Monday, April 4, 2016

Suriname's Winti Religion (quotes from selected online sources)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a three part series on Suriname, South America's Winti religion.

Part I provides excerpts from online articles and blog posts about Winti. The Addendum to this post includes information about the Twi (Ghana & Ivory Coast, West Africa) word "kra" which is central to Suriname's Winti religion.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II provides excerpts from online articles and blog posts about Winti pré (also given as "Winti prey", spelled with or without the "p" capitalized).

Click for Part III of this series.

Part III presents seven YouTube videos of Winti Pré (Winti prey) in Suriname and in the Netherlands.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

These excerpts are numbered for referencing purposes only. Of course, the entire article should be read.
Excerpt #1:
Pancocojams' Editor's Note:
"The referent "African American" in this article's title doesn't mean "Black people from the United States." Instead it means "people of African descent in Suriname, South America. Except the first two sentences, this excerpt is from pages 6-8 of this article. Excerpts from pages 1-6 are given in Part I of this series.

These excerpts are given without the citation numbers and citation information and are also given without the bold or most of the italics that are found in that article.

From AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN RELIGION CALLED WINTI by Stichting Tata Kwasi Ku Tata Tinsensi Foundation – Paramaribo – Surinam
"The Concept of Winti
With the arrival of the Africans in the so-called New World they also brought with them highly developed belief systems and philosophies....

Eventually a new composite religious system emerged called Winti.

The majority of Africans shipped to Surinam between 1650 and 1800 came from the Akan-Fanti speaking regions (today’s Ghana) and the Ewe-Fon-Nago speaking areas (Togo, Benin, formerly Dahomey, and Western Nigeria) which together formed the greater Kwa-languages and culture zone. Also a considerable number came from the
areas surrounding the estuary of the Congo River, namely the Loango (or Luwango) region belonging to the so-called Northwestern-Central Bantu culture zone. The remainder was a congeries picked up here and there along the west coast of Africa of which yet the greater portion came from the Mande speaking culture zone. It was
these Africans who furnished the basic structure for the African-Surinamese religious system.

Where the word winti came from must yet be looked into; but besides the common meaning of ‘air in motion,’ – derived from the Germanic ‘wind’ – it also signifies all activities of the Afro-Surinamers resulting from and determined by their religious experiences as a practical expression of these experiences.

The word winti is also specifically used to express the idea of a Universal Entity or Spirit. The aforementioned activities consist of rituals, beliefs and practices all tapped from a common African heritage.

Winti, of course, means more than just the rituals taking place in the kampu; it is in fact an integrated system of concepts on human behavior, on the relations between man and his ancestors as well as with nature and natural influences surrounding him and the spiritual forces of the universe. It relates the dead/the ancestors and those who are yet to be born. It explains unforeseen events indicating that they are completely in agreement with established principles; succinctly put, Winti is a true religion that tries to connect the unknown with the known thereby creating order where disorder/chaos would prevail...

Winti as a Religious System
Winti as a religious system has an internal as well as an external structure. The internal structure deals with life as man is inwardly guided and the external structure entails everything else surrounding the former, i.e. the religious experience. The external structure of the belief teaches man how he or she must approach the faith in order to effect an equilibrium between the spiritual and the mores. The internal
structure deals with the will to live. This means whatever man wants from life, whatever man wants to make of his life. Man’s will is to be found in the Power of Anana that allows man to be whatever he or she wants to be. All of his actions, his do’s and don’ts, his endeavors and all that emanate from his innermost is nothing but an expression of his faith in Anana. This expression of faith is determined by the
Power of Anana through the akara (or akra or kra i.e. I myself, ego). The external structure deals with the externals that determine man’s faith in life: What do you do to turn your life in a certain meaningful direction? What pathway do you choose in order to realize the desired course in all tranquility, civility, satisfaction and orderliness?...

the Power of Anana [is] approached in four ways based on the four quarters of, the four approaches toward
the spiritual life meaning that the akara is encompassed by the Power of Anana from four angles. From this center the akara expands with the very essence that emanates from the four-ways of spiritual life...

These four-ways are further subdivided into various units each with its own specific functions and corresponding proper names. According to the Winti belief disharmony between the akara and each one of these four-ways may result into a wrong/undesirable turn in life. A confessor of Winti may, in seeking spiritual wellbeing, turn to any one of these four-ways (or their subdivisions) of The Winti in order to look for solutions for problems in life. This, however, does not means that Winti is polytheistic by nature, for that is definitely not the case. Winti acknowledges only Anana Kedjaman Kedjanpo as the All-embracing Lord of the animated world and everything else surrounding it. When a person addresses a prayer (or begi) to Maysa
[i.e. the principle of Mother Earth, one of the goron winti] this means nothing else but addressing Anana Kedjaman Kedjanpo via that portion Maysa whereupon life has presented itself in that particular circumstance."...

