Ancestral Voices 2 (Film)
Amen & Ameen: Paying Homage to African Ashe
By Dalian Adofo
Possibly one of the most ubiquitous words in use today, the word Amen is largely confined in use to followers of the Judeo-Christian religions. It is the word utilised to end prayers as an affirmation for the requests therein to be provided by the God being prayed to, same with the later Muslim extension, Ameen, both largely translated to imply ‘may it be so’.
What is most interesting and largely not acknowledged is that its roots are in none of these religions. Rather, it predates both these Abrahamic faiths by several centuries. To locate its origins we must travel back to Abraham and his tenure spent on the continent of Africa, in Kemet, the place now known as Egypt.
The ancient Kemetians, who derived much of their spiritual and cultural knowledge and understandings, by their own admission, from the Nubians (modern-day Sudan), had a most fascinating genesis story.
In this narrative, the masculine, visible aspect of ‘God’ is known as RA, but before RA takes physical form ‘he’ exists as Amen; that which is hidden, which reflects ‘his’ invisible form that exists within ‘his’ mother, Nun, the dark primordial waters. So before Amen the male is Nun the female, a complete opposite of the belief taken for granted nowadays of God being a ‘he’.
As interesting as this narrative is, it immediately becomes clear that the story, far from being taken literally is symbolic of many things. Some of these symbolisms are discussed extensively here.
In actuality, it references the process of ‘willing into being’- the scientific principle of ‘self-replication’ but that discussion is for another post.
One of the clear symbolisms is that what is being described is the ‘birth process’, a baby in a mother’s womb (dark, primordial waters) that is invisible to the naked eye (Amen) that then takes form (RA) on passage into the physical world. What can be further discerned is that in the African conception, the notion of ‘God’ is not an entity but rather ‘a process of creation’ or coming into being.
The origins of Amen is documented, irrefutable history as found in the Kemetian book of ‘Coming Forth by Day’, popularly known as the ‘Egyptian Book of the Dead’. A document that again, precedes any of the Abrahamic ‘holy books’ and is undeniable evidence of appropriation from the Kemetian genesis story, into these organised religions.
This is perfectly understandable of course considering that both Abraham of the Old testament as well as Moses, and Jesus of the New testament lived a period of their life in Kemet. However what remains bizarre is the amount of negative information in the bible itself about the Kemetians and their culture. Yet one of, if not, the most important words used by followers of the said religion is a title describing the African God!!
So it is most interesting that inasmuch as religious zealots express their disdain of African indigenous cultures and practices, often persecuting its followers, each time they conclude a prayer, it is the African God who is mentioned- how convoluted is this?
One other word that has gained notable use in recent times is the Yoruba word, Ashe. The similarities between Ashe and Amen fall within the conception of ‘coming into being’.
In Yoruba Ifa cosmology, Ashe refers to the life force within all living things, the spark that animates life. It is also used as an appellation at the end of invocations and prayers as an affirmation that what has been requested should be made manifest in the physical.
This same concept of life force is not unique to just the Yoruba but found across the African spectrum- for example the Dogon call it Nyama, it is the Sunsum amongst the Akan and so on.
More available here.
It has largely become associated with the ‘conscious community’ of Africans/Blacks, largely understandable due to the proliferation of Ifa as a spiritual system that has been retained in various guises in Diasporan expressions such as Candomble in Brasil or Vodou in Haiti amongst many others. What is further highlighted then are intricate overlaps in the use of the word Amen, Ameen or Ashe at significant points in a lithurgy/prayer- at its end and with the same intent and understanding.
It thus further highlights just how much our modern day religions borrow from ancient understandings and are not exclusive ‘god-given’ principles of their ideology as most adherents would prefer them to be.
What this state of ‘cross-pollination’ also remind us of, is the need to learn to be more tolerant of each others beliefs and do away with the virulent oppression we see the world over of African and other indigenous spiritual practitioners- UNICEF report (2010), BBC News (2015), Brazil (2015), Haiti (2010)
Such persecutions indigenous practitioners face shows reflect a total ignorance by such zealots of the very foundations of their own religion(s). For indigenous practitioners, it is also a stark reminder of the need to further ensure other principal understandings are preserved, highlighted and not largely regulated into nothingness on the one hand, only to be appropriated for another use on the other hand, then erased from the original context as we evidence with the word Amen.
For all the misguided assertions by fanatics of how ‘evil’ or ‘devilish’ African Indigenous Spiritual practices are, each time the word Amen is used, how many millions if not billions of times a day, it is but a homage to the ‘God of Africa’
Ase! Ase! Ase-ooo!!!