Tano as God

The Tano River runs 400 kilometres (approximately 250 miles) from the Ghana Ivory Coast border in the north toward the Atlantic Ocean, where it empties into the sea. It is highly regarded river by the Akan culture and has been associated with many with many of the great events and historical deeds of the Akan, indeed, at the head of the river, where it begins, is the Tano sacred grove noted in history and by custom for its beautifully mystical clusters of striking sandstone formations all enclosed in a semi deciduous forest. Here the earliest settlement of the Akan are said to have taken place.

In time, the Tano River was associated with some of the greatest and oldest deities on earth. In fact the Takora which is abbreviated for Tano Kora or Tano the Mender means the ‘immense father’ as Kora means “ the immense” and “Ta” may be derived from a word meaning “father”, showing how he is the father of many Abosom (gods). Takora is the god of war and strife in Asante mythology and the greatest of all Asante gods upon earth. Tano has the appearance of a big and strong warrior armed with Asante weapons such as an Akrafena, a spear, a bow and other weapons.

The Atano (Water gods) are believed to have descended from the River Tano. All Atano (Water gods) within the Asante Kingdom belongs to the Asantehene. Tano god has material element about him. Nyame gave birth to sons with Asaase Yaa, the goddess of earth namely Bia, Tano, and his younger brothers Bosomtwe who represents Lake Bosomtwe, Ananse and Apo. Tano is considered as the second son of Nyame, Bia is considered as the eldest son of Nyame and Nyame’s favourite who represents the Bia river, Bosomtwe is one of Nyame’s son associated with a body of water. Tano cheated his brother Bia out of inheritance. Nyame sent his servant goat Akua Abirekyire but it thwarted Nyame’s plans with respect to his sons Bia and Tano. Nyame planned to give Bia, his favourite, the most fertile and beautiful parts of the country of Asante.

Tano would receive the barren coastal land now Ivory Coast. Nyame sent his servant goat Akua Abirekyire to tell his sons to come to him for their inheritance the next day. Akua Abirekyire preferred Tano to Bia, so it instructed Tano to disguise himself as Bia and go to Nyame very early in the morning. Deceived, Nyame gave Tano the land intended for Bia. When Bia arrived, Nyame realized what had happened; it was too late to correct the error. Tano god is known for not getting along with his brothers Bia and Bosomtwe. He said to have married to the goddess Afua Kranka and had four (4) sons. Two of their four sons were Oman Abossom of Takyiman (Bono State).

Tano was said to have dwell at the source of the Tano River in the grove. Another name Tano has is Tano Kwasi, meaning his day is Sunday. He can also be known as Asuhyia Tano meaning the blessed waters of Tano, a reference to Tano been a river deity. Although the Supreme Being Onyankopɔn is a sky Deity, Takora is the highest deity on earth. Tano god is the patron god of Asante and he is in rivalry with death. Tano is a war deity who uses military tactics to defeat his enemies. Evidence is in Asante military ideology of adaptation. His most famous tactic is the captured on purpose tactic, in which he transform himself into a little boy during wars, allow himself to be taken to the enemy kingdom, then spread pestilence among them, leaving them vulnerable to his own armies.

This was in the case of Asante Gyaman war (1818). According to oral tradition, Asantehene Nana Osei Bonsu sought the help of the Tano god to defeat the Gyaman King, Kwadwo Adinkra. Tano god requested for a gun known as “Kodiawuo” and Tano god told Asantehene that the war with Kwadwo Adinkra will be fought for seven days and on the seven day, he will see four stars representing Tano god and his sons and they will passed by to Gyaman. Tano god and his sons turned themselves to little boys by allowing the Palace guards to take them to the Palace of Kwadwo Adinkra. It’s believed that Tano god shot Kwadwo Adinkra and vanished with his sons.

Asante became victorious after the war.
The waters of the river are used for purification. Indeed the Tano Shrine is kept nearby in the town of Tanoboase in the Bono East of Ghana. However the chief priest takes this powerful religious shrine annually to the sacred grove. The practice of renewal among the Akan can take place in many sites. However, here the headwaters of the Tano, priest of the Atano Abossom centered on the sacred river Tano performed some of the important rites in all of Akan. Among the Akan who come to this place, drums text, ritual statements, archaeology, oral narratives, and proverbs allow people to reconfirm in their hearts the holiness of the Tano river shrine.
Clearly, the deities who frequent the Tano River are not small deities; they are extremely important and popular with the almighty Nyame. Actually, all tutelary deities are extensions of the Supreme Being and are personalities.

The sacred Tano is central to the Akan appreciation of nature and its life giving qualities and women going through puberty may not cross the river until she stays in the ‘bush’ village for six days. Other festival which includes the River Tano is the Odwira festival.

Credits: Kofi Frimpong (The Kingdom Of Asante)

Flyer Designed By: EO Ntiamoah ( The Kingdom Of Asante )







Lynch Ann, L.& Jeremy R. (2010). African Mythology A to Z. Infobase Publishing. New York.

Asante, M. K. (2007). The History of Africa. London: Routledge

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