Spirit Embodiments

By Barbara Thompson
Friends of Usambara Society, Tanzania (formerly Stanford University; University of Iowa)

Asante peoples, Ghana. Chief in war shirt. Photo by Doran H. Ross.  

This example is lavishly covered with both Koranic amulets and amulets more clearly rooted in indigenous belief systems (e.g., the leather covered gourds and animal horns). No longer worn in battle, these impressive garments are still worn at certain moments during a chief’s installation and at the funerals of other chiefs. Donning such protective garments could “paralyze the hand of the enemy, shiver their weapons, divert the course of balls, render both sexes prolific, and avert all evils" (Cole and Ross 1977: 18).