Anana Kedjaman Kedjanpo or The Power of Anana is The All-Embracing Spirit(ual) Controller of life. His working power is here referred to as the Power of Anana and pervades everything everywhere. This Power
manifests Itself in man through the workings of the akara and the four-ways of the spiritual life philosophy that spiritually encompasses all other extra-human aspects of life and expands the essence of the akara with life visions, harmony, order, stability and protection. The following breakdown indicates the divine working power as it emanates from the Power of Anana.
The Akara
is that portion of the Power of Anana that is in control of man’s life. The akara allows
life to be experienced after its own fashion. For man the akara is the very center of his
spiritual experience and radiance.

The Goron Winti
is that portion of the Power of Anana that has influence on life upon and under the surface of the earth. Man is not the only animated being on earth, but is part of something greater called Life whether we are dealing with a human being or a worm deep under the surface of the earth.

The Busi Winti
is that part of the Power of Anana that regulates and manages life in and around the bush and vegetation.

The Watra Winti
is that part of the Power of Anana that controls life in and around water.

The Tapu Winti
is that part of Power of Anana that pertains to life in the atmospheric sphere. Life in this realm concerns the exchange of the life-giving substance of life-forms that keeps each other in balance and sustains life itself. The tapu winti also fight against social injustice...

(The) Winti is universal. Despite the fact that the sources of Winti are African based the faithful believes that every human being is circumambiently encompassed by The Winti and that His Akara lives in every person. By believing in everything that life has to offer and by having the will to make out of life whatever one wishes already demonstrates the strength of one’s faith in Anana. Because of this universal character
every one who wants to order his life can do this through The Winti. The internal structure of the life of the believer is determined by The Akara of which every man or woman is a part, according to the Winti philosophy. To experience Winti one needs not belong to a specific ethnic group, race or nation; any one who believes will be fed by the faith. However, it is clear that those of African descent are both culturally and
religiously bound to The Winti."...
Additional excerpts from this article are given in Part II of this series.

Excerpt #2:
From [as found in]
"Introduction to African Suriname Religion

Winti is the cultural-religious heritage and essen­tial product of approximately four traditional African religions. Over the centuries, these have been fused into one as a result of the socializa­tion of Africans from different ethnic groups brought to Suriname during the slave trade. The Winti religion is part of a strong African cultural heritage that has sustained itself in Suriname despite centuries of slavery and cultural oppres­sion. The development and practice of the Winti religion has been attacked, obstructed, and inhibited over the centuries by the colonial cul­ture, in general, and the Christian churches, in particular. Winti was declared taboo; it was asso­ciated with the occult and with the calling of demonic powers. The whole Winti faith was put in the sphere of “black magic” and became sym­bolic of a lower social status in the country...

Essential Principles and Concepts of Winti

In Winti, the supreme God, which is omnipotent, omnipresent, and all knowing, is called Anana Kedoeaman Kedoeampon, meaning “God of Heaven and Earth.” The name Anana Kedoeaman Kedoeampon originates from the Fante-Akan name for the same, Anana Tweaduaman Tweaduampon. Winti concepts and vocabulary originate and draw heavily from the Fante-Akan tradition and also com­bine with other West African ethnic traditions, espe­cially Ga, Ewe, Fon, West Bantu, and some Yoruba. Depending on the geographic location in Suriname, whether coastal or interior, Winti may have more or less influence from one or the other traditional African ethnic heritage, as well as a few indigenous American Indian-originated spirits and words.

Winti cosmology consists of a complex hierar­chical system of spirits, with Anana Kedoeaman Kedoeampon at the top. The pantheon of Winti spans four major categories of nature spirits, in which each has its own subdivisions of lesser gods (see Figure 1). The Winti, in this sense, can be compared to the Abosom in Akan tradition and the Orisha in the Yoruba tradition. Mbiti points out that the Yoruba have 1,700 Orisha.

In Winti, in addition to the major deities and minor subdeities in the Winti pantheon, the immortal human soul and its integration to the complex of ancestral human spirits is a central feature of Winti cosmology.

The Spiritual Human Soul Triad

In Winti, as in other African religions, the phys­ical and the spiritual are but two dimensions of one and the same universe.

