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Opinions Sun, 2 Feb 2003

Traditionalists and not Christians deserve to celebrate Easter

First of all, I express my deepest sympathy to the families of the astronauts who died on the Columbia space shuttle. I pray that this accident will not deter lovers of knowledge to seek to understand the secrets of the nature. May their Souls Rest in Peace!

My articles are meant to show that christianity is not superior to Ghanaian Religion and to stress that the prosperity of Ghana depends on the appreciation of our culture. They are working. A pastor is among those who have written to express disapproval of charismatic sects. The articles are being published in other media such as the Chronicle to help those without internet access read them. I promised to write another article on Easter. This is my last article because I think I have addressed the crucial aspects of christianity vis-?-vis the so-called traditional religions.

Easter is a non-christian custom. It was celebrated centuries before Jesus was born. Easter is derived from Eostre, the non-christian Anglo-Saxon Goddess or Eostare, the Norse festival of spring. Eostre was brought from Persia, where He was known as Astarte (Phoenicia) and Ishtar (Babylon). In Persia and Europe, festivals were organised in the spring to celebrate the resurrection of life after the winter darkness and cold. The festivals coincided with equinox – the period of the year with equal days and nights. The Roman Church imitated these festivals. St. Bede, the 8th Century English monk explained that the Church adopted non-Christian practice.

Easter was not celebrated until the Council of Nicene in AD 325. The Roman Soldier Constantine decreed that Jesus was God. Constantine was not baptised when he presided over the Council of Bishops. In fact, he worshipped a Roman God whilst he forced others to become christians. He saw christianity as a means of reducing unrest in his empire since christianity taught political submission (Rom 13:1-3) and did not support the emancipation of slaves (Col 3:22) compared with Judaism, which preached political freedom. The Council of Nicene adopted the annual weekend after the equinox as Easter (History of Dogma).

Some christians claim that Easter comes from the word East. They say that the sun rises from the east and brings the light of a new day. They quote the Bible, where God’s messenger is called the Sun of Righteousness, who arrives with healings in his wings (Malachi 4:2). It is important to note that 2,000 years before Jesus, the Persian God, Mithra was given these accolades by his followers (Should Traditionalists Celebrate Christmas). Some christians also connect Easter to the Jewish Passover by quoting King James Bible (Acts 12:4), where the Jewish Pascha (Passover) is translated as Easter. The oldest complete English Bible (Wycliff) and the Greek New Testament do not support King James’ assertion.

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The German Reformer Luther opposed Easter and Pentecost. He accepted Sunday as a day of convenience for the working class who needed a day of rest from work and to attend service. In the 17th century, the English Parliament struck Easter and Pentecost from its calendar. In America, the Puritans rejected Easter and made no effort to restore the Jewish Passover. Easter was celebrated only in places such as Louisiana and Maryland, where Catholics had settled.

At this point, you maybe wondering if the resurrection of Jesus really occurred as understood by charismatic Christians. I have shown in an article, Libation has Served Ghana Better that the God-like status of Jesus was challenged in Nicene. The discovery of ancient books banned by Roman Church support only a spiritual resurrection. They show that Gentiles and Diaspora Jews who did not understand Jewish mysticism thought that the resurrection of Jesus was a physical encounter (Gospel of Peter; Epistle of Barnabas; Lords Teachings to the Twelve Apostles). St. Paul, the prominent Apostle who preached the physical resurrection of Jesus was a Diaspora Jew who never knew Jesus nor was taught by his disciples. It has been documented that James, the brother of Jesus organised a public lecture at Jerusalem Temple about the true doctrine of his brother, with Rabbis Gamaliel and Caiaphas questioning him (Clementine Recognitions). It was difficult for Paul to get recognition from the ! Apostles (Gal 2:11-16; 2 Cor 11:16-19).

The first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus wrote that it was not always the case that crucified people died on the cross. Josephus witnessed 3 Jewish prisoners who had undergone crucifixion. He obtained permission from Titus to take them down and administer aid; one of them survived. What is intriguing about Josephus’ observation is that the oldest version of the Gospel of Mark (which ends at Chapter 16:8) included only the event “egeiro” - “awaken”, indicating that Jesus naturally came back into life from sleep, tiredness or ill health. As Church orthodoxy spread, a second version of Mark Gospel appeared, which included Chapter 16:9-20, where the word “anastasis” was used, implying a “miraculous physical resurrection”.

St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and the prominent church scholar in the 2nd century wrote a book called Against Heresies (2, Chp 22:5), which was crucial in establishing church orthodoxy. He defended a belief of the church, which charismatic christians will find blasphemous. He wrote that the elders of the church in Asia Minor, who knew Apostle John, affirmed that Jesus suffered at his 30th birthday but was over 50 years when he died. The Council of Nicene Library called St. Irenaeus assertion extraordinary. Also, the Acts of Thomas described that Jesus and Thomas stayed at the court of King Gundafor in 47 A.D by which time Jesus would have been 50 years.

