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Religion and the Union

In addition to the effective military organisation, religion is also very important in the history of Asante . Stools are central to Asante ven­eration of ancestors. A stool on which an Asante chief worthily served is blackened in a special werempe consecration ceremony, an all night ritual during which the spirit of the dead king is invoked to inhabit his stool. These rituals transform the stool into the abode for the spirit of the depart­ed king, who is offered prayers, food and libation on special sacred days.

Religion is an important aspect of the government of Asante . Therefore Osei Tutu and Okomfo Anokye instituted a special annual festi­val called Odwira, during which sacrifices are offered to the ancestors and deities. The other festival with political significance was the Adaekesie (the eighth forty-two day cycle in Akan calendar). During the Adaekesie festival for example Asantehene gives food and drinks to all previous kings and prays for the welfare of the state.

On this occasion all the Asante Amanhene as well as their Abrempong and chiefs gather in Kumasi to renew their loyalty and alle­giance to the Golden Stool and Asantehene. The importance of this is that, at least once a year, all the member states confirm their solidarity as one people with a common destiny. Prayers are said for the entire nation, dis­putes and misunderstandings among the chiefs and people are also settled. The festival also allows Asantehene to detect and reprimand those who have been disloyal. Failure to attend the festival is a sign of disloyalty to the king. Thus Adaekesie remains one of the most important means of maintaining the Asante Union.

In addition to these formal rituals, there are specific days on which the king performs personal rituals or instructs other cultic officials to per­ form specific rituals on his behalf. Among his Gyaase is the Nsumankwaahene, head of all medicine men, priests and priestesses. He is responsible for performing some of the rituals and may solicit the assis­tance of appropriate and trusted medicine men, priests and priestesses to offer ritual services on behalf of the king or the state.

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