Love At The Harvest Moon🌙

The centre of the village was full with jubilating people. The round full moon high up in the sky. The men were in groups drinking palm wine while the women dance ‘kete’ in front of the blazing bon fire. The maidens dressed beautifully in their calico and beads decorating their waist and their delicate neck moved about gracefully distributing nonstop wine from their gourds.

There was an air of anticipation as the agog looking youths began to fret; already on the verge to start a real feast of dancing and beating drums.

The women took their seat to sip some wine and allowed the old hunters to make a rifle display. They shot their rifles in the sky to demonstrate how they also feed the people with the meat they catch.

The tune of the drums got wild and the maidens and the lads took over with the kete dance.

Kete is a royal dance. It is danced to express the powerful authority of a paramount king. Sometimes a dancer who plans on having fun in the course of the dance can make a whole art of it to tell someone that he’s single and is available. Should the person be single too, she signs with the hand to an agreement that each finds the other attractive. She then joins the dance and together with the dancer makes a rich display of ‘kete’with the combination of romance.

Since it was quite amusing for the public and acceptable on such occasions, the young lads who planned on missions of the heart set in to find their partners. They danced ardently toward the shy maidens and scanned their faces.

“That one sure is mine” Afua preened herself and adjusted her breast attractively. The other girls giggled.

Amma sat calmly with Adwubi and would hastily sign to the interested lads that she was proudly engaged should they approach her. Although she could choose to step away from the grounds, she sat calmly with Adwubi’s hand tucked in hers. She was eyeing Kofi-wusu to pass a message to him.

The moment Kofi signed to Amma, she signed back; “I’m engaged but my friend here is interested”

Kofi smiled. He moved to Adwubi and signed to her. Adwubi too shy only sat idle and refused to even meet his gaze.

Amma sighed and said. “Look she’s a very shy girl but she’s really interested in you. Can’t you try another method?”

Kofi smiled. The girl in front of him was very good looking and he had a plan. He raised his hands and drums died abruptly. The people murmured confusingly but sensed what was going on moved aside and made space for Kofi. They looked on and gasped as Kofi knelt in front of Adwubi.

“You focus my mind but to vanishing point

You try to hide your honeyed face

But I almost can make out your bright eyes in the dark

O beauty, beauty concealed in the depth of darkness

Hide not what is in your eyes with the veil of shyness and silence

‘Cos the deeper your silence, the louder it vibrates the tune of love

Let me have this dance and together make this single spark from within

Grow into a great firework…”

“Well said.” The women beamed and approved.

“That’s a real man” the men beat thumped their chest and bellowed proudly.

The drums took gradually on a tune when Adwubi finally stood up to dance. It was a slow rhythm which nurtured into a wild one.

Before they realized what was happening, Adwubi was already on the lead with the proposal. The people clapped, clearly amused and said, “Eeeii so she was interested”

The two were no longer dancing on their feet; they were on springs- their movement so involved and unique.

When they finally ended their dance everybody was applauding and cheering. They were breathless with love as they gazed into each other’s eyes.

“This is my best dance ever” Kofi gasped.

Adwubi smiled bashfully. “Me too…”

There was no noise to invade, not a soul to interrupt. It was only two love birds who were entangled in the web of love under the harvest moon. The wind should howl to tell the people of Omanpe that, a love story has already begun…

Love At The Harvest Moon🌙

There will be a full moon tonight and a bonfire would be lit to mark the bumper harvest of the farmers. This has been the anticipation of every villager at Omanpe as they go about their day by day activities.

The young maidens of Omanpe met at the pathway that led to the Ntoliah River. Their pot balanced at their side with their calculated rhythmic steps with their tight cloth clutching their hips. It was time for a swim of the maidens after their hard toiling in the sun on farms, carrying foodstuffs to the barns. They needed a cold bath to soothe their tired body and prepare for the feast tonight.

The Ntoliah River was a gem of a river formed from a tumbling waterfall. It was surrounded by dense lustrous evergreen forest with a sporadic blossom of wild lilies dipping close to the water.

On reaching the banks of the river, some of the girls ran, giggling, jumping and splashing water everywhere. Others led themselves to the top of the waterfall and dived, their glee vibrating in the atmosphere and travelling in echoes. Since the boys were absolutely prohibited, some of them discarded their cloths to frolic quite naked.

Time for thorough bathing, Adwubi searched in her waistband for her ‘Alata samina’ a coffee-brown local soap molded in a ball shape. She normally secured it with her waist beads. Removing her cloth, she made a creamy lather in her palm and applied it on her body, rubbing it with a little water. She repeatedly did this until she felt really scrubbed of all the dirt and dipped her hands in her pot to wash away the soap suds from her body. She carefully dipped into the river for a stroke, stood waist-deep in the water and lathered the soap on her black cascading hair. She curved in foreword and washed her hair rubbing her scalp in the course. The other girls calmly did their bath. Later on, they all sat on the glistering rocks and smeared their skin with shear butter until their skin sparkled like gold.

