Cultural EXPRESSIONS

THE SWORD IN THE STONE- #360WritersChallenge 2nd Place Winner

The storm had retreated some hours ago, but the fiery chill still lingered in the fog it had left in its wake. A pair of hurried feet broke through the silence as it made its way over the worn-out path which had been wetted and muddied by the rain. Perhaps he should have grabbed his sandals before venturing on this path, he thought, but he could not think straight then; not with all the screaming that was going on. With a panting breath he muttered an appreciation to Nyankopon for blessing him with a full moon. The fog was quite thick and had it not been for the illuminant guidance of the moon, it would have been impossible for him to locate that great Odum tree underneath whose patulous branches the old lady lived. As he made his way through the murkiness of the early dawn, he wondered if the old woman was still the best person to consult. Of course she was still renowned in the whole of Awukugua for her excellent skills but he considered maybe old age was robbing her of her touch; after all, her predictions didn’t come through right. She had foretold that it would happen a few days before the rains and not sooner, but as it was now, it was happening a whole month before the first expected rain. His contemplations were quickly masked by anxiety when he could finally make out the silhouette of the Odum tree. The anxiety seemed to fuel him as he could feel his feet running faster; he was running out of breath and several questions were gushing into his head; What if the old lady wasn’t around? …What if she is unable to help his wife? …Could his wife still come through?

OKHis destination was a small hut under the tree, surrounded by far larger huts of neighboring families. A few yards away as he was now, he couldn’t have been happier to see the old lady sitting underneath the thatch of her hut which was dripping rainwater. It was a little queer though for her to be up at that time. Barefooted as he was, she didn’t seem bothered by the cold that was loitering in the air.  “Awo!” his voice echoed in the silence, startling the old nurse. “Wh…who’s there?” she asked tremulously, unable to make out his face in the darkness. “It is I, Ano. She’s in labor!” he panted, catching his breath as he rested his hands on his frail knees. “Yaa is in labor?” Awo asked with evidence of surprise on her face. “Yes, she is. It is happening earlier than you had predicted. She insisted I call you. We have to get going!” Realizing the tired Ano was in no mood for more queries or delay, Awo obliged, “Very well, let’s go!”

The fog had cleared by the time Ano and Awo made it back to his village. The crimson alpenglow that capped the distant Ashanti Mountains suggested dawn’s break. The farmers were making their way to their farms; most of them waved the hastening duo a greeting, “Maakye ooo!” Ano would only reply with an apprehensive nod; this was no time for pleasantries. When they got to his household, a sharp scream from his hut, announced to Ano that his wife was still enduring the pangs of child birth. He sped off towards the hut with a throbbing heart, leaving behind the dawdling old nurse.

“Yaa!” he called out to his suffering wife as the women who had already started attending to her, stopped him from entering the hut. They were relieved when they realized he had come with Awo, it seemed things were desperately getting out of their hands. Awo rushed into the hut. The despairing husband was asked to stay outside while the ladies handled matters. So Ano stayed outside as the women hurried about their business. His wife would occasionally let out a scream that would make his already panting heart ache. He could tell from the frowned faces of the busy women who would answer none of his questions that things were getting dire. He had to do something! He couldn’t just stand helplessly by, maybe a prayer or libation to Mother Earth, Asase Yaa would help but then he remembered he had squandered all his palm wine with his friends the night before. Or, maybe he could consult the local fetish priest. It was well known that the priest had a knack for begrudging customers who came to his shrine too early but Ano didn’t mind pacifying him with all his livestock as long as he could help his wife. He was still thinking through his list of options when Awo came out of the hut, a reassuring smile on her face. Ano rushed to her. “Is my wife alright? … How is the baby? …Can I see her? …Can I enter now?”

OK 5  “Relax my son,” the old woman said calmingly, “Your wife is fine and so is the baby. Go in, you can see her now.” Ano entered his hut, a happy new father. He smiled at his wife who lay on a mat on the floor, knelt to her side and held her hand. She looked worn-out and the cloth that covered her was drenched in sweat, besides that she looked pretty well to do. “It is a boy,” she said weakly, her husband’s smile widened. He had always wanted a son. Their happy reunion was interrupted by a noisy discussion Awo was having with the two other women who were tending to the new baby, it seemed all was not well after all. Ano rushed to their side to make sense of all the fuss. “Is everything alright?” he asked the women. “Not quite,” Awo responded “the baby’s left hand is clenched and we can’t seem to open it.” Ano took a look for himself and they were right, his son’s left hand was firmly clasped, as though he was hiding something in it. He tried to open it when suddenly… “Ano” He looked up wondering which of the women’s voice had suddenly become so small, but all he saw were their petrified faces. He was confused now, but before he could ask any questions he heard his name being called again, “Ano.” This time he saw it too, the baby’s lips moved to the sound of the tiny voice. He was overwhelmed with astonishment as the baby called his name once again, watching him with intelligent eyes and raising its clenched hand toward his face. It opened to reveal a small strange looking talisman “Ano… kye,” the small voice said and that meant; “Ano… see”

OAAfter the baffling events of that fateful Tuesday morning, the baby boy was known by all as Anokye. Over the years, he revealed himself a great priest of the spirits and a master of elemental magic. His mysterious life was marked by many miraculous feats most of which are so incredulous they sound myth-like; the most popular of them all should be his conjuring of the Golden Stool. It is said through folklore, that he caused the stool to descend from the heavens onto the lap of the then Ashanti King, Osei Tutu and through that spearheaded the birthing of the once great Ashanti Empire. For me however, his most captivating feat would be the unmovable Sword. Perhaps you are familiar with the popular English legend of the Sword in the Stone, which tells the story of an unmovable sword planted by the great wizard Merlin. Well, Anokye performed a similar feat in actuality somewhere in the 17th century. He announced back then, after pushing the sword into the ground that no one would be able to remove it and after several hundreds of years the sword still remains anchored as a tourist attraction in Kumasi the capital of the Ashanti region. I believe the sword is a perpetual evidence of the great mystic force that shaped the history and culture of the Akan people and the Ghanaian as a whole and also a proof of the mystic legend that once lived… proof of the life of the Great Okomfo Anokye.

OA2

Author : Samuel Owusu Achiaw, Student at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)

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