Asase Yaa

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Preceded only by Nyame (Creator) in power and importance, Asase Yaa (also referred to as Aberewa [old woman] and Mother Earth) is the second Great Spirit revered within Akan cosmology. The Akan regard the earth as a female spirit because of her fertility and power to bring forth life and further personalize her as a mother because human beings depend on her for their continual nurturance and sustenance. She is of paramount importance to the Akan because it is through Asase Yaa, by way of libation and dance, that they gain access to and maintain familial connections with the ancestors.
Named according to the Akan tradition of “day-naming,” she is most often referred to as Asase (Earth) Yaa (female born on Thursday) because most Akan believe that Nyame created Earth on a Thursday. However, among the Fante, who believe that Nyame created Earth on a Friday, she is known as Asase Efua (female born on Friday). Traditionally, among those who call her Asase Yaa, Thursday is considered a day of rest, on which there is no tilling of the land, no burying of the dead, and all acts that may desecrate the Earth are avoided. Those who call her Asase Efua observe this sacred day Friday. Generally, on any given day, one will not manipulate or agitate the land in any way without her prior permission, gained exclusively through the pouring of libation, because serious consequences are believed to befall those who violate protocol.
Asase Yaa is called in libations (the ceremonial pouring of liquid), immediately after Nyame, and it is with her name that the first offering is made to the ancestors. Thus, because libation is the vehicle through which the Akan initiate all rituals, traditional ceremonies, and political proceedings, Asase Yaa is essentially as prevalent in the spiritual culture of the Akan as is Nyame.
Reverence for her is further manifest in a multitude of Akan rituals. During an infant's outdooring (naming) ceremony, once the complete name is given, the child is placed on a mat to symbolize thanksgiving to Asase Yaa for sustaining its life and to the ancestors for their eternal protection and guidance. During ayie (funeral rites), libation is poured specifically to Asase Yaa not only to ask her permission for digging the grave, but also to ask her to accept and protect the body of the person to be buried. Asase Yaa is also known as the upholder of truth, and, as such, in everyday situations, those suspected to be less than truthful are challenged to touch the tip of their tongue to the Earth as evidence of their honesty.
There are no shrines dedicated to Asase Yaa nor are their priests to serve her because she is not an abosom (deity) whom people may consult through divination. The Akan believe that everyone has the ability to show her reverence, whether through libation or simply keeping the Earth clean, and that her abundance is accessible to us all.

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Further Reading

  • 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.