THE TABOOS OF THE SPIRIT 150 150 National Commision on Culture

Laws are established to protect the citizens of a particular group of people. In other words, laws exist to protect the right of the members of a society and to ensure that they do not have to protect those rights through their own actions. The law has generally two parts, the spirit of the law and the letter. The former deals with the reasoning behind the establishment of the law while the latter deals with wording. Long ago, before the establishment of the constitutions, our ancestors had to find a way to protect their citizenry. Our wise elders and chiefs had a way of doing so and although not documented, they were well communicated, respected and obeyed. They were obeyed widely due to the fact that they had punitive consequences. Taboos as we know them were an effective way to protect citizens. They served as laws for our forefathers and tools for solving problems.

These days, taboos are no longer feared and respected as they used to be as people have come to find out that there is no real supernatural punishment and hence they can go scot-free even when they flaunt them. However, there are reasons for the establishment of these laws. A taboo is defined as a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment. Most taboos were respected due to the supernatural punishment one feared would come to them. Some taboos and their reasoning are as follows below.

To begin with, no hunting, fishing and farming on specific were commonly seen in most Akan and Ga communities where some days were considered bad days for these activities. It was believed that the gods will strike one dead if he or she did. Our elders constructed this taboo to preserve the environment and its inhabitants. If one hunts or fishes each day, then one day all the animals in the forest will be extinct and all the fishes in the sea will be gone. If one day was preserved, at least they can be protected. Sometimes even a whole season was reserved so that fingerlings and infants in the forest will grow and also multiply.

The second to mention is the “don’t sweep at night” taboo which was very common among the Akan people. It was believed that one’s mother will die if one was to sweep at night. It was also believed that the gods would be very angry with you. But the simple reasoning was you might sweep and dispose your valuable items if you slept the room at night. Given that our ancestors did not have the privilege of enjoying electricity and proper lighting; it was common for them to sweep important items away at night. Therefore, preventing people from sweeting at night in poor vision would go a long way to prevent such incidents.

Another point worth mentioning is the taboo of night whistling. This which was common among the Akans saw mothers to suffer the wrath of the gods if the child or children of that mother whistles at night. Again, our ancestors did not have electricity and hence their communities were usually quiet during the night. The reason behind the taboo was whistling would travel far at night disturbing the whole community to the extent of waking up people who were already asleep. Whistles are usually loud as well know so in the event of preserving peace, this taboo was put in place.

In addition to the taboos is the abomination to get pregnant before marriage. With the absence of television, radio, social media and other entertainments, sex was a common thing to engage in. to save the situation, there was the establishment of a taboo. Having sex before marriage was a taboo and getting yourself pregnant will lead to your banishment from the community.

To conclude, most taboos are now things of the past. But the question is if they had still been in existence, would the indiscipline level in our society these days be reduced? Taboos had reasons and good reasons as that.