Further, humans are conceived as biological/material and spiritual beings. The biological/material is the body and its material contents, and the spiritual soul con­sists of three parts: (1) the kra or akra (from the Fante “okra”), (2) the djodjo, and (3) the jorka.

When one dies, the kra is transformed into a jorka (ancestral spirit), through which human beings are integrated into the spiritual, cosmo-logical world. Because Anana Kedoeaman Kedoeampon is all encompassing, omnipotent, and all knowing, one cannot address oneself directly to it. This is done using the “kra,” the spiritual self, which is directed to the nature spirits also known as Winti, konfo, or jeje. The kra is the spiritual cradle of a person and is accompanied by the djodjo.

In Winti cosmol­ogy, it is believed that every person has “par­ents” in the spiritual world that are called djodjo; this term is derived from the Ewe “djo” and the Fon “djoto.” Every person has two djodjo, one male and one female, that could be higher or lower “Gods”; people enjoy their pro­tection, and they can be compared to the con­cept of guardian angels.

The Kra and the djodjo are the two basic components of the spiritual makeup of a person while alive. As a person grows from a child to an adult, his or her Kra also grows (expands) to accommodate and develop other aspects of the human spirit. This spiritual growth can be consciously facilitated. The Djodjo is an indispensable support to the Kra in the spiritual makeup of a person...

he kra is the most essential part of the total human spirit. All people have an independent spirit, but it is still dependent on a larger whole. As long as the Kra spiritually controls the body, it means spiritual well-being, stability, and will power. When someone dies, the kra and the djodjo transform into one and become a Jorka. This term comes from the Carib-Indian word joroka and is sometimes also called djumbi, meaning “ancestral spirit.” The jorka continues to live in the hereafter, known as dede kondre or samandow.

The kra goes through various Earthly human experiences and sometimes finds itself in difficult situations. The kra is also said to be related to one’s instincts and will power. When difficulties or misfortunes occur in life, it could be due to the weakening of these spiritual “senses.” This must be “diagnosed” by a luku. A luku is a consultative visit to a lukuman. A lukuman is one who does a spiritual assessment; this involves a ceremony dur­ing which the lukuman consults a particular deity on behalf of his “patient.” This deity allows the lukuman while in trance to “see” the spiritual health/problems of a person; he can then tell the person what the problem is and refer the person to a healer called a Bonuman.

A bonuman is a spiritual healer, guide, and leader in the Winti religion. Some Bonumen can also provide the service of a luku, but many can­not because these are two separate procedures/ rituals that require communication with different gods. This communication always involves ritu­als, prayer, and a self-induced trance, which the luku or bonu must facilitate to communicate with the particular deity or spirit. When spiritual difficulties arise, the kra is said to be soiled and therefore needs washing and strengthening. Hence, the washing and feeding of the kra is a ritual that Winti practitioners undertake once or twice in their lives to strengthen their kra; this is usually done on their birthday. It is also neces­sary sometimes to feed the djodjo at that time, so special foods are prepared and offered in ritual ceremony.

To maintain spiritual wellness, it is sometimes recommended to wash the kra and provide food offerings to the particular Winti that corresponds to a particular person’s kra and djodjo. The corre­sponding Winti depends partially on the day of the week one was born. Just as in the Akan tradi­tion, the weekday of one’s birth determines the name of one’s kra, and there are a total of seven names for both sexes. They also correspond to personality types. In Suriname, these names are usually only used during the purification rituals of the kra, during which the male and female version of the name is called...

Winti teachings say that people must direct themselves to their spiritual possibilities. Spiritual life must be ordered by the operation of spiritual links and divine laws, and furthermore, spiritual stability and harmony are dependent on this. The absence or violation of one of these spiritual links can mean disharmony. With faith in Winti, one can nourish oneself spiritually."...

Excerpt #3:
From [posted April 22, 2013]
..."Winti provides an all-encompassing but flexible design for living. The everyday visible world is complemented by a normally unseen world that is peopled by gods and spirits of tremendous variety, who interact with humans constantly. Scholars have classified the great variety of Winti gods into four “pantheons”—those of the air, the earth, the water, and the forest.

The major gods and spirits include a variety of Kromanti (fierce healing spirits), apuku (often-malevolent forest spirits), Aisa (localized earth spirits), Fodu (boa constrictor spirits), Aboma (anaconda spirits), and a great host of others. Frequent rites, involving specialized dances, drumming, and songs, are used to honor and placate each type of spirit, and the spirits themselves appear on these occasions, through possession, to make their wishes known. Winti is a strongly participatory religion, in which every individual plays an active role, and specialization or special knowledge is widely distributed among the population."...

