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The Ga Naming System

The Ga Naming System

Postby Admin on Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:42 am

These two articles on the Ga naming system are reposted here with the kind permission of Bikome.

Kwame the Webmaster.

Subject: A short lesson on GA idiosyncratic naming system I

Author: Bikome (registered user)

Date: 03-12-2010 11:34

The GA are patrilineal society with six traditional coastal settlements or towns along the coast of Gulf of Guinea in the present day Ghana. Each town, in addition has a number of fishing and farming villages dotted along the coast and inland on the Accra Plains. Each GA town is sub-divided into Akutsei (singular Akutso) or Quarters. Ga Mashie and La has seven quarters each, while Nungua has two and Tema four.

Each Akutso comprises of Wei (singular We), the smallest unit of GA society. Every GA native thus belongs to a We, an Akutso and a town. Given that the GA are a patrilineal society, the right, the duty, the honor, and the privilege of giving a name to a child is invested in the father or the father’s family. Every We has in place at least two distinctive and distinguished sets of names for its males and females members. These sets of names alternate generationally. Every GA male, even the one born some hours ago, already has the names of his future children mapped up for him. He would name his children after his father’s, paternal uncle’s and paternal aunt’s generation; in fact his name is from his grandfather’s list.

Unlike the Akans, the day of birth of a child is generally inconsequential in determining the name. Very often when an authentic GA is named solely based on the day of the week of his birth that signals some skeletons being in the cupboard. Personal names are given according to seniority and sex. Generally and regularly many GA first male names end in ‘tey’. The second son’s name ends with ‘tei’. The following list is an example with the second male sibling’s name in brackets: Adotey (Adotei), Ashitey (Ashitei), Bortey (Bortei), Kotey (Kotei), Kwartey (Kwartei), Lamtey (Lamtei), Nortey (Nortei), Oblitey (Oblitei) and Sowatey (Sowatei).

Like the names of the sons, the names of daughters mostly end in ‘ley’. The suffix also changes to denote seniority. The second daughter’s name ends in ‘kor’. These are few examples with the second daughter’s name in bracket: Adoley (Adorkor), Amerley (Amorkor), Adzeley (Adzorkor), Ayeley (Ayorkor) Borley (Borkor),Kwarley (Kwarkor),Lamley (Lamiorkor), Okailey (Okaikor), Odoley (Odorkor), Sowaley or Sueley (Sowakorkor or Suorkor) Yemoley (Yemokorkor) and Yemoteley (Yemotiorkor).

Though mostly it is the second son’s name that ends in ‘tei’, there are some irregular ones. In some very few cases the first son’s name ends in ‘tei’. Examples of these are Anyetei and Odotei. Oral history and tradition teach that the root of such names was initially derived from female names. Anyeley was the root name from which Anyetei was derived. From Odoley was derived Odotei. Odoley is corrupted from Odehe (royal)

The general name for third son is Mensah, an Akan numeral for three. Some Akutsei do not follow this practice. Boi or Kwei is used by such Akutsei as the name for their third son. Conventional practice now has most third daughter being named ‘Kai’. Traditionally, the name of ‘Kai’ is prefixed by the lineage or the root name of the first two senior sisters. Here are some few examples: Adoley, Adorkor, Adokai; Adzeley, Adzorkor, Adzekai; Odoley, Odorkor, Odokai; Okailey, Okaikor, Okaikai; Sowaley or Sueley, Sowakorkor or Suorkor, Sowakai or Suerkai and Yemoley, Yemorkor and Yemokai.

There are at least three female GA names that are spelled the same but pronounced differently and are used by completely different quarters. This could be likened to the two distinct pronunciations of potato and tomato. These names are Akweley, Akuorkor, and Ayorkor. Akweley and Akuorkor are the name of twin sisters and these names are used by all the GA. The other Akweley and Akuorkor are the first and second daughters’s name of some section of Abese (Abenase) Quarter of La. Ayorkor, is the younger sister of Ayeley. The same name with an identical spelling but pronounced differently is the younger sister of Atsoi. Atsoi (now corrupted as Atswei) is the first daughter’s name of at least two of La seven quarters.

Many first male names of the GA end with the letter ‘i’. With such names, the second sibling’s name whether it is male or female does not have any resemblance at all with the first’s sibling’s name preceding it. Here are some few examples. The name of the younger sibling’s in brackets. Note how completely different the two names are: Ayi (Armah), Nikoi (Amon), Niimoi (Molai), Odoi (Sowah), Okai (Arde) and Atsoi (Ayorkor), Dedei (Korkoi), Korkoi (Adaku).

