In an enormous cement building with no windows, a semicircle of young Ghanaians knelt with fowls hanging from their left hands. The birds struggled under the suffocating grips of their owners, who bowed their heads humbly towards the sculpted idols before them. Drums resounded from the center of the shrine, drilling entrancing vibrations into the finely swept concrete. Along the perimeters of the ceremony, villagers observed with attentive stares, waiting for the feathered bodies to fall limp.
When the worshippers laid their sacrifices upon the ground, the drums rumbled to an end and the priest rose from his chair. The owners briefly placed their elbows and tongues to the ground. One by one, the fowls’ heads were ripped from their torsos and the bodies were carried — necks dripping — to the lips of each idol.
The drums began again, and the women rose from their benches to dance, shuffling into a cluster around the swaying priest. The women flapped their arms like the birds they sacrificed, simultaneously thrusting their hips in a unified movement.
When the music petered to a close, a new collection of Ghanaians formed a semi-circle around the idols. These worshippers knelt with bottles of schnaps placed before their knees. In their native Ewe language, the worshippers took turns announcing their requests to the priest and gods.
One of the worshippers propped her torso over her infant, who sat upright on the concrete. With one hand, she pulled a full breast out of her blouse and let it tumble into the mouth of her baby, who prepared to cry from hunger. As the baby sucked at the open breast, the mother quietly revealed her concerns to the attentive priest, who — like the other worshippers — overlooked the woman’s exposure. While most of the baby’s face was buried into his mother’s skin, the tears on his face were still visible: a facial accessory from when his mouth was empty.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the priest recorded the name and contact information of each worshipper who presented a sacrifice. When he closed his notebook, I noted that it was a flimsy school notebook from a street stand, and on its cover was one of Ghana’s most beloved heroes: Barack Obama.
On the stone idol figurines, the curved surfaces dripped with blood until long after sundown.