The Akan people are an ethnic group native to present-day Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Comprising the Ashanti, Fante, Akuapem, and other sub-groups, they share a common language and cultural heritage.

Beliefs and Mythology

The Akan people practice a traditional religion that revolves around a supreme being, known as Onyankopon or Nyame, who is responsible for the creation of the universe. They believe that lesser deities or spirits, called Abosom, assist the supreme being in governing the world. These deities often have specific functions or domains, such as the earth, rivers, or the sky.

Akan Mythology

Akan mythology, originating from the Akan people who are found primarily in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, is a rich and diverse body of folklore, beliefs, and practices. The mythology reflects the values, history, and beliefs of the Akan people and includes a variety of gods, goddesses, spirits, and ancestral figures. Here's an overview of some key aspects and figures in Akan mythology:

Supreme Being - Nyame/Nyankopon: In Akan mythology, the Supreme Being is known as Nyame or Nyankopon. Nyame is seen as the creator of everything, a distant and a somewhat aloof deity who does not directly interfere in the affairs of humans. He is often associated with the sky and is considered omniscient and omnipotent.

Asase Yaa (Earth Goddess): Asase Yaa, the wife of Nyame, is the earth goddess. She is associated with the fertility of the earth and is revered as the mother of all. Asase Yaa is also a symbol of the sustenance provided by the earth and is respected for her wisdom. The Akan typically attribute the fertility of the land and the abundance of the harvest to her.

Abosom (Lesser Deities): The Abosom are lesser deities that serve Nyame and are often associated with natural features like rivers, trees, rocks, or specific locations. Each of these spirits has its own personality, and they are often the ones who interact more directly with humans. They are invoked for guidance, help in times of need, and protection.

Ancestors (Nananom Nsamanfo): Ancestors, known as Nananom Nsamanfo, play a significant role in Akan spirituality. They are believed to be living in the spirit world and are often called upon for guidance and assistance. The Akan believe that ancestors can influence the living, and therefore, they are honored and remembered through rituals and ceremonies.

Ananse (The Trickster): Ananse, the spider, is one of the most renowned characters in Akan folklore. He is a trickster figure who is clever, cunning, and sometimes mischievous. Ananse stories are often moral tales that teach lessons about human nature and wisdom. He is also credited with creating the moon, stars, and the sun, as well as bringing rain to stop fires.

Tano: A river deity associated with the Tano River in Ghana. Tano is considered powerful and is often invoked for blessings related to water and fertility.

Bosomtwe: Associated with Lake Bosomtwe, this deity is revered and is believed to have a connection with the souls of the dead.

Spirits of the Forest: The Akan believe in various spirits that inhabit the forest. These spirits are thought to protect the wildlife and the vegetation and are respected and feared.

Sasabonsam and Asanbosam: Mythical creatures often described in folklore; they are said to be malevolent and live in deep forests. They are often depicted in tales as deterrents to those who might venture into dangerous or forbidden places.

Mmoatia (Dwarfs): These are mythical creatures believed to live in the forest. They are known for their mischievous behavior and are sometimes associated with magical powers.

The Akan mythology is deeply intertwined with their social and political structures, such as the matrilineal system of inheritance and the chieftaincy institution. The reverence for ancestors and various spirits underscores the importance of community, lineage, and respect for nature in Akan culture. The stories and beliefs continue to play a significant role in the cultural identity of the Akan people and offer a rich tapestry of insights into their worldview and traditions.


  • Onyankopon/Nyame: As the supreme being, Onyankopon or Nyame is the creator of all things and the source of life. The Akan people believe that Nyame is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, yet remains distant and difficult to approach directly.

  • Asase Yaa: The Earth Goddess, Asase Yaa, is the wife of Nyame and the mother of all living creatures. She is responsible for the fertility of the land and the growth of crops. Thursdays are considered sacred to her, and traditional Akan society observed a day of rest and refrained from farming on Thursdays to show reverence.

  • Tano: The River God, Tano, is the deity of the Tano River, which runs through Akan territory. He is associated with water, rain, and storms, as well as justice and fairness. Tano is a vital deity, as the river is the source of water, food, and life for the Akan people.

  • Anansi: A central figure in Akan mythology, Anansi is a trickster figure who is both revered and feared. Although not considered a deity, Anansi's stories and exploits are widely told and have been adapted into folklore throughout West Africa and the African diaspora.

Heroes and Mythological Creatures

  • Okomfo Anokye: A legendary priest and statesman, Okomfo Anokye is credited with the founding of the Ashanti Empire. He is said to have performed numerous miracles, including calling forth the sacred Golden Stool, which is believed to contain the soul of the Ashanti nation.

  • Kwaku Ananse: Known as the "spider" character, Kwaku Ananse is the protagonist in numerous Anansi stories. He is a trickster who uses cunning and intelligence to overcome obstacles and outwit his adversaries. Ananse's tales serve as a means of teaching moral lessons and imparting wisdom.

  • Sasabonsam: A fearsome forest creature, Sasabonsam is a malevolent being that preys on humans. With a mix of human and animal features, it is often depicted as having large wings, sharp claws, and a taste for human flesh. Sasabonsam is believed to be the embodiment of evil and serves as a cautionary figure to deter people from venturing into the forest alone.

Unique Beliefs

The Akan people have a unique belief system surrounding the concept of the soul, comprising three distinct aspects: Okra, Sunsum, and Ntoro. The Okra is the divine spark given by Nyame, which determines a person's destiny. The Sunsum, on the other hand, represents the individual's personality and character, while the Ntoro is the paternal spiritual essence inherited from one's father. This tripartite concept of the soul emphasizes the interconnectedness between the individual, their ancestors, and the divine.


  • Naming Ceremony: The Akan people place great importance on the naming of a child, as they believe that a person's name influences their destiny. The naming ceremony, known as "outdooring," occurs on the eighth day after birth. During this event, the child is introduced to the community, and their name, often derived from the day of the week they were born, is revealed.

  • Funerals: Funerals are significant events in Akan society, as they believe that the deceased must be properly honored and guided to the ancestral realm. Funerals often involve elaborate ceremonies, including processions, drumming, dancing, and the wearing of traditional clothing. The rites are intended to ensure the successful transition of the deceased to the spirit world and maintain their connection to the living.

  • Festivals: The Akan people celebrate various festivals to honor their deities, ancestors, and historical events. The Akwasidae Festival, for instance, is held by the Ashanti people to honor their king and the Golden Stool. During the festival, the king receives tributes, and traditional music, dance, and storytelling take center stage.

  • Spirit Possession: Spirit possession is an essential aspect of Akan religious practice, particularly among the traditional priests and priestesses. Through drumming, dancing, and the use of sacred herbs, these religious figures enter a trance-like state, allowing them to communicate with the deities and ancestors. This practice serves as a means of obtaining guidance, healing, and protection for the community.

The Akan people of Ghana have a rich and complex belief system, encompassing a pantheon of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures. Central to their worldview is the concept of the soul, which underscores the interconnectedness of the individual, their ancestors, and the divine. Through rituals and ceremonies, the Akan people maintain a strong connection to their cultural heritage, reinforcing the values and wisdom passed down through generations.