Excerpt #4:
"Winti is an Afro-Surinamese traditional religion that originated in South America and developed in the Dutch Empire; this resulted in the syncretization of the religious beliefs and practices of Akan slaves with Christianity and Indigenous American beliefs...

There are four Pantheons or groups.
1. The Earth pantheon with the Goron Winti.
2. The Water Pantheon with Watra Winti.
3. The Forest Pantheon with Busi Winti.
4. The Sky Pantheon with Tapu Winti.

Certain groups of maroons also distinguish a fifth pantheon, the realm of the death.

The Earth pantheon

The water pantheon
Watra Ingi
Watra Kromanti

The forest pantheon
Busi Ingi
The sky pantheon[edit]
Opete or Tata Ananka Yaw

“Religion is at the root of Akan culture and forms the basis of their life and thought. The term "religion" holds a very different definition in Africa than in most Western cultures. Traditional (indigenous) religious beliefs are a part of their culture, their customs, and part of everything they do. It follows individuals throughout their lives, and puts them in touch with the unseen powers.

Family in the Akan context doesn’t consist of only husband, wife, and children. Family lineage is traced back to God (Nyame), who is sometimes referred to as "The Greater Ancestor". The Akan family isan unbroken clan that includes not only the living, but also the deadand the unborn. The Akans make up about 65% of Ghana.

The Akan belief is that God is our creator. They believe that man has certain material and spiritual elements. He is made up of life soul (Kra), spirit (Sunsum), blood (Mogya) and family(Abusua). Every Akan belongs to a clan and is bound to tha tclan by blood relation. They believe that during the sexual act, anelement called Ntro or Sunsum (spirit) from the father mingles with the blood, Mogya, of the mother and this gives rise to conception. The third element in the composition of man is the Kra, life soul, which comes from God together with one’s destiny.

The Akanconcept of man’s dependence on God is further emphasized by the fact that God gives man the animating principle, the life soul called Kra, together with man’s destiny called Nkrabea. However, the destiny can be affected by their character. The giving of the Kra and Nkrabea by God is an acknowledgement of the limitation of human power as well as an affirmation of divine providence. The Kra (soul) is said to be the small bit of the Creator that lives in every person’s body, and returns to Him after death. It is supposed to act as the spiritual force of man’s conscience and influence all of his actions.

In earlier Akan traditional beliefs, the Kra was thought of as an ancestral spirit which left the Supreme Being in a farewell ceremony in heaven so that it might be reborn in a child of its mother’s family. The word Kra is believed to have been derived from the verb Nkra, meaning "to part or to leave".”
The Twi word "adinkra" included the element "kra". Here's some information about "adinkra" from
The Adinkra symbols are believed to have their origin from Gyaman, a former kingdom in today’s Côte D’Ivoire. According to an Asante (Ghana) legend Adinkra was the name of a king of the Gyaman (Nana kofi Adinkra). Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle by the Asantes for having copied the “Golden Stool”, which represents for them absolute power and tribal cohesion. He was finally killed and his territory annexed to the kingdom of Asante.

The tradition had it that Nana Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being taken to Kumasi the capital of Asante.

The Asante people around the 19th century then took to painting of traditional symbols of the Gyamans onto cloth, a tradition that was well practiced by the latter.

Adinkra also means ‘goodbye’ or ‘farewell’ in Twi the language of the Akan ethnic group of which Asante is a part.* It has therefore been the tradition of the Akan especially the Asante to wear cloths decorated with Adinkra symbols on important occasions especially at funerals of family relations and friends. This is to signify their sorrow and to bid farewell to the deceased.

Today, the Adinkra cloth is not exclusively worn by the Asante people. It is worn by other ethnic groups in Ghana on a variety of social gatherings and festive occasions.”...
*I added italics to highlight that sentence. I wonder if the complete meaning of the word "adinkra" is "goodbye to the soul".

Among afrocentric Black people in the United States, "sankofa" is a well known adinkra symbol.
"Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates as "Go back and get it" (san - to return; ko - to go; fa - to fetch, to seek and take) and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented either by a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back, or as a stylised heart shape. Sankofa is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which translates as: "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten."

The sankofa symbol appears frequently in traditional Akan art, and has also been adopted as an important symbol in an African-American and African Diaspora context to represent the need to reflect on the past to build a successful future. It is one of the most widely dispersed adinkra symbols, appearing in modern jewellery, tattoos, and clothing."...

This concludes Part I of this series.

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