Ga Star Systems

Fishermen are a very important part of Ga society and carry a formidable body of knowledge of all factors affecting their trade. One such aspect of this relates to the environment, fishermen are able to determine the fishes available to them based on the appearance and disappearance of the moon and various stars. This has lead to the formation of a body of work relating to Ga star formations.

In this article I will draw from Ga Wuoyaa and summarise the various star systems and its impact on the activities of fishermen.

  1. Maawe – this group of starts appears from the east and settles in the west. This period of time is associated with the abundance of herring. In fact the period is referred to as Obue which is ‘abundance of fish’ in Ga. it is also this time where the Ŋshͻbulemͻ (sea rituals) are performed for tsile-shamͻ (catching of sea bream). After Maawe is Botswi.
  2. Botswi – this is another star system which appears from the east and settles in the west. This group of stars appear for a month and half and it is during this time that one will fish for Tooga (deep water fishes). It also defines the change of time in which the herrings are caught, from the ‘night’ during Maawe to the afternoon in the time of Botswi. Other fishes caught during this period are booboi (marine fish), Tsukwei (threadfin sprat) amongst others.
  3. Nmaatoo- Koyoo – This is the time for planting wheat. It is at this time that an unknown star appears which makes strong winds blow from the west. This wind lasts 2.5 weeks and due to the strength of the wind, the fishermen do not go fishing at night.
  4. Alemle – This star also rises from the East, like the previous period strong winds also characterise this time. Although fisherman can catch numerous different fishes, there comes a point when there are no fishes. This period lasts a month and it is said that Alemle’s best friend is Aharabata.
  5. Aharabata – These group of stars places themselves individually in the form of a circle and the appearance of this star brings herrings, croakers, long-finned herrings and many other fishes. You will also find threadfin sprats washed ashore and this is why the sale of this particular fish are done at the beach during this time. This period lasts a month and before it ends a light refreshing wind blows from the east.
  6. Kwakwara – This set of stars brings a lot of wind from the west. Although you may catch some herrings and other fishes during this time, after a month they are no longer available. This star set also has a twin – Oflԑo
  7. Oflԑo – this star set looks similar to Kwakwara but during this time few fish (herrings and threadfins)  are caught. This is also the time where farmers start to sow corn. This star appears for 2 months.
  8. Anto – This group of stars look like the letter ’T’ lying on its side. In fact a there is a fish called ‘Anto’ in Ga that has a similar form to this star and it is this fish that gave rise to the name for this star. Anto appears for about a month and brings with it herrings that are not easily caught. The herrings are described as playing around and dodging the net. This is also the time to harvest Atswato – a type of corn. At the end of this time rains begin to fall.

Nyͻͻŋtsere – This is the name given to the moon. It is said that the appearance of the moon also coincides with 2/3 days of herring catching. The fishermen describe this phenomena as ‘herrings announcing the appearance of the moon’. The setting of the moon also brings a catch of herrings.

You can find more about the trade of fishing from the book Ga Wuoyaa by Samuel Ardayfio. I would like to thank Moses Nii Adjetey Adjei for translating the original Ga text.

By Naa Adjeley Tsofanye