The Akan is the largest of the ethnic groups in Ghana, where subgroups like Ashanti, the Wass, the Anyi and the Baoulé can be found, among others. Followers of the Akan spirituality believe in Nyame,the supreme god who created the universe, and Asase Yaa, Nyame’s wife, goddess of fertility, love and Mother Earth.
Let’s take a deep dive into who Asase Yaa is, Ashanti Earth Goddess.
Who is Asase Yaa?
Asase Yaa (pronounced ‘ah-sah-see-yah’, meaning ‘mother earth’). She is also referred to as Aberewa (in Akan meaning “Old Woman”). She is the Earth Goddess of fertility, representing the earth’s womb, who gives us birth and to whom we all return at death.
The earth is very important to the Akan people. They regard it as a female spirit because of its fertility (ability to grow plants, food, etc) and its power to bring things to life. They further personalize it as a mother because human beings depend on it for continued nurturance and sustenance.
What does Asase Yaa represent?
Her name comes from the Akan tradition of day-naming. Asase (Earth) and Yaa (“female born on Thursday”) because most Akan believe that Nyame created Earth on a Thursday. However, this is different for the Fante people who believe that Nyame created Earth on a Friday, the reason why for the Fante she is known as Asase Efua (female born on Friday).
For these reasons Thursdays (and Fridays for the Fante) is a traditional day for honoring her in the sacred space. On this day, farmers refrain from planting or burying the dead, or any other acts that may desecrate the earth. On non rest days, if the land should be manipulated or agitated, her permission should still be asked for.
The permission is granted through the pouring of libation (through libation and dance, the Akan people also gain access towards familial connections with their ancestors). If there should be a burial, it is traditional to lift a coffin up and down three times before laying it to rest on Earth in order to give Asase Yaa due notice and time to prepare.
Before planting the farmers have to knock on the earth as if she were a door. Fowls are sacrificed in her name and the blood is sprinkled on the earth.
Asase Yaa is very powerful, but has no temples dedicated to her. Instead, she is worshiped in the fields by kissing the soil and fertilizing it with your tears. It is believed that this way she will hear you.
Asase Yaa’s importance
One of the reasons why she’s so important is because it is through her, by way of libation and dance, that the Akan people gain access to and maintain familial connections with their ancestors. Libation is one of the most traditional Ghanaian ceremonies.
She is called in immediately after Nyame, and it is with her name that the first offering is made to the ancestors. Rituals, traditional ceremonies and political proceedings are a very important aspect of any Akan person.
During a child’s naming ceremony she is also manifested. Once the complete name is given to the newborn, he/she is then 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 funerals, libation is poured to her to ask for her permission to dig the grave and also to ask for acceptance and protection of the buried body.
She is also known to be the goddess of truth and peace. When someone is suspected to be less than truthful, they are dared to touch earth with the tip of their tongue as evidence of their honesty. On another note, when there is violent acts such as murder or war, very substantial sacrifices are necessary to appease the Earth.
It is believed that her abundance is accessible to anyone who keeps the Earth clean.
Stories about Asase Yaa – her magical sword
According to the myth, Asase Yaa had a sword that could fight by itself. When she ordered the sword to fight, it slaughtered everyone it encountered. When she commanded the sword to stop fighting, it did. There is a story told about Anansi (the Akan God of stories, wisdom, knowledge, and possibly creation).
Once, there was a famine in the land, and the only food available was in the storehouse of Nyame. In order to become Nyame’s agent and sell his food supplies to the people, he agrees to shave his head daily.
However, the shaving was painful, and people made fun of the way he looked. When Anansi could no longer stand this situation, he stole some food and fled to Asase Yaa’s house. When he asked the goddess for her protection, she granted it but one day Anansi steals her sword and offers Nyame to use it to protect him.
When an enemy army approached, the sword would fight but Anansi did not know the command to stop it fighting, until it cut Nyame’s arm and killed Anansi himself.
After that, the sword sticks itself into the ground and becomes a plant with leaves so sharp that they cut anyone who touches them. To this day, people hurt themselves on the plant because Asase Yaa hasn’t commanded the sword to stop.
This symbolizes an important message for us. When you treat the Earth without respect and do not take care of it, at some point it will revert back to you.
Her Adrinka Symbol is the Asase Ye Duru, symbolizing providence and the importance of Mother earth in sustaining life.
Quick overview of Asase Yaa
- Favored people: anyone who has worked in a field
- Animal: goat
- Planet: Jupiter
- Element: earth
- Number: 8
- Day: Thursday
- Origin: Ashanti
- Adinkra Symbol: Asase Ye Duru