NAMING AND OUTDOORING CEREMONIES
Naming and outdooring ceremonies are celebrated in most Ghanaian communities. It is called a naming ceremony because it is the first day the child is given a name that marks the newborn’s social identity. It is also called an outdooring ceremony because it is the first time the child is taken out of doors from the room the child was born. In some communities, the baby is not taken out for some days when it is born. This is because they are not sure if the newborn can survive the many dangers it will be facing after birth. During this time, the baby is regarded as a stranger or a visitor. Such a child is known among the Akan as ɔhɔho, and the child is identified by a soul name determined by the day of the week the child is born. Among the Ewes, the newborn is known as Amedzro and to the Dagombas, it is known as Saando for a boy and Saanpaga for a girl. Different ethnic groups have different names for the naming and outdooring ceremonies. Among the Akan, it is known as Abadinto or Dzinto, to the Ewes it is called Vihehedego, the Gas call it Kpodziemo and the Dagaris call it Sunna.
The day for naming the child differs from community to community. Among the Akan, it takes place on the eighth day.It takes place in the Northern and Upper Regions on the 3rd and 4th day for boys and girls respectively. The choice of names and the procedures involved differ from the ethnic groups. For example, among the Akan, the child is given the first name on the day which he or she was born. For example, Ama and Kwame are names for a girl and a boy respectively, born on a Saturday. The order of birth of the child also gives rise to some names among the Akan. For example, the first born child is called Pesie and the second, third, fourth, fifth.sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth children of the same sex are known as Manu, Mensa and Annan (Anane), Anum, Nsia, Asuon, Awɔtwe, Nkroma, and Badu for the boys and Manu, Mansa, Maanan for the girls.
Some ethnic groups also consult their cults to name their children. An example of such ethnic group is the Anlo. Some children are also named due to some circumstances. Example, Anto or Antobam in Akan for a child whose father dies before it is born. Awia or Kawia is also for a child born on a sunny day, this is among the Kasenas. Sometimes,in the Northern and Upper Regions, a diviner is consulted. Other circumstances such as the procedures involved during the day of naming the child differs from community to community. Here is an example of how the Gas name their child.
Kpodziemo - Child Naming Ceremony of the Ga
The Gas call their outdooring or naming ceremony as Kpodziemo. Early in the morning, two elderly women from the father's house are sent to go and bring the child from the mother's house. One is chosen to perform the rites.If it is a male child,the person chosen will be a man and vice versa. Such a person is recommended to be of good character so that the child will have the same character traits and personality when he or she grows up. This elder pours two libations one with corn beer, and the other with gin or schnapps. Corn beer is used for the first libation. This drink is provided by the mother's family. The corn beer is poured at every doorstep and at the main entrance to the house. The second libation which is the gin or schnapps is provided by the father's family. After the libation, the child is brought out and stripped naked. The child is then put on the ground. A calabash of water is thrown on the roooftop so that it trickles on the child as rain. This rite is of much importance to the Ga because it introduces the child to rain and the earth as life sustainers. These days, the water is sprinkled onto the child without being put on the rooftop. The child is then given then given some Wine to taste. A final libation which is known as outdooring prayer is poured. This libation is offererd to ask for blessings of the child's family and prayers for the child to be obedient, truthful and respectful. The child's name is then announced to the gathering after which corn beer is served. Gifts are then presented to the child. The ceremony ends with feasting and merry making.
These days, hospitals and health care centres, formal education, christianity and Islamic religions have influenced greatly the performance of naming ceremonies. Babies are no longer kept in the house. They are born in hospitals, clinics, and health centers. Some babies, therefore, spend their first days in these places mentioned above and therefore the naming ceremony does not take place on the either the eighth, third and fourth days. Water trickling from the rooftop with the child naked is not practised again. Also, alcoholic drinks such as schnapps, gin and palmwine have been replaced with soft drinks such as fanta and coca cola. Naming ceremonies have also turned to be big social occassions which now take place after the eighth day and in addition to traditional names given to them, religious and European names are also given to children.
Naming ceremonies are considered important in Ghanaian communities because it identifies the baby as an individual. Naming ceremonies also mark the beginning of the laying of the foundation for good morals and values such as being respectful and truthful. Even though the child cannot talk and understand whatever goes around him, he is taught to be truthful and this is seen in the water and the wine or gin given to him to taste. The child is also named after someone or an ancestor with good character and it is expected that when the child grows, he will be like the person he was named after. In addition to traditional names, European names are now given to children.