In summary, generally and regularly GA names are pre-arranged. They alternate generationally and denote seniority and sex. They are distinctive and identifiable to a We, Akutso and town. The day of the week on which a child is born is absolutely inconsequential to his or her name.

Subject: A short lesson on GA idiosyncratic naming system 2

Author: Bikome (registered user)

Date: 03-12-2010 20:14

Though every GA male has the names of all his children pre-arranged for him on the day of his birth, an elaborate ritual is performed to formally introduce the name to the extended family and to friends of the parents. That ceremony takes place at the dawn when the moon could still be visible on the eighth day of the child’s existence on earth. Past written historical records indicate that it used to be on the fifteenth day. Until that day, the child and mother spend most of their days practically confined and sequestered indoors. The GA called this ceremony with its esoteric spiritual dimensions Kpodziemor, this is literally translated to mean ‘outdooring’. It could aptly be an initiation ceremony for the child.

On this momentous day, the child is taken away from the mother by the father’s relatives who could mostly be, the father’s adult sisters or aunts or even grandmother. The infant is carried generally to his father’s Akutso and specifically to his lineage home or We. The infant is stripped naked. It is presented to the moon or the sky, the believed abode of the Supreme Being. The child is laid in a circle made of ash three times alternately by a member of the paternal family’s lineage with a near impeccable or commendable character. This same person throws onto the roof of the dwelling water that is allowed to drop on the child. The sex of the baby determines the sex of the lineage person who is chosen to perform the ceremony. While lying on the ground, the infant’s feet are gently tapped by the person performing the ceremony. This practice is accompanied with words being uttered by the adult enjoining the infant to emulate him or her. A drop of corn wine or soft drink is put on the lips of the child telling the child that this is the staple of the GA. A libation is poured by an elderly male of the lineage. The elders of the lineage confer momentary and one of them announces the name of the child with a bottle of Schnapps of which everybody present is expected to sip from a common glass immediately after pronouncing the name of the infant.

Refreshment mostly of corn beer is served. The floor would then be opened for donations and gifts from family members and friends. This phase of the ceremony is characterized with some copious doses of humor, jollity and frivolity. Each donation or gift is accepted with joys of jubilation offering thunderous thanks and blessing to the donor.

The entire ceremony brings into sharp focus some of the beliefs of the GA. The child is stripped naked. The moon, the rain and the earth in the presence of the living and the ancestral spirits are invited to commune with the child and the earth god. A special invocation in the form of libation or prayers is performed. Prayers of blessings are offered for the child and its parents. The essence of this unique prayer is to detail the expectation of the family of the child from the child and the family’s reciprocal commitment to the infant.

Below is translation of the text of the libation: Attention venerable Fathers and Mothers

May it be so?

What day is it today?

Today is indeed Saturday (the actual name of the day is mentioned)

Saturday of our grandfathers

Saturday of our grandmothers

We are today showing the stranger who has joined us to the moon.

We ask that good fortune be our lot

May we have many men to direct our affairs?

May we have many women to care for our homes?

So that we may form a full circle when we meet

When we dig a well may we find water?

When we drink water may we have peace, good health?

And prosperity

Long life to the father of the stranger who has

Joined us

Long life to his mother

Darkness behind him (May he never go back)

Light before him (May his path be clear).

May he have respect for the world (be respectful)

So that we the family members may always find it easy to forgive him "

The humble Ga waits for the wind to blow before he speaks

Even if you have heard you haven't heard

May childbearing women become like gourds

When we see a pregnant woman we should subsequently see her with a child

May we sit for more people to come and join us

This child came with black hair may he go with white hair If any snake, malicious person or sorcerer

May complain that in this ancestral home (We) there is always an outdooring

As we bless are we blessing him? No! May it be so Wednesday and Sunday kill him

May he die

Everybody hoot at him Ooho

We ask that good fortune assuredly be ours.

The next phase of the ceremony would be a final libation by the same elderly male member of the lineage who would point out the exit door of the We to the members present. This final libation signals that members are free to depart in peace. Each member present is offered a box of safety matches.
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Re: The Ga Naming System

Postby kronolight on Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:17 am

Thanks for sharing

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