Medicine and their Men

Types of Medicine

Medicine in this instance refers to objects that contain spirits that specialise in certain activities. They come in a number of varieties – from those that cure particular illnesses to those that allow a person to excel in a particular area such as fishing or trading.

The spirits contained within the medicine is called ‘Won’. They will supply their services provided the rules of use are respected e.g. in the case of good medicine immoral behaviour of the medicine man or his wives or an attempt to use the medicine to kill or injure someone renders the medicine useless – the won will simply depart from the object.

Origins of the ‘medicine’ – The majority of the time the Won/Medicine is foreign in origin – usually from the northern territories or Dahomey. You will also find such medicine from the Krobo district.

Transfer of Power- The transfer of knowledge (regarding the use of the medicine) usually happens from one man to another only with the approval of the Won/Medicine. During the transfer rum is poured and the won is told it has a new owner.

Creation of new Medicine- Sometimes a Won will speak to a medicine man suggesting certain objects or herbs that will do something. The Won will also promise to come into the new medicine.

Types of Medicine Men

Wontse (Father of the Won), Tsofatse (Father of the Medicine – Tsofa literally translates as roots of the tree). Their main work is the curing of the illness. When we usually think of a Medicine man, this is the type we usually think of. His work involves two things – a Won and the herbs associated with that Won. In various combinations he will prescribe doses and baths for his patients.

Asamanukpatsemei– These types of medicine men have foresight into the future and insight into the present. They are believed to have been lost in the forest at some point and came into contact with Asamanukpai (Dwarves) who trained them in this skill and continue to be in contact with them.

Kunyai Yelo– He is a conjuror and hypnotiser. He is usually from Dahomey or other northern territories, although it is not unheard of that a Ga is taught some of these skills.

The bad Medicine men are known as Wontsule (the Won sender) and the Sulo (Poisoner). They use their Won (and traditional methods) to achieve what they wish to achieve. These medicine men usually act in secret and one doesn’t usually know until they confess on their deathbed. It is said that the reason they confess is that their dead victims torment them and will not allow the person to die until the medicine man mentions the victims names.

Religion and Medicine of the Ga people, Margaret Field. (London, 1940)

Read In Ga                                                                        Read in Dangme

Please note that the above translations are based on previous versions of this article

By Naa Adjeley Gbɔjɔɔ