Information on the Naabour fetish, in particular how one becomes a chief priestess, and on the treatment of the Naabour fetish and other fetish by the Rawlings government [GHA22905.E]

Information on the Naabour fetish could not be found among the sources consulted by the DIRB. However, the following information on fetish shrines in Ghana was provided by a history professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia on 15 April 1996.

Fetish shrines are found throughout Ghana and are overseen by a chief priest or priestess. The shrines are used by believers to obtain good fortune, to treat illness, and to ward off ill omens and misfortune; they also can perform divinations.

A chief priest or priestess may be chosen from within the family, if a family is responsible for maintaining the shrine, or as a result of a divine calling which might manifest itself as a sickness or chronic illness that cannot be healed, yet does not kill or spirit possession. The latter may be interpreted if someone remains ill or is unable to succeed at various tasks, notwithstanding serious effort on their part. As well, a series of misfortunes befalling an individual may indicate spirit possession. Whoever, is responsible for maintaining the shrine will be responsible for selecting the chief priest or priestess; for example, where shrines are associated with a chieftaincy, the chieftain can designate the next priest or priestess. If an individual so chosen refuses the position, it would be a disgrace to the family. As well, a refusal may be interpreted as a rebuffing of the prestige and authority of the chieftain and custom. An individual who refuses to become chief priest or priestess may suffer intimidation or be threatened or the family may lose land previously granted to them by the chieftain. Also possible is the threat that the spirit of the shrine will exact its own punishment against the unwilling candidate, which might result in the person being poisoned or other misfortune occurring.

Generally, a chief priest or priestess connotes a position of some local influence and prestige, especially if the shrine is associated with a local chieftaincy or has a respectable reputation. Usually the government pays no attention to fetish shrines unless illegal activity is associated with the shrine.

Additional and/or corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the DIRB.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Professor of history, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. 15 April 1995. Telephone interview with Ghana specialist.