Following my first visit to the village, I returned to investigate the procedures surrounding curse retractions and river visitations. A former educator named Owusu led me into the chief linguist’s home (each nature deity has a linguist), and invited me to sit in a small benched area where deliberations were held. If people wished to retract curses through Antoa’s river spirit, local “judges” (such as Owusu) first had to listen to the various cases and develop logical solutions.
Throughout the course of one morning, I sat next to Owusu and listened to individuals who had been inflicted by the river spirit. The visitors filed in with solemnity, but – to my surprise – none admitted shame; nor did they seem suspicious of the disheveled white girl who attentively listened to their darkest confessions.
Flirtatious Mother: The mother of a newborn infant sat on the bench across from me. The woman’s husband told Owusu that his wife had been flirting with an enemy, and that he had thrown an egg into the river so his “promiscuous” wife would be punished. Meanwhile, the woman denied flirting with her husband’s enemy and peacefully continued nursing her child. Owusu warned the husband that if his wife was innocent, then the curse would backfire and wreak havoc upon his health.
Adulterous Affair: A woman stood up in the deliberation area, dressed innocently in a white dress-suit. Her husband relaxed on the bench beside her, and another older woman sat on his other side. The woman in white had suspected that her husband pursued an affair with the other woman, and so cursed the woman using the deity at Antoa. When the other woman fell ill, they traveled to the river to rectify the dilemma. The husband admitted to having an affair with the cursed woman, but refused to marry her. Owusu demanded that the man thereby give the cursed woman 30 cedis (the equivalent of 20 bucks), for the woman’s “sexual services.” The man and the two women were also required to visit the water and offer sacrifices to the spirit.
Swollen Leg: A young man in a Ghanaian soccer jersey was carefully carried into the deliberation area. His leg had doubled in size, and – from the way he winced – seemed to cause him great pain. He was a landlord in a nearby community. Recently, he had cursed a tenant who refused to submit payments. Because the man sought spiritual punishment before legal procedures, the curse backfired and inflicted the man rather than the tenant. Owusu advised the man to confront his problems logically before seeking spiritual revenge.
Family Concern: A family filed in from a nearby village, seeking deliverance from a curse that had killed one of its members. The river apparently has the power not only to wipe out guilty individuals, but also everyone within their households. To console the river deity, the family had to present money and a fowl as sacrifices.
Divorce Complications: An attractive young woman stood defiantly before Owusu, accounting the complications of her marriage. Her husband refused to provide money for her needs, which was why she chose at times to act disobediently. The husband, who was also present, listed the woman’s flaws as a wife: she neglected to cook, even for her two children, she initiated arguments, and she indulged in adulterous affairs. As a result, he cursed her. When the woman claimed the adulterous affair resulted from rape, the men recognized her desperation and scoffed. Due to the woman’s foul behavior, she was required to kneel before her husband before sending further apologies to the river.
The Witch: After enjoying marriage with one woman for several years, a man decided to take a second wife. The second wife gave birth to a child named Regina, who grew into a devout Pentecostal Christian. Regina suffered from many illnesses in her youth, which forced her to spend all her income on medical aid. At last, when she was 28 years old, she called upon the spirit at Antoa to curse whoever perpetuated her illness. Several weeks later, her father’s first wife fell sick. The first wife admitted that she was a witch and that she had been causing Regina’s misfortunes all along. The family sought to cast the witch spirit from the woman’s body and thus restore peaceful family ties. When I inquired about Regina’s (seemingly faulty) faith in Christian prayer, she asserted that Antoa’s justice was the work of God.