A name is a powerful thing. It’s one of the cornerstones of culture and society all over the world. They’re universal and yet deeply personal. A name may tie person to a country, religion, or ethnicity but more importantly, a name ties a person to a family and that's what makes each name uniquely beautiful.
Landtours Ghana has organized exciting cultural tours across Ghana and West Africa and The Naming ceremony in Torgome, a beautiful village located on the lower Volta, is one of the most captivating trips. Visitors have the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on the paramount chief and elders, enjoy traditional drumming and dancing by the villagers and participate in a naming ceremony where they are given a traditional African name.
In Ghana and indeed most other West African countries, naming ceremonies are part of the essential rites of passage in a person's life. The nature of the celebration may range anywhere between the elaborate and the simple, depending on the region, ethnicity and family background. Nonetheless, they are always special.
The Ewe people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Ghana. They are the largest ethnic group in Togo and also have a minority presence in Benin, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. Ewes have an amazingly rich culture dating back hundreds of years and are renowned for their unique linguistic, musical and religious traditions. These strong traditions imbue the Ewe naming ceremony with a sense of depth and dignity that impacts all those who witness it. Within the Ewe language the naming ceremony is referred to as Vinehedego.
The Vinehedego naming ceremony is held on the eighth day after a child is born. Before the ceremony the child is a given a temporary name based on the day of the week on which they were born. In times past, the mother and newborn child would not appear in public until this eight day, underlining the perception that the child is not part of society until they are officially named .An elderly person of good moral standard is chosen to perform the naming rites. This is especially so because within the Ewe tradition, the child is said to reflect the personality of the one who administers the rites.
Libation is offered while the child’s name is mentioned simultaneously. Schnapps is poured on the ground ceremoniously while the elder praises the creator god Mawu as well as a number of lesser deities trɔwo. The Ewe people strongly believe that these deities serve as the spiritual vehicles and the powers that influence a person's destiny. Soon after, the name of the newborn child is spoken out loud a number of times by the child’s father. This is to officially signify the naming of the child and its formal introduction into society.
If the child is a girl it is given sugar to taste; If the child is a boy, it is given gin or schnapps to taste. Subsequently the elder dips his index finger into the water and places it on the mouth of the infant saying, “When it is water, may you say it is water”, a charge to the child to be honest in everything they do.
After the ceremony the merry making continues as the family and community celebrate their newest members.
By Victor Kyerematen
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