Recently, some highly knowledgeable christian leaders have begun to assess the validity of the christian beliefs. Two prominent retired Bishops of the Anglican Church, Rev. David Jenkins (Durham, UK) and Rev. John Spong (Newark, USA) believe that Jesus is not God, was not born of a virgin, and never rose from the grave. Rev. Spong says that the killing of Jesus to pay for the sin of the world is a barbarian idea because human sacrifice is barbaric. He also says that the biblical creation is mythical. It is amazing to hear these words from Bishops! They must count themselves lucky that they were not living in the Middle Ages. In the 8th Century, Archbishop Felix of Revenna had his eyes torn out because he refused to obey church doctrine. In deed, the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus by christians requires new interpretations.

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The people of Kwahu are noted for their celebration of Easter. In fact, Easter is rooted in their religious and cultural systems. The most powerful God in the history of Kwahu is Bruku. He is manifested in an imposing Shrine of Rock, measuring about 500 metres by 300 metres, situated on a hill. It is believed that Bruku sprang from nowhere, one Sunday, to the defence of the Kwahus against war-like communities in the early years of their settlement on the Kwahu Ridge. Bruku was reputed for his spiritual powers and medical expertise. Bruku never used His powers to curse people. In the ancient times, He trained over 200 medical (herbal) practitioners yearly. Bruku used to organise an annual festival at the Akwasidae, which coincided with the start of the farming season (March-April), when Kwahu Chiefs and Citizens came to pay homage to the Chief Priest. The festival was also seen as His blessing for the year’s enterprises.

The Chief Priest of Bruku occupied a royal status. I am amazed about the universality of religious accolades. Bruku, the God of Kwahu came out of a Rock; Mithra, the Persian God was born out of a Rock; and Jesus, the Christian God was a Rock (1Cor 10:4). Bruku is called Kwasi, which shows the day in which he came to life; Mithra rose on Sunday; and the Christians also say that Jesus was restored to life on Sunday. Unlike Jesus who was said to have left an image in the Shroud of Turin, it is believed that the Chief Priest of Bruku can never be photographed when the Spirit is on Him. In the Kwahu Annual Calendar, where Chiefs and Queens appear with their photos, you see only the Rock-Shrine of Bruku.

Besides the festivity of Bruku, there were other celebrations organised by other Kwahu Priests and Chiefs, beginning from the last Akwasidae of the year to the start of the farming season. For example, there was Eto Pitie at Obo; Akwasidae Kese at Bokuruwa and Abene; and the celebrations of Okomfo YAW at Aduamoa. The festivities at Aduamoa attracted curious scholars who were fascinated by the similarity in names and practices between Okomfo YAW and Jewish God, YAhWh. Okomfo YAW accepted limited animal sacrifice and had no shrine.

Colonialism and its repressive practices began to undermine the authority of Bruku, other Priests and Chiefs of Kwahu. There was a forced establishment of missionary headquarters at Kwahu Tafo (Roman Catholic) and Abetifi (Presbyterian), which clashed with local cultures. The Great Oaths of the Kwahus such as “Asaase Aban” (We Rule Our Land) and “Katakyie Wopeko” (Hero, You Like War) inspired them to resist colonialism. The Chief Priest of Bruku was often arrested for his outspokenness. At Twenedurase, Rev. Ramseyer, the founder of Presby Church was shaved by inhabitants and made to carry “aboma” (big drums) due to his disrespect for the Kwahu culture and the festivals. Ramseyer became angry and cursed the Kwahus that they would be among the poorest in Ghana. We now know that history has not proven him right.

Gradually, the original meaning and practices of the Kwahu spring celebrations began to erode. Now, the festival has assumed a social character. It is a period of family re-union. It is the moment that people who have been on self-imposed exile even come home. Easter also offers the Kwahus the opportunity to go to their hometowns and be admired for their hard work – new dresses, cars, houses, friendships, etc. Various towns use the occasion to organise fundraising for community development. In this period of economic hardship, it is amazing how the organisers are able to mobilise huge funds for development. Easter is the occasion that most new and completed projects are inaugurated. The chiefs sit in state to receive homage from citizens. Certainly, it is also the occasion that plans are made to get rid of incompetent chiefs.

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Easter is also meant for merry making. The original Kwahu music bands such as African Brothers, City Boys, All Brothers and Teacher Boateng and his Africana Band used to play Afternoon Jump (Dance) at various community centres. In the days of legendary highlife songs such as Yaa Boahemaa, Emelia and Ankwaanobi, there used to be a 24-hour Dance. Nowadays, Kwadwo Antwi and other youthful music groups are trying to emulate the achievements of Nana Ampadu and the Old Timers, but it has not been easy. Everybody takes part in the enjoyment, including the spare parts dealer at Abossey Okai (Accra), the tiger nut farmer at Aduamoa, the storeowner at Koforidua, and the cocoa farmer at Apesika.

The crucifixion of Jesus is the last thing that comes into mind as the Kwahus meet in their various towns to celebrate Easter. When the Easter coincides with Akwasidae, there is some drumming and dancing by the Kwahu Priests to remind the people of the origins of the celebrations. In the past, the festivities were usually crowned with fufu and bat soup, a delicacy of the Kwahus. Refreshed by these celebrations, the people start leaving on Tuesday for the towns and villages where they work. It is widely believed that the Kwahus are noted for economising. If that is true, then it explains why most of the charismatic churches on the Kwahu Ridge are not making as much money as those churches in other areas. The evangelists are compelled to take another job to supplement their incomes.

Kwasi Boahene (the Netherlands)



Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.
Columnist: Boahene, Kwasi