“Daughters of Ntoliah, it’s now time to make a request” Amma, the oldest among them and soon-to-be-bride stood proud in the river. It was her last hangout with her friends until she gets married soon after harvest.

“Make yours first Amma” Adwoa beckon.

“Ntoliah, the river of life, I asked for a husband and you the never failing bequeathed me one indeed. I stand her proud as a peacock that I go to my husband’s house soon after harvest. My gratitude to you Ntoliah…Ntoliah, river of fertility, as I set out to my husband’s house I request for another favor, I ask to breed my husband a male child as a first born…”

“Why not a female? A baby girl too would be nice” Foriwaah, too naïve to understand the essence of a male child to a woman chipped in. The girls gave her a cold stare.

“Shut up Foriwaah, it won’t be a girl. When you marry, you can wish for a girl” Osaah retorted.

Sparing a glance of appreciation to Osaah, Amma continue with her request.”…a boy strong from birth as a lion and with the face of a sun.” she dipped her cupped hands in the water, raised it up high and allowed it to trickle back in a prayer.

“I’m next.” Kyerewaah said and stood up in front of the girls. “I seek for a husband Ntoliah. As you can see, I’m ripe and full and the lonely days have caught up with me. I ask for a husband to share my mat these approaching cold days”

Ekyaa was next in line. She was a plumb looking girl with too much breast for her age. “I want a companion too before the year ends-only it should be a hunter…”

“Ehh being picky too” the girls giggled.

“…to provide lots of meat and nourish my soup of course. I’m a plumb woman in nature and I can’t afford to grow lean” Ekyaa ducked her head.

“Then why not a farmer?” Nyaarko asked.

“I’m already a farmer, I just a hunter. What’s it with you; it’s my request”

The girls giggled and the next in line stood to make her request.

It was their adopted ritual to make a request at the end of every ‘beauty bath’ to the Ntoliah River. The river was known as the goddess of beauty and since it had a thing for virgin daughters, fulfilled their wishes concerning partners and babies. Those who do not remain chaste often stay away from the river to avoid being drowned since the goddess abhorred such girls.

Friday was a day set aside to respect her. It was believed to be the day when the beautiful goddess sits at the banks of the river to bathe her own babies. Friday was a sacred day and none were to visit the river.

A story was told by parents to their children on how a farmer had broken the rule and visited the river. He found the river goddess with her black sheen hair forming a halo on her head, having a bath herself. The farmer after running helter skelter to announce what he had beheld got struck by a lightening and died. The fetish priest went about bellowing that it was a warning; no one should ever again make such a taboo.

“Adwubi, you’re next “the girls looked enquiringly at Adwubi. She was fingering a flower and seemed absentminded, looking at her reflection in the river.

Foriwaah nudged her to reality. “Mmm what have the dreamer been dreaming about huh? A prince?” She enquired amusingly causing giggles from the girls.

“I wasn’t dreaming and there’s no prince” Adwubi’s normally calm voice sounded startle”

“Come on girl. You’re saying there’s not one lad you admire under the veils of your lashes?” another girl asked quite surprised.

“Come on, don’t be shy. Tell us”

“There’s none. I told you already” Adwubi said peevishly.

“Oh she’s having, silly…I normally see her stealing glances at…” Foriwaah trailed on purpose looking at Adwubi to intervene before she pursued her task of letting the cat out of the bag. “…ok I’ll tell them…is Kofi-wusu. Papa Nimo’s son” this drew ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ from the girls.

“Do you mean Kofi-wusu that tall looking lad who wounded the first antelope during the hunting sessions?” Foriwaah fervently nodded to the question.

“Oh he’s such a fine-looking lad…”a girl chipped in dreamingly

“…and I heard he can dance ‘kete’ like no other”

“Is it true?” they all looked at Adwubi again who only fingered her waist beads and shrugged shyly.

“Quit the shyness and make a request of him Adwubi” Amma said exasperatedly. She just couldn’t understand shy-timid girls.

“Wish for him to share your mat tonight” Afua languorously said. She received a pinch from the other girls who disapproved of her statement. They will never throw themselves at a man. They too had their pride.

Adwubi stood up in front of the girls. “I-I wish that he’ll…he’ll just look at me tonight at this harvest moon…”

There were soft sympathetic ‘aah aah’ circulating among the girls. Their eyes casting pitying glance at Adwubi. They mused about how lame she could be with a wish for a partner. Couldn’t she wish for something better than a simple look?

They forgot about it and got deep in conversation while they combed their hair and braided it or perform the service for each other. Sometimes a girl will admit her penchant for a particular lad in the village and will receive bantering from her colleagues. She’ll duck shyly and beg them to be quiet.

“Look girls-there is the harvest moon!” one of them announced. Hastily, they filled their pots with water and hefted it on their head. They walked swinging their hips in rhythm but this time, someone raised a song as cantor and they all chorused.

“River Ntoliah…”

“The river goddess of beauty”

“River Ntoliah…”

“The goddess of fertility”

“River Ntoliah…”

“The giver of life”

“River Ntoliah…”

“The pride of virgin daughters…”

Then they parted ways waving. “We shall meet again”

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