The god Tano was carried on the head of a middle aged man strongly built in the shoulder. He was in a state of possession. With him in the room was the priest.
Priest : Rub the leaves in your left hand, and as the juice emerges, rub it on your body. After your bath with the water boiled with the tree barks, drink a cupful of the bath brew, and walk quickly to the house without turning back. All this should be done very early in the morning just as the dawn breaks. (The priest issuing these instructions after the consultation held his own ears by way of emphasizing to Pokuwaa the importance of her listening with care).
A woman in her prime
Kwadwo had come into the room also after the consultation was over, and he was standing beside Pokuwaa, nodding heavily as if the instructions were as much for him.
When it was all over, they bowed and left the shrine. Outside, other people were waiting their turns at consultation and sacrifice.
Kwadwo : I’m going to spend this whole week with you while you perform these purification rites, (his voice was comforting).
Pokuwaa : What about your wife? (Pokuwaa hadn’t expected him to offer do this for her, was pleased yet wanting to test him). She knew that Kwadwo’s wife had the right to resent such an arrangement, but in her heart she hoped that he meant it.
Pokuwaa : What about your wife? She won’t like it. You’d better go back to her, she said turning her eyes away from Kwado.
Kwadwo : No she will understand, I shall explain your problem to her.
They walked on in silence to Pokuwaa’s house. That night, when Kwadwo returned to her, she asked him whether his wife agreed to the arrangement.
Kwadwo : She says she does not mind, her only prayer is that this does help you to get a child. (he knew he was lying). The talk with his wife had only resulted in a quarrel. She had protested vehemently against his spending all that week with Pokuwaa, saying that she would not sell her rights to any barren woman. Kwadwo had left the house in anger. Even as he told his lie now, he was looking for shadows, fearing that his angry wife might rush in at any minute trouble.
That night seemed to last a long time. Pokuwaa talked to Kwadwo endlessly to keep sleep away.
Pokuwaa : I don’t feel any of the excitement I used to feel on previous occasions when I had to make a sacrifice.
Kwadwo : Perhaps, that is a sign of greater confidence in success. Let’s hope that a child will come this time.
Pokuwaa : Do you believe that? I am looking forward to that day (with a sad voice). Oh, how I shall cling go that child… Even if I have to stay away from work on the farm, she sighed.
Kwadwo : (laughing). And what will you eat? asked gently.
Pokuwaa : God is there. We shall eat, sighing again.
Kwadwo : Yes, he will give us to eat… If we work.
Pokuwaa : (laughed) I remember the story of the two men who went to the Denteh fetish for consultations. One was told he would become rich and prosperous; the other that he would die in poverty.
Kwadwo : (interrupting) Yes, I know. The story was a well known joke. And the one who had been promised wealth sat under the village silk cotton tree waiting for his fortune, while the other man applied himself on his farm.
Pokuwaa : And who was it who died in poverty?
Kwadwo : Are you asking me? Laughed.
They were both laughing as they recited together, ‘The one who was waiting for the gods to provide.’
Pokuwaa : (stretched her limbs in the bed murmuring,) Yes, it does seem that, in this world of ours, those promised impending riches never get them.
Kwadwo was tired. He hadn’t slept for two nights. He had been attending a funeral celebration at Ninting. It was not a small effort to return from there in time for Pokuwaa’s consultation at Tanofie. Ninting was a long journey from Brenhoma.
Kwadwo : If you hadn’t been worried about the black hen this morning, (turning to her) You would have had to worry about my not arriving here at the time you expected me. Part of the distance I had to run. You would have laughed to see me jumping over logs, and rushing as if someone was pursing me. (he touched her as she laughed tenderly in the dark) and all that rushing was on a stomach that had been punished with funeral fasting for two days. I wish we didn’t have to wait for the dead to be buried before we can eat.
Pokuwaa : Don’t tell me you mind fasting at your own grandfather’s funeral. (Pokuwaa knew Kwadwo wouldn’t take offence at this). Besides, (she teased) what about all the palm wine you men take the opportunity to drink just because custom allows you to kill your thirst?
Kwadwo : If you women envy us on that, let me testify to you that pots of palm wine on an empty belly do the body no good at all.
Pokuwaa : Then why…?
Kwadwo : Pokuwaa! (Kwadwo didn’t have to say anymore than to stop her pursuing the subject). They both laughed again. Soon after the old man was quietly laid in his pit, and the last of my responsibilities had been carried out, I left Ninting with some other people. I was in so great a hurry that i got far ahead of them. Kwadwo smiled to himself as he heard again in his head sound of his own mellow voice shouting to his fellow travelers to speed up, and echoing through the forest strangely in the darkness before dawn. Also he continued, ‘ i prayed’.
The room became very quiet as he sat thinking of how he had prayed as his feet brushed the dew. He had called on great Tano to make it for Pokuwaa to bear a child. The thought that she had divorced two earlier husbands because she couldn’t have a child with them had come strongly to him then, And he had vowed to do everything he could to make the sacrifices a success. He was very anxious to save his own marriage with this woman.
These heavy thoughts were a burden. He fell back, pulled the cotton blanket over his head, and went to sleep.
Pokuwaa : (whispered) Are you asleep?
And there was no answer, she busied herself for a little with the lamp. The rag wick in the earthen pot was sputtering and would soon go out. She always had a supply of good oil skimmed from palm soup. With some of this she filled the lamp. It was soon burning steadily again. As she slipped quietly beside Kwadwo again he felt her touch and stirred.
Pokuwaa : You must not leave me to sleep alone (she murmured). Sometimes when I’m alone like that I begin to wish I had a husband of my own.
Kwadwo : You mean, I am not man for you?
Pokuwaa : I mean someone who hasn’t got another wife. And then I shall not have lonely nights, and can come close to him when I hear ghosts moving through the night, and fear.
Kwadwo : touched her and said Pokuwaa. And she could feel that he was there. Did this feeling of wanting him always by her side means that she loved him? She knew that whenever he wasn’t with her she felt dejected and insecure. And then she would lie in bed turning all night toll cockcrow when signs of day would bring relief. She would get up then and pick up her pot to fetch water. She would anxiously count the three days he had to spend away with his other wife.
Pokuwaa : Yes without a child I am a person who needs your company. When you’re away, I’m alone. But if the high God is there, who comfort people, some day I shall have my own child to comfort and keep me company. A matter of time… And luck. Oh Adwoa! What luck is mine! People get children without going through half the troubled oath I’m traveling now. I can’t sleep, and I am always waiting for dawn.
She sat up and watched Kwadwo’s calm, sleeping face. She drew nearer to him and lying down pulled part of the blanket over to herself. Sharing in his calmness, she herself was soon visited by sleep.
Kwadwo was first to wake up. He found Pokuwaa still by his side, and realised that the white clay marks were not on her body. The scent of pepre seeds with which she should besmear herself was also absent. And it was already daylight. His heart gave a big thump. He lifted her body and sat her up. The sun was shining already. He could hear birds, and the fowls and goats outside.
Pokuwaa rubbed her eyes, looked round, and becoming aware of the situation cried with despair, ‘Alas! The fist day of sacrifice is lost.