The Social Lives of Tree Spirits: A Propinquity

“We’ve learned a little about a few of them, in isolation. But nothing is less isolated or more social than a tree.”― Richard Powers, The Overstory “Space, outside ourselves, invades and ravishes things:If you want to achieve the existence of a tree,Invest it with inner space, this spaceThat has its being in you.”―Rainer Maria Rilke… Continue reading The Social Lives of Tree Spirits: A Propinquity

Drinking the Water: Nankani Witchcraft and Ordeals

“Witches catch the soul of the person,” said Abanga. “They hide the soul somewhere and wait to see what the family members say, their reaction. If the victim is very hard, difficult, or strong, the witch will talk to other witches to get a better view of the family—to see what the family members are… Continue reading Drinking the Water: Nankani Witchcraft and Ordeals

Winds and Wakayarum

From bellowing gusts to thin wafts of air, people across cultures implicate the wind for causing illness and misfortune. Avoid drafts American grandmothers advise. In Ethiopia, the wind induces joint and bone pain. Vigilant Nankani mothers in Ghana cover infants (particularly their faces) and sequester newborns inside. They need protection from dubious winds. Some cultures… Continue reading Winds and Wakayarum

Parenting, Love, Loss

First thing Monday morning Joe intercepted me. He exclaimed I had to visit an infant he saw over the weekend. “What’s happening?” I asked. “A child,” he replied. “It’s not good, I can’t explain it. You just have to see it.” I didn’t press him. We hurried to a small village next to Sirigu. Word… Continue reading Parenting, Love, Loss

The Gender of Place

“Give me back my notebooks,” I yelled. Akayuti snatched them from my hand as I exited her room into the courtyard of the family compound. The women of the house materialized and encircled us as if watching a street-fight. The men gathered but kept their distance, backing against the meter-high wall marking the inner section… Continue reading The Gender of Place

Conversations with Ayanobasiya (Part Two: Polygamy)

“Why would a man have more than one wife?” I asked Ayanobasiya. “What? Do you want a war!” she replied. “I am not a man. You need to ask a man why.” “Your father even married six women,” I said. “What good is in it? I want your perspective.” Beyond the assumed sexual reasons, a… Continue reading Conversations with Ayanobasiya (Part Two: Polygamy)

Conversations with Ayanobasiya (Part One)

Ayanobasiya was always ready to talk about heavy subjects.  “Can you describe what the next world is like when we die?” I asked unexpectedly. “What is the afterlife like?” She laughed. “Who do you think I am? I am not a koko (a witch returned from the dead). I have not died before!” Ayanobasiya looked… Continue reading Conversations with Ayanobasiya (Part One)

The Origins of Inequality

“Can you speak about the creation of the world?” I asked Asingiya, a Nankani elder from Sirigu, Ghana. I expected a story about spirits, the first people, or how a child emerged from the earth. Yet Asingiya offered a more astute account. “Aaron, is it true that as the day is breaking here, in America… Continue reading The Origins of Inequality