The Konkomba are an ethnic group who resides in Northern Ghana, on the border with Togo, they are a population of farmers who are able to make the most out of the land available to them.
For the Konkomba life is marked by a set of rituals and ceremonies, that are an integral part of tribal life and are considered fundamental for survival.
The Konkomba do not have a clear distinction between the sacred and the profane, between spiritual and material and between body and soul; religion is present in every expression of people's lives, from work to food, from wars to rest.
The Konkomba believe in the world of spirits and fetishes, that are the representation of the various spirits; these fetishes are impersonated by mountains, trees, rocks or some man-made artificial objects, no one in the Konkomba society can not be a believer.
The Konkomba also believe in the totems, usually impersonated by animals, that represent the clans and that are considered sacred.
Above the spirits the Konkomba believe that there is Uwumbor, the supreme being and creator of the world and the cosmos, the soul comes from the creator and returns to him after death; they also believe in the existence of Kininbon, the lord of all evil spirits.
For the Konkomba witchcraft plays a crucial role, they believe that through magic rituals some people are able to cause illness and death to their rivals.
People accused of witchcraft risk serious repercussions that can get to lynching and death; these powers are feared and often these beliefs give relevance and amplify some random events, giving them magical aspects.
There is also a village, called the village of witches, where people accused of witchcraft, and rejected by society, find a safe place to live, protected by a powerful feticheur.
In some cases the alleged witches or sorcerers undergo a real trial to understand if they are guilty or innocent.
An important part of the Konkomba rites is represented by the cult of the ancestors, who act as intermediaries with Uwumbor, the supreme being; ancestors are offered animal sacrifices in the sanctuaries that are dedicated to them.
The Konkomba base their economy and their survival on the earth and on the crops that this gives them, so the farm and the fields are usually the object of rituals, the petitions addressed to the ancestors are often prayers to ask for good rains and to be saved from the wind that, blowing strongly from the desert, bends the ears and uncovers the huts.
In the religious life of the Konkomba, therefore, the land plays a leading role and there are numerous "earth sanctuaries", the cult of the earth is practiced daily.
The earth is the symbol par excellence of fertility and it is the home to many spirits, each spirit is the protector of a clan and each clan has its own sanctuary, called Litingbaln, that personifies the spirit of the local land.
The earth sanctuary of a clan is the most important sacred site of the clan, usually it consists of a baobab or a grove, under which there are sacrificial stones, that have the function of an altar, on which the offers are presented.
The sanctuaries are located near the farms or on the border between the fields and the uncultivated savannah.
Rituals are meant to ask for rain and are usually celebrated before the agricultural season and before the harvest.
The rituals consist in a sacrifice that is celebrated at the sanctuary, using two or more vases, inside which some products are placed, the vases are always 2 or multiples of 2, this because the couple represents the twins, that in the peasant societies represented a particularly happy event.
The clay pots are squared, twenty centimeters wide and half a meter tall; the vases, that are placed on the hills or in the bushes, are filled with offerings like pumpkins, sweet potato leaves, seeds and germinated seeds and have the function of ensuring the well-being of the village and the fields.
Other rituals consist in setting a stone between the branches of a tree on the right side of the village, this stone symbolizes the protective spirit of a farm; while a cock is sacrificed to demand greater fertility or prosperity in the crops.
For many African populations funeral rituals play a very important social and religious role, as it represents one of the rituals of passage, connected to the change of the status of the man and of his social position; also the Konkomba follow complex burial practices.
For the Konkomba it can be said that the funeral is not only the most important ritual of passage but also the only one.
The burial rites of older people, both men and women, are more elaborate and have important social significance, unlike the simpler burial rites for younger people, being them either adults, children or newborns.
When an elderly man or woman dies, their death is announced by the bursting of gunpowder, inserted into a tube and with the sound of drums.
During the funeral the body of the husband lies in the hut of his eldest wife, who remains with the deceased along with the other wives, singing lullabies during the night.
The ritual proceeds with the shaving of the deceased's head that is then washed by the unmarried girls of the clan.
Once the body has been purified, it is wrapped in cloths worn by relatives, the fabrics are colored to pay tribute to the person.
The unmarried young people of the clan of the deceased and of the neighboring clans give life to ritual dances, that continue throughout the period necessary for the preparation of the body of the deceased.
Some clans use coffins in which to place the dead, while others bury the body directly in the earth.
The place of burial is indicated by placing a pumpkin, that symbolizes the spirit of the deceased; the tomb is dug in a round shape only using the left hand, that for the Konkomba symbolizes misfortune and the negative.
The burial place of the elderly men is located near the farm, on the right of the entrance, the elderly women can be buried both on the right and on the left, but always near the compound; young people are positioned farther from the farm and children even at the crossroads of paths, on the border of the property.
Once the body is placed inside the circular tomb, the sepulcher is filled with earth by the young, then large vases or pots are placed above the tomb to identify the burial site.
Following the burial there is a period of purification that lasts a few days, some animals are sacrificed to ingratiate the spirit of the deceased and the flesh of these animals cannot be eaten by the men and women belonging to the clan of the deceased.
On the third day of purification a girl washes the hut, driving out the negative spirits that may reside there.
The rituals of farewell to the dead that are celebrated after the burial, lisaachong, are composed of three parts: the first part consists of sacrificing a rooster if the dead person is a man, or a hen if the deceased is a woman, the sacrifice takes place at the entrance of the hut of the deceased; the animal is hit three times for a man or four if the deceased is a woman.
The second part of the ritual consists in cooking the meat of the sacrificed animal, cooking the meat in the courtyard of the farm and being offered to the dead person for the last time, this ritual represents the farewell to the deceased and serves to protect his spirit.
The food is offered in a bowl in the evening for three evenings if the deceased is a man, four nights if she is a woman.
The third part of the ritual consists in offering food to the ancestors, usually dishes based on yam are prepared.
400 to 500 people participate in the funeral, the richness of rituals and dances represents the status of the deceased.