Akan Child Naming Ceremony
Naming ceremony is done for the child to be recognised in the society and also to have a name. 'Abadinto' is the name given to the ceremony. The ceremony takes place in the father's house on the 8th day, the reason for waiting for 8 days is to determine whether the child really came to stay because it is believed that some children don't like the weather or just come to look around and go back to wherever they came from. Some of the items used include schnapp, 2 glasses, a bottle of water, a ring, a basket and broom for girls, and cutlass for boys. In the Akan society you don't have to send out invitations, because it use to be a society where everybody is a friend to the other. On the scheduled day the mother baths the baby and they both dress in white cloth and stay indoor till the ceremony starts. As early as 6am some of the people who are more close to the mother comes to help in the preparation. Around 8am, when all guest have arrived the child's auntie or grandmother on the father's side takes the child unto the laps. Both the water and the schnapp each is poured into separate glasses and she then dips her forefinger into the schnapp and then mentions her name 3 times and then put it in on the child's tongue (let's take it she is called Afia) she says Afia when you see schnapp say is schnapp, goes through the same process with the water, Afia, when you see water say water this is done to signify truth, meaning the child should grow up to tell the truth. then the mat is spread on the floor and the child is placed on it naked and the broom is put in her hand and she is covered with the basket after a second or so the basket is removed. This signifies that she should not grow to be a lazy girl but rather hard working, one who will always be ready to help with the house chores and of a helping hand to the husband when she marries. After that the ring is put on her forefinger. After all this is done, a special feast is thrown for all the people who came and some people even stay in their homes till the feast time so that they come to enjoy with those who came. This is the process through which a new-born baby is passed through before she is given a name in Ghana and to be specific in the Akan society.
The following excerpt is from a naming ceremony observed at Ampia Ajumako in the Central Region. The child was named after the father’s mother a female born on Friday. The child’s full name is Afua Seguwaa Kyenebowa. The following is what the elderly person who was performing the name ritual said:
Abɔfra woaba tena ase, mmɛyɛ nyɛkyerɛ nkɔ. Wo maamenom ne wo papanom na ahyia ha nnɛ yi. Yɛrema wo din nnɛ. Edin a yɛde rema wo ne Afua Seguwa Kyenebowa. Yɛbɛfrɛ wo Afuae efiri sɛ yɛwoo wo Efiada. Saa da yi na wo kraa pene so sɛ bra asaase yi so. Yɛde wo reto wo nana Afua Seguwaa. Ne din pa ara ne Seguwaa, ne mmarima din so de Segu anaa Saigoe. Kyenebowa no yɛ wo papa din. Yei nti bɛbu subanpa, mmɛyɛ biribi a ɛbɛma nkurɔfoɔ anya kwan adidi wo atɛm ama ebi aka wo nana. Bio yɛde wo papa din Kyenebowa reka wo din ho sɛdeɛ wobɛfa wo papa su na woatiatia n'anammɔn mu ayere wo ho ayɛ adwuma na woasi nkete te sɛ wo papa ne wo nana. Yɛka sɛ nsuo a, ka sɛ nsuo, yɛka se nsa a, ka sɛ nsa. Mfa nsuo ngyina w'ano mu nkasa nkyerɛ yɛn.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------'Baby, you are welcome to this world. Have a longer stay, just do not come and exhibit yourself and return. Your mothers and fathers have assembled here today to give you a name. The name we are giving to you is Afua Seguwaa Kyenebowa. You are named Afua because that is the day your soul decided to enter into this world. We are naming you after your grandmother Afua Seguwaa. Her Seguwaa is the feminine form of Segu or Saigoe. In view of this, come and put up a good moral behaviour. Again we are attaching your father's name Kyenebowa to your name. Follow the footsteps of your father and your grandmother, and come and work hard like them. When we say water, let it be water, when we say schnapp or soft drink, let it be schnapp or soft drink. Do not put water in your mouth to speak to us.'The eight-day-old baby may not be cognizant of what the naming ceremony is all about. The full meaning and the educational value of the ceremony are learned gradually through the years at successive ceremonies. While the rudiments (for example, differences in tastes) are learned by the individual at one’s own naming ceremony, added knowledge is gained at successive ceremonies at which s/he is a parent, relative, or a participant in one way or the other. In this regard the naming of one is essentially not an individual but a social learning situation.
The ceremony serves to teach the ancestral history as the past accomplishments and qualities of the ancestor who previously bore that name are retold. The occasion reminds the participants that as individuals each has a contribution to make to the corporate life of the group. It also serves to emphasize to the newborn that s/he belongs to a lineage with tradition and history that s/he can be proud of. The ceremony also serves to teach the newborn and remind the adult participants that life is full of contrasts – occasions when living can be very “sweet” or when living can be very “bitter;” there will be ups and downs, disappointments and joyous situations, and that one should not give up when the going gets tough.