According to Akan cosmology, the Asamando is the ancestral world or the land of the spirits. Whereas the Akan conceive of the entire universe as essentially spiritual, the Asamando is regarded as the specific site where the spirits of ancestors dwell permanently. Revealed religions such as Christianity regard the heavens or the sky as the location of God and the hosts of angels, whereas for the Akan, the Asamando lies beneath the Earth. This belief in such an “underworld” sheds light on many Akan ritual practices, including dancing and pouring of libation, as the Earth reflects their connection to the spiritual realm.
For the Akan, owuo (physical death) does not mark the end of life. It represents the transition from Earthly life to spiritual life, a transition that each individual must make to reach the Asamando and join the community of ancestors or Nsamanfo. Attaining ancestorhood is one of the primary purposes and goals of life. Thus, important to an understanding of the Asamando are the Akan conceptualizations of humanity, life, and death.
The Akan believe that each individual consists of certain material and spiritual elements. The honam (body) and mogya (blood; connection to matrilineage) represent the material or physical components, whereas the kra (life force/soul), honhom (breath of Divine Life), and sunsum (spirit; connection to patrilineage) represent the spiritual or nonphysical components. Nyame (Creator) bestows these material and spiritual elements on people at conception and birth; however, when they “die,” the honam and mogya join Asase Yaa (Mother Earth) while the kra, honhom, and sunsum return to Nyame. Although the Akan believe that the universe and all things, animate and inanimate within it, are endowed with varying degrees of sunsum, on an individual basis, the sunsum is the basis of one's character and personality and originates from the father. Upon owuo, it is the sunsum that transitions to the Asamando and awaits nomination to the status of Nsamanfo.
Because the Akan calendar operates on a 40- to 42-day cycle, the Akan believe that it takes at least one cycle before the sunsum finally departs from the world of the living and transitions to the Asamando. Ayie (Akan funeral rites) are taken quite seriously as it becomes the responsibility of the deceased's family members to perform proper and timely customary rites as to ensure that the sunsum can properly transition to the Asamando; otherwise it can transform into an unsettled and malevolent spirit and may come back to harm the family.
Once the sunsum has made its transition, depending on the degree to which the individual lived a righteous life, his or her sunsum may be sent back to the Earthly realm to fulfill his or her nkrabea (destiny) via the honam of a newborn. In this way, the conceptualization of the Asamando has further implications for the Akan life cycle, in that as the elder members of society seek entrance into the Asamando, its newest members arrive from the Asamando.
The Asamando is of particular importance to the Akan cosmology because it provides the foundation for the collective conscience or ideas of morality. People attempt to live righteously so that when their time comes, they will be admitted to the Asamando.
- Ephirim-Donkor, A. (1997). African Spirituality: On Becoming Ancestors. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
- Opoku, K. A. (1978). West African Traditional Religion. Accra, Ghana: FEP International Private Limited.
- Opokuwaa, N. A. K. (2005). The Quest for Spiritual Transformation: Introduction to Traditional Akan Religion, Rituals and Practices. New York: iUniverse.