Mmoatia: Ghanaian Tricksters of the Forest

Terracotta head (mma), art of the Akan people of Ghana

Terracotta head (mma), art of the Akan people of Ghana

Mmoatia (singular, aboatia) are forest dwellers known to the Akan or Ashanti people of Ghana. In traditional religious thought, they are seen as a subclass of abosom, intermediary spirits or deified ancestors. They are believed to be very short in stature, standing not more than one foot high—although this may be a reference to carved wooden representations of them and not to the beings themselves. They have curved noses and yellowish skin. Their feet are said to point backwards.

These beings communicate with each other through a unique whistle language, and whistling in the bush is a sure way to draw their attention.

They are credited with a phenomenal knowledge of medicines, which they are willing to impart to herbalists or medicine men. Sometimes Ghanaians are taken by mmoatia that live deep in the woods. Some who are captured by the mmoatia begin to learn their ways and emerge after several years as herbalists. The mmoatia have always lived in the jungle and know how to use its plentiful resources to cure to all diseases. Their favorite food is bananas.

Mmoatia are divided into three tribes or bands: Black Mmoatia are harmless, but Red and White Mmoatia are always up to some kind of trickery—though they are not truly malevolent like the sasabonsam, a vampire-like ogre. Mmoatia signify unpredictability, mockery, and trickery. They function as messengers between the realms of spirit and corporeality—messengers of the abosom.

 

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