‘the great one’ remained at a distance from men, but he is never considered to be inaccessible to the individual; unlike abosom he does not have special priests.

The abosom derive their power from Onyankopon. They are said to ‘come from him’, to be ‘parts of him’, and to act as intermediaries and messengers between him and other creatures. For ‘the great one’ sent the rivers and the sea, who were his children, ‘to receive honour from men, and in turn to confer benefits on mankind.’


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