Safely Observing a Spiritual Healing Ceremony

Africa, Destinations, Extras, Ghana, Spiritual Travel — By on March 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Every day in Ghana was an adventure. We never knew what to expect. While traveling from the Upper West region down to the Greater Accra region, we stopped in a village called Ampabama where we were supposed to witness a spiritual healing ceremony. Although Western medicine has been implemented in Ghana, there are many people who do not trust it and prefer to use traditional or spiritual medicines. Since none of us had seen a spiritual healing ceremony before, we tried to keep an open mind and not think of Hollywood’s depicted images of fires and chants.

As we drove through Ampabama, people crept out of their homes and shops to catch a glimpse at the noise. Our driver took us through the village to park on a hilltop where the tro-tro would not be in the way.

Then we saw them coming. About 100 people of all ages were walking up the hill we parked on. The crowd was yelling and waving their arms to the beat of the drums as they surrounded our van. The 12 of us all looked around with expressions of confusion and terror. Immediately we all started asking the same useless questions: “What’s going on? What did we do? What do we do?” Before we could get answers, our professors directed us out of the van and into the crowd.

Here are four lessons taken from the ceremony we witnessed:

1) Don’t jump to conclusions. It turns out the angry mob was not so angry. In fact, they were celebrating and quickly gathered us to join in the celebration. We seemed to fall into a mini-parade where everyone clapped and danced as we made our way back down the hill. Our parade continued through the street and came to a stop in a courtyard surrounded by shacks and buildings. We took our seats and watched as the performers began dancing. A group of seven drummers created a beat that steadily increased in tempo as the dance continued.

2) Don’t get too comfortable.
The performers–a woman, a young boy, and a young girl–danced tirelessly around the courtyard. Almost too quickly, the young girl collapsed and was scooped up by the young boy who then rushed her inside one of the shacks. The woman continued to dance. While still trying to figure out what was happening, we were motioned to come into the shack with the girl and boy. Inside we finally met the spirit healer, an elderly woman dressed in colorful clothes. She told us she would summon spirits to possess herself, so she could save the girl. We lowered our heads and listening to the chants as she summoned a spirit to enter her body.

3) Pay attention to de
tails. We went back outside to take our seats and saw that the woman was still dancing to the drums. As the dancer stepped and clapped in rhythm, we saw the spirit healer emerge from the shack. This time she was wearing a grass skirt and had a white sheet wrapped around her. She walked slowly. Her glassy eyes looked towards the sky and her arms were open before her. She sat down in a large chair with a grass canopy and began covering her face and body in white powder. Once completely covered, she stood up, put on a red sash and began dancing along with the woman. That’s when our driver filled us in on his interpretation of the healing ceremony. He showed us how this ceremony was a way for the locals to make fun of the British officers who occupied Ghana until 1957. The white powder symbolized the white skin, the sash symbolized an officer’s sash, and the pipe she held (which I did not notice until he pointed it out) was similar to the one the officers smoked.

4) Let loose and have fun. At the end of the ceremony, the girl was healed and we all took turns going up to dance with the spiritual healer. It was a blast to let loose and dance to the rhythm of